Brian Swane, Special to Canada West
EDMONTON – It had been a long time since Darren Wilcox patrolled the crease for the University of Regina Cougars, longer since he’d strapped on the pads with the Regina Pats.
But the veteran inspector sure hadn’t forgotten those days, and apparently neither had the driver that he just ticketed.
“He wasn’t very happy and then when he looked at the ticket and saw my name, he goes, ‘Are you the hockey player? did you play for the Pats? You’re the goalie, aren’t you?
“I go, ‘Yeah’, he says, ‘I thought that was you.’
“I kind of chuckled and said, ‘I’m sorry I had to give you the ticket, that’s the way it is.’ But he remembered me from my name being on his ticket,” says Wilcox, remembering just one such occurrence from nearly three decades with the Regina Police Service.
Hockey never stopped being part of the goaltender-turned-cop, who not long after graduating from the U of R in 1985 was part of a group of former players that came together for what would eventually evolve into the Regina Cougar Hockey Alumni Association, of which Wilcox is a past president.
“It definitely went farther than we thought it would go, but now we still think that we’ve got a lot farther to go and we’re always looking at ways of raising funds for our program and helping our team out … because it really helped us a lot, to this day,” says Wilcox, 56.
“I got my degree in education but the ties I’ve made and the progress I’ve made with my hockey friends and in the hockey community have almost paralleled with my degree, helping me with any endeavours I have in my personal life.”
From modest beginnings with a fundraiser golf tournament, to incorporating as a non-profit about a decade ago, the Regina Cougar Hockey Alumni Association has made an indelible impact over the years.
“We’re always looking at different avenues to do things, and the big thing is, we love our hockey program,” Wilcox says. “We love our players, we love the coaches, we love everything about the U of R, so we’re always bringing that back. Anything that we can do with equipment, the dressing room, weights, video equipment, bike machines, we’re always trying to do something for our program and our players.”
Growing up in Regina, Wilcox played Midget AAA for the Regina Pat Canadians and in the WHL with the Pats before spending three seasons on the U of R’s varsity hockey roster. He was part of great teams at each level, including a WHL title win by the Pats in 1980.
“I’ve been blessed,” says Wilcox. “I played in the Midget AAA Canadian championship, I got to go to the Memorial Cup with the Pats, and I also got to go to the (university) hockey championships when I played for the Cougars, so I’ve been blessed with being to three national championships, although we never won any of them, it certainly was a great experience and I treasure it to this day.”
Though Wilcox like every Canadian kid loved hockey and dreamed of playing in the NHL, he was firmly set on a post-secondary education.
“I was always going to university, there was no ifs, ands, or buts,” Wilcox says.
“The coach of the U of R Cougars came recruiting and said, ‘Listen, we’d love to have you play, we’re looking at doing some traveling, everything’s geared for school in here; when you play university hockey, you play on weekends only and practice during the week, there’s no games during the week,’ and I said, ‘That’s a great mix, I’m going to get to play at home and go to school, why not?’”
Wilcox graduated with a bachelor of education and began working as a substitute teacher at local schools, where he met a resource officer and diehard fan who invited Wilcox to join the Regina Police Service, handing him an application form.
“He knew me from hockey, so there it is: hockey looking after me,” says Wilcox. “It’s always been that way for me. To this day, I have people say, 'Hey, are you Darren Wilcox?' And they remember me from 40 years ago from the Pats.”
Wilcox spent 29 years with the Regina Police Service and “loved every minute of it” before retiring as an inspector in 2015. Additionally, he was among Cougars alumni that co-founded the Western Canada Goaltender School, and served several seasons as Pats goaltender coach.
Today, Wilcox remains as involved as ever with the Cougar alumni, and is helping the Pats as they prepare to host the Memorial Cup this spring.
“I’ve always said I owe so much to hockey,” says Wilcox, 56. “I didn’t make it to the NHL, but it’s looked after me in my life after hockey, so anything I can do I always try to give back to the game and to both my teams, the Pats and the U of R Cougars.”
About the CW Alumni Spotlight:
Each year a new crop of Canada West student-athletes graduate and begin to make an impact in their communities as professionals. The CW Alumni Spotlight series looks to highlight the positive impact former CW student-athletes are making in communities across Western Canada and beyond.
Canada West – training leaders, building champions.