Kozun brothers honoured for their volunteer work

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Brothers Merle, left, and Andy Kozun are part of the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame 2020 induction class.

Like most of Prince Albert in the early 1980s, brothers Andy and Merle Kozun were among those lined up outside the Art Hauser Centre (then known as the Communiplex) as they tried to get tickets to watch the Prince Albert Raiders run roughshod over the rest of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

“When we both moved here for work 40 years ago, you had a hard time trying to get into a game if you didn’t have a season ticket,” Merle said.  “Once we found out that the Raiders needed volunteers, we jumped on board as it was a way to get into some of the games.

“With that said, volunteering and helping people out was something that we had done since we were young. It didn’t matter if it was back home on the farm or out in the community.”

The Kozuns were honoured for their volunteer work earlier this year, as they were part of the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame’s 2020 induction class.

Their official enshrinement into the meritorious category has been pushed back until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I received a phone call from (PASHOF president) Ellen Grewcock and found out that we were both going into the hall of fame, I was totally shocked,” Andy said. “I never expected anything like that and it’s a true honour.”

“It’s kind of neat that a brother combination is going in at the same time as well,” Merle added. “The accolades aren’t what we do this for. We do it because we love volunteering and helping out in the community.”

While their volunteer work in Prince Albert started with the Raiders, the Kozuns also helped out as coaches for ringette, softball, soccer and skiing programs, while Merle became involved with the East End curling rink and was part of a committee that worked to install artificial ice in the facility.

“We used to play hockey and a lot of other sports growing up, so it was just natural for us to end up being involved in coaching when our kids started playing,” Andy said. “We also got involved with Ukrainian dance through our kids and we were lucky enough to be asked by Felix Casavant to be part of the grounds crew for the Junior Men’s Softball World Championship a few years ago. Without the volunteers or the parents helping out, clubs or events like that just wouldn’t be able to exist.”

“We both need to thank our wives (Helen and Lorrie) for giving us the go-ahead to do all of this,” Merle added. “There’s a lot of times where we haven’t been at home, so we’ve been fortunate to have all of the support they have given us.”

The Kozuns might be best known though for the work they have done for almost a decade and a half with the Prince Albert Mintos, as they have served on the board of the directors, helped in the building of the team’s fitness centre and worked on numerous other tasks for the team.

“We had been asked for a few years before we joined about being involved with the team, but we just couldn’t commit to it as our kids were still involved with sports,” Merle said. “Shortly after they all graduated, (Mintos president) Zenon Markowsky approached us to see if we wanted to come onboard.

“To be part of a team that’s won three Telus Cup in nine years is pretty incredible, but that’s just part of the puzzle of what makes the Mintos a great organization to be involved with. There’s no president like Zenon and everyone chimes in to help out. It doesn’t matter if you are a scout, a coach or a manager.”

When asked what moments stand out the most from their time in Prince Albert, the brothers immediately mentioned the Raiders’ run to the Memorial Cup in 1985 and the Mintos’ Telus Cup triumph in 2014.

“With how dominant the Raiders were in the SJHL, we thought that they could take on any Western Hockey League team and beat them,” Andy said. “We found out that wasn’t the case pretty quickly, but to see them become champions just a few years later was incredible. Everyone came to greet the team when they came home and we saw that excitement again just last year when they won the WHL title again.”

“The Mintos won the Telus Cup in 2007 during my first year on the board of directors, but the feeling just wasn’t quite as special as it was when they won in Moose Jaw in 2014,” Merle added. “To be able to be part of something like that and have the chance to make so many lasting friendships with the players and the parents from that team, along with the other organizations and events that we have been involved, is something we both cherish.”