Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sad Day

I'm so sad to say I just got word that my good friend and hockey mentor, Whitie Bensen passed away today.  I wrote of Whitie's help and what he meant to me as a young beginning hockey player growing up in West Haven, Connecticut.  As I mentioned earlier, Whitie sold hockey equipment out of the trunk of his car in the mid and late 60's before opening his store in the center of West Haven.

I can't imagine there is a hockey player in Connecticut that didn't have some contact with Whitie.  He supplied all of the kids, schools and many teams in the area with their equipment.  He coached.  He encouraged.  He cheered.  He was an icon.  He will be missed.

When I was in high school and had a chance to go to Europe to go to hockey school, Whitie loaned me the money and let me work it off by raking leaves in his yard.

After leaving Connecticut for California in the late 70s I had little contact with Whitie, or even with hockey.  When I started playing again in the early 90s the first thing I did was ordered sticks from him by the 1/2 dozen.  He would ship me the Kohos or Montreal fiberglass sticks that I loved so much.  I headed back to West Haven in late 1991 and played in the high school alumni game.  Whitie and his son Kyle, were the first stop I made.

As I continued to play senior league hockey and my son worked his way up the youth ranks we stopped by his store every time were were in town to buy something and to say hello.

Whitie was a wonderful, gentle and kind man.  He never had a lot to say.   I wouldn't necessarily say he was a warm man.  He was friendly and always had a few minutes to say hello and catch up.  He was always behind the counter sharpening skates.  My interactions with him over the past twenty years were short and sweet.

He was a busy man and didn't have a lot to say or a lot of time to say it.  I remember leaving there and talking to my wife wondering why he didn't have much to say.  I had to wonder if he was happy to see me sometimes because he was so "matter of fact".  I had forgotten something and turned around to go back into the store.  Whitie didn't see me.  He was behind the counter talking to one of his employees, a young hockey player.  He was bragging to him about me and my team and how we were some of the best hockey players to ever come out of West Haven.  I was touched.  He wouldn't let me know, but he knew and I loved him for it.

We will all miss Whitie Bensen.  Rest in peace my friend.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Steve! You have deeply touched Kyle and I with your comments. We found a great photo of you and Blakeslee in an old photo album. You were definnitely a Whitie fav. and he was touched to be invited to your graduation party. Take care,
    Billie-Jean and Kyle Bensen