A Kangaroo by any other name…

We've got Kangaroos in Quesnel, but none of them jump. So why the name Kangaroos?

The Kangaroos with their jerseys from Amsterdam

The Kangaroos with their jerseys from Amsterdam

Besides the alliterative qualities of ‘Quesnel Kangaroos’ the name is something of a mystery as there are no Kangaroos in Quesnel, B.C. or indeed the entirety of Canada, except those imported from Australia.

So it’s a strange choice for a team to choose a non-indigenous animal that is completely unconnected with the sport.

Both the Millionaires and Kangaroos names carry the weight of history on their backs and while the Millionaires name is connected to the history of the area, and the gold rush money that flowed through the region at one point in time, the Kangaroos name is weirdly unconnected and seemingly ahistorical.

But if you delve back far enough, over half a decade back, the connection between a Quesnel hockey team and an indigenous animal of Australia becomes weirdly logical.

Paul Gauthier, a near centenarian (only a summer away from hitting a three-digit age) and resident of Quesnel for more than 75 years, remembers when that tenuous connection was made.

The serendipitous story in his own words:

Nobody seems to know the story of the Kangaroo Hockey Team’s name, so I am going to tell you how it came to be.

I had just bought the Rex Theatre in 1947 and was still doing house wiring at the Quesnel Hotel. It was quitting time and I went into the beer parlour and met a well-known hockey player named Norm Gronski. We talked about new uniforms for the Millionaires hockey team (this was the name of the team prior to the Kangaroos).

The owner of the hotel, Arnie

Hasselgren  showed up and joined us. We mentioned that we needed new uniforms. He said nothing for about five minutes and left.

He showed up again and said he had won $50,000 in Amsterdam, Australia and that he had to spend the money in Australia, but if it was OK with the players, we could call the team the ‘Kangaroos.’

Norm Gronski and I went to see Ray Commons, who was the bank manager and secretary treasurer of the Millionaires and told him the news that Arnie Hasselgren, the hotel owner, would buy the uniforms in Amsterdam if we could call the hockey team the Kangaroos.

Ray Commons replied,

I don’t give a sh*t what you call

the team as long as you get new uniforms.

Three weeks later, I went for a drink and I saw a large bag on the counter that said ‘Kangaroo Hockey Team, Canada’ from Arnie Hasselgren. I went to the bank with three hockey players, Jed Campbell Norm Gronski and Leo Delbucchia, with the bag  which contained the new uniforms.

Our first game was in Prince George. I made two dozen small hockey sticks that we banged on the wood fence and about three dozen people from Quesnel came to watch the new Kangaroo team. We won the game 5-4.

At that time we charged fifty cents for adults and no charge for seniors or children.

I used to close the Rex Theatre on Wednesdays; we all went to see the Kangaroos play in Williams Lake, Wells and Prince George. After two years of managing the Kangaroo hockey team I had to quit as I was re-doing the Rex Theatre. Richard Marsh was one of my best defensemen.

I will be 100 years young September 19, 2012. I was manager of the Kangaroo hockey team in 1947 and 1948.

–With files from Paul Gauthier