Annual Jamie Gripton Memorial hockey game set to hit the ice

Wallie Sears
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His immense contribution to the community has been recognized for the past eight years with the annual Jamie Gripton Memorial hockey game at the Tantramar Region Veterans Memorial Civic Centre.

Keeping the torch alive have been many of his former morning hockey buddies led by Vernon Vickruck, pastor of the 250-year-old Middle Sackville Baptist Church, with whom Gripton found a common bond.

This year's exhibition game will be held on Dec. 30 at 8:30 and an appeal has gone out for the community to attend as this is not a match between the Middle Sackville Baptists and Sackville United churches but star athletes from throughout the region who may represent all religions.

Each year the proceeds from the game – there is no admission charge but the hat is passed around – goes to a specific charity.  In previous years the beneficiaries have been the Canadian Cancer Society, hockey bursaries, EOS and the Sackville Fire Department. This year's recipient has yet to be determined but the players will decide.

Meanwhile, each player will contribute $27 of which $20 will go to the charity and the remainder will help cover ice rental.

Prior to Dr. Gripton's passing on Dec. 5, 2005, the two congregations competed regularly in a friendly battle. However, even then it was not possible to ice a team of strictly church members so each reached outside for help.

Gripton, in addition to being the minister of Sackville United, was considered the "community preacher" as he appealed to a wide range of individuals and often conducted funeral services for members of other congregations and those who never had a church affiliation of any kind. He usually preached from his heart and "called it as it was”.

We worked closely on a variety of projects, we trusted each other and knew what we were trying to accomplish was for the benefit of the community. Vernon Vickruck

His outreach was common knowledge and he and Vickruck combined in many humane ventures. A highlight was their arranging of the carrying of the cross about the community during Easter time when Christians of varying faiths joined in to share the load along the way.

An outstanding athlete in various fields, Gripton was a strong tennis player, a low handicapper in golf, could shoot a mean game of billiards and was a strong fan of the Mounties football team. Hockey was also a love and he had played during his university days and loved the puck. Actually, just 10 months before cancer finally took its toll, he scored six goals and controlled the puck much of the game in the inter-church battle.

Prior to locating to Sackville, Gripton and his family had spent a few years in Jamaica in a remote area on the Kingston side of the Island.  Here, too, he was widely accepted and lovingly became known as "Brother Jamie”.

Vickruck recently recalled, "In spite of our theological differences we considered ourselves to be brothers in arms.”

He added, “We worked closely on a variety of projects, we trusted each other and knew what we were trying to accomplish was for the benefit of the community."

And while attendance at these games has occasionally been sparse, the players give their all and it is definitely for a great cause. The players come from a cross section and on several occasions featured the Oulton Family - Douglas, Frank and Phillip - who combined to present a fearsome trio.

Organizations: Middle Sackville Baptist Church, Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Jamaica, Kingston

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