Geoff Hemmerman knew Bob Wilkinson for almost 30 years and worked closely with him for EIHA juniors, Conference tournament and also with IHUK. This is Geoff’s personal tribute but we’re sure the sentiments are shared by all of Bob’s family and friends inside and outside of the hockey world.
What more can be said about Bob that’s not already been said in the last few days.
I first really got to know Bob some 28 years ago when he asked me to take on the role of fixture secretary for the north juniors under him as the chair of the Junior League Management Committee. Shortly after that I became Northern Conference secretary working even more closely with him.
We all know Bob’s drive and passion for the Conference Tournament – in year one of the event being in Hull he asked if I could help out with some of the “things that just needed to be done” and me being close at hand I was perfectly placed.
There is me helping him out – little did I know by year two I would be the tournament director from then until to this very day. We have worked hard to deliver what is now the jewel in the EIHA crown.
Back in those early days Conference tournament meetings would be held at Bob’s with the committee of Bob, Val, Neville Moralee and Allan Moutrey – one lasting memory from those and many more meetings at Bob’s was what became his famous chicken curry – no meeting would ever take place at Bob’s without the curry.
In all the years I have worked with Bob be it at IIHF Congress, sat around the IHUK or EIHA board table, YMC Meetings, running a world championship, Conference tournament, National Finals or Jamboree he was there by my side and nothing was too much trouble for him.
As is testament to all the messages of sympathy that have been posted on Facebook, sent by email, text or card one thing for certain: Bob was well respected. A respect that I believe he earned through the respect he showed the admin and coaching teams he built around himself but also the relationships with clubs, players and parents alike were all very important to him.
Until recently we spoke at least twice a day discussing many ice hockey issues just as we did over a number of pints along the years – maybe one day some of those discussions will turn into reality.
One thing is for certain many young players saw him as a father figure, Grandad or Uncle Bob – he cared about them and I truly believe they all cared for him.
He served his country in the army and served his country in world ice hockey, he has fought his last battle and played his last game now its time to rest and be proud of the legacies he has left us to care for.
So to Bob – you will be missed by many but no more so than by Val, Yvonne, Rob and their families.
You have left us for the ice rink in the sky where games and practise never end. Rest in peace old soldier, old friend.