Saturday, September 10, 2016
One of the greatest Las Vegas hockey dads – Tommy Ricketts – passed recently. He loved the game and he was at all of the arenas in town and throughout the country watching sons Beau and Blade skate and with his family and lovely wife Charla at his side. Tommy was only 54. The family collectively wrote this touching tribute.
OUR HOCKEY DAD – TOMMY RICKETTS
By Blade, Beau, Tulsa, Chy Anne, Kristan and Charla
Las Vegas – Hockey first became a part of our family about 1994ish. Tommy had never played hockey or been to a game that we know about. But, he went to a hockey game and loved it. Before long we had season tickets to the Las Vegas Thunder.
Hockey became our main source of entertainment, we all loved it! Beau was just a toddler when we started going to the games. Beau loved watching the games too and we soon got him his own little sticks and pucks to play with. He was always running around the house hitting someone in his shins with his stick.
Tommy made sure all of the kids had a Thunder jersey. We started staying after the games to talk with players, take pictures and get autographs. Tommy was just as excited as the kids. He saved every pieces of memorabilia he got. We still have posters, cards, towels, t-shirts, ticket stubs and much more. Tommy was quite a collector. We loved sitting in the section where the players families usually sat.
We remember seeing Angie Quinney and little Gage at the games. Who knew what the future for Gage would bring.
Tommy couldn’t get to a game one night and I remember calling him, he was so excited saying “you should see this new player they got tonight. He is so good. Name is Burridge.”
Randy Burridge ended up being one of Tommy’s good friends. We always laugh about that story.
We had Wranglers for a few years and we also watched Las Vegas Coyotes roller hockey. Dad always wanted to go to any hockey game in town.
Cyn Anne says “..I remember going to Thunder games and getting jerseys and other things signed. We were always travelling. Driving to Salt Lake City for games and one time it was snowing a lot. We were nervous so Dad stopped and bought us a movie to watch so we could concentrate on something else.
“Once our truck broke down in Calgary on Canada Day so Dad sent Beau to the hockey game in Airdrie with someone who worked at the hotel.
“Tommy knew about every player, where they had played, where they came from, his statistics and recognized them when he saw them in street clothes. He had an amazing mind for things like that.”
Tommy found out about skating lessons at the Santa Fe Stations Ice Arena on North Rancho Drive and we got Beau signed up at the age of 3 1/2. Tommy wanted to get Beau started earlier but he Beau broke his arm and got the chicken pox when the earlier session started.
Another memory was when Beau would get onto the ice and get tired or cold and cry to get off. So Mom and Dad would hide and he would keep skating. Soon after, Tommy got Beau signed up to play mini-mites at the Santa Fe. Soon someone told Tommy about the Sports Park ice rink and Beau was signed up to skate there too.
That was during the time of the city league for hockey when there were several rinks. Tommy loved travelling to all of the rinks for games. He soon knew everyone at the rinks it seemed.
Tommy was a team manager for quite a few teams. He loved doing it and took the job seriously. He made friends in places all over the country. The hockey world is such a small world. Our family travelled to as many games as we possibly could.
Before Tommy got sick he rarely missed a game or trip or game.
The entire family went onto trips, the girls loved hockey as much as the boys. We got to know many wonderful families through hockey and developed lifelong relationships that we are grateful for.
We miss those days of travelling and going to games with our ‘hockey family.’
Tommy did all of the driving and loved it.
When we travelled Tommy was always looking at maps and learning about wherever we were travelling. One time on a summer trip to Canada we were going to stay in Okatoks, Alberta. Tommy had programmed the address into his GPS and we ended up driving miles and miles of dirt roads and then going the long way around but finally got there.
He drove us to Canada several times, Washington, Colorado, California, Arizona, Utah etc.
Sometimes we would be counting the change to make sure we had enough money to get home on hockey trips.
But it always worked out.
Tommy and Beau got to go to Prague for a hockey tournament.
Beau said “Dad and I went fishing together and hunting when I was little. We went onto a lot of hockey trips together.”
Tommy was good at keeping the boys in good equipment. He could see a broken stick or a skate before anyone, run, pick it up and get it fix and get it back to the bench so Beau or Blade could finish the game.
He was always good at finding good deals for equipment and we could never go to California without stopping at Hockey Giant.
Blade said as he was looking at his sticks the other day and said “Dad was the last to tape these for me.”
We took one of Blade’s sticks to the Care Center for Tommy tape.
He later said that had made his day to be able to do that for his son.
The boys and Tommy would play hockey in the house. I’m not sure if Tommy was involved, but somehow our kitchen counter took a pretty big hit from a puck and was broke. It was never repaired…just a funny memory.
One day Beau and Dad were on the ice at the Sports Park. Mom was suppose to find out if our new baby would be a brother or a sister. We told them we would put up a pink or blue sign while they were skating. Beau was so excited to be a big brother. The blue sign went up and he got his little brother and Dad got another son. They were pretty excited.
Dad was on the Las Vegas Ice Cats board and the NAHA board for awhile. When he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lympoma about 8 years ago he had so many friends who helped us. Dad was overwhelmed with all of the kindness and help from so many people. He was a very social person, loved to be in the middle of everything and was quite a talker.
Tommy loved going to the Crystal Palace roller rink on North Rancho Drive to watch the boys play in roller hockey tournaments. He really enjoyed going to roller hockey games away from home too.
He was the one who found all of our hotel deals and planned our trips for the most part. He kept track of hotel points and that kind of stuff. He loved going, driving and seeing new places and things.
He acted like one of the kids in the hotel. Instead of trying to quiet down the kids in the halls or in our rooms playing mini hockey he would be just as loud.
Kristan says “He was special. He would help with the craziness in the hotel hallways instead of being like other adults who were trying to get everyone to calm down.”
Dad was very proud of his kids.
The girls were involved in activities like dance and sports.
The boys played ice and roller hockey, basketball and lacrosse. Before he got sick, Dad rarely missed an event the kids were involved in.
He was very involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as well.
Dad was very proud when Beau went to Montana to play for the Helena Bighorns. Our family watched every game on the internet from our home. Dad was able to make one trip to Montana and one trip to North Dakota to see Beau.
We were all excited too when Beau got to play his final year of junior hockey with the new Las Vegas Storm team at the Las Vegas Ice Center. Tommy got to attend some of those home games when he felt well enough and other times would watch on FastHockey.
Tommy loved the game of hockey and everything that came along with it.
He made so many friends and had so much fun. Our family was able to spend a lot of time together through our shared love for the sport of hockey.
Tommy spent the last months living with his Dad in Utah because he was unable to be alone any longer. It seemed that Tommy’s physical and mental health has gotten much better while he was there.
The last time he was at home was in April for our daughter’s Chy Anne’s wedding. We had been visiting him in Utah often during the summer.
On August 9 we took him to his doctors appointment and it seemed that he was doing well.
We had spent five days in Utah there and had to return to Las Vegas that afternoon.
Then he told his Dad he didn’t feel well and was going to lay down.
He passed a few hours after we left.
Coming soon: “My Brother Eddie Samuels.” Eddie’s younger sister Mary Kate Zurfluh, a writer of children’s books and as a elementary school teacher was nominated as a “Teacher of the Year,” is working on a tribute to her brother Eddie Samuels who passed last month. Mary Kate is married to Jay and their family includes Ryan, 6, and Leah, 4. Years ago Mary Kate and her sister Shelly watched Eddie play when he was skating with the Billings Jr Bulls in Montana.