The Saskatoon Blades will be without one of their own when the WHL season begins, as they will be wearing a special “BK” sticker on the back of their helmets in a tribute to longtime locker room attendant and rink volunteer Bobby Kirkness.
This isn’t the first time that the Blades have had Bobby in their thoughts at an important time. Bobby beat leukemia back in 2016, and was met with tremendous support from the kids on the team, most notably after a playoff win when they dedicated their post-game chant to Bobby over the phone. The Blades continued to show him how much they cared after he returned to the rink, by naming their annual training camp scrimmages after him. Future Blades will always now compete for the “Kirkness Cup”.
But now Bobby was recently hit with another health issue, this time stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
You can tell how much the Blades mean to Bobby through the sound of his voice. He worked at the stadium as a building operator before retiring, and opting into a volunteer opportunity with the team as early as 1988.
Bobby and Brian
Now the Kirkness clan is out of Saskatoon, but Bobby’s brother Brian has been a big part of the Kindersley area for a while now. Brian has gotten to know many people through his counseling work and now work in schools, and his peers often echo the same sentiments of his brother.
“Brian has been a staple in that town for many years now” said Bobby, “If you don’t see him, you definitely hear him that’s for sure.”
Brian left the adult counseling world to give himself a chance to reach out to more kids, a trait that Bobby feels the two brothers definitely share.
“We love being around the kids and sharing stories, experiences.”
Kindersley’s Kirkness has likely helped numerous people outside of the town as well, and has been happy with the support he has seen for his brother from everyone. Brian was blown away when they named the scrimmage after his brother in 2016, and is just as grateful this time around.
“We were there when Bob got the phone call about the decals,” recalled Brian “(His family), my mom, and my brother, and I just broke down and cried. It is absolutely fantastic what the Blades have done for my brother.”
When asked how much his brother loves the Blades, Brian said that him and his family are already planning tattoos that will cement the Blades as a major piece of their family. He greatly conveyed how much Bobby loved helping out with the team, and working in his role as a “locker-room dad”.
“They love him like you wouldn’t believe”
The go-fund me for his medical expenses passed it’s $10,000 goal in no-time. On a related note, Bobby had quite a few notable former Blades donate.
“Kirby Dach, Braden Holtby, and there is a whole list of players who have been to the NHL.” said Bobby.
Dach, the Chicago Blackhawks second year forward, is Bobby’s most recent NHL connection. Bobby enjoyed being the person between the players and their coaches, a father figure to a roster of kids trying to decide their future. Him and Kirby enjoyed many good conversations together, as he felt that he could be a good person to lean on when dealing with the life side of leaving home and playing junior hockey. That no-pressure presence that Bobby brought, is what really makes him the backbone of the club that he is according to many.
Many other players can be found throughout the go-fund me list, but what he really loves is the support he has gotten from the public. Bobby has taken note of how many people he has really touched in his life.
“When I first talked about being sick, there were 200-300 people that made comments,” he explained, “It was almost like going to a therapy class. Each one you read you can put a face to it, an experience, and it’s just been so nice.”
Even with all this support, a long road does lie ahead. Bobby opted not to go into chemotherapy, after taking that route during his past run with leukemia. His brother Brian said he also optioned out of alternative methods, and is sticking with a system that should cost around $1000 a month.
Decent support has definitely come out of west central, and Brian appreciates it so much whenever he comes upon it.
“Just the support, like when a person says ‘you know I’m really sorry to hear about your brother’. It just feels different, it feels like people care again.”
Drop the Puck
The Saskatoon Blades begin play this Saturday in the WHL’s Regina East Division bubble. It was assumed that Bobby would do anything he could to be with the team, and be chomping at the bit for his boys in the bubble, but he knows where the priority sits.
“I don’t even think about it honestly. I just try to wake up everyday feeling good, and that is what’s important right now.”
His message to the Blades is to keep their heads up, keep working hard, and not let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything; because if you work hard enough it will come.
Even Brian knows that Bobby will be content to be at home, as they have set him up to watch every second of the action.
“They have hooked him up, he’s solid.” explained Brian, “He’s catching everything live, and that’s just one of the things they could do to make Bobby a part of that rink.”
So many thanks can be given out to the Blades organization for their treatment of Bobby. From the post-game chant back in Portland, to the BK stickers that will be prominently featured this year, Bobby can’t help but think about everyone that has taken a chance to hear his story. Support will no doubt continue on with his story, and hopefully an impressive showing in the bubble from Saskatoon can help alleviate some of the down year Bobby has had so far.
Visit the link, to view Bobby’s go-fund me.