Sports

Blazer Browns

River City residents might recognize longtime couple Howard and Freda Brown.  They have spent the last 20 years making sure things run smoothly off the ice for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.  - Dave Eagles/KTW
River City residents might recognize longtime couple Howard and Freda Brown. They have spent the last 20 years making sure things run smoothly off the ice for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. 
— image credit: Dave Eagles/KTW

Howard and Freda Brown have been married for almost 38 years and never had children of their own — but they adopted the Kamloops Blazers.

“It’s a beautiful relationship,” said Howard, who, along with Freda, first started volunteering for the Western Hockey League club in 1992.

“We adopted the Blazers and, for some reason, they adopted us.”

None of the work they do — locking down the building, setting up tables, organizing ushers and doormen, baking goodies for scouts and media, helping the Blazer Booster Club get set up and doing whatever is asked of them by the Blazer office staff — is glorified, but those behind the scenes know how much they contribute.

“They virtually dedicate their lives to helping the hockey club,” said Dave Chyzowski, the Blazers’ director of sales and marketing.

“They’re not only volunteers, they’re really genuine people.”

“I think it’s really important that we make sure they continue to be a huge part of our game nights because, without them, I don’t know if we’d be as successful off the ice.”

Howard and Freda — both of whom are now employed by the city and work most concerts and shows that come to Interior Savings Centre — go above and beyond the call of duty, as is the case with many who volunteer or work for the Blue and Orange.

No more is that evident than in the press box, where home-baked goodies mysteriously appear — and magically disappear from their container before game’s end.

“The Blazers are our family up here in Kamloops and we just love working for them,” said Freda, who was perched high above the ice in the press box during an interview with KTW, the Zamboni droning on below.

Freda talked about how Crohn’s disease forced her into a three-year hiatus from working at ISC.

Howard, who also manages Lyons Landscaping and Garden Centre, joined his wife in temporary retirement from their work with the Blazers.

“We do absolutely everything together,” Howard said. “It’s just the way we are. We’ve always worked together. We do this together. We volunteer together. We’re buddies.”

They survived just fine away from the Blazers, but felt a void in their lives.

The club asked Freda to come back when she felt up to it and provided her with a less-taxing role, which sees her mostly help the media in the press box.

Among her duties is tending to the popcorn machine — no small task, considering its fame around the WHL.

Just ask CKNW’s Dan Russell, who wrote about the tasty intermission treat on Twitter: “Not a popcorn lover, but Giants and Blazers have the 2 best “press box popcorn servings” that I’ve ever had in WHL. #fresh.”

Freda used to cook pre-game and post-game meals for the Blazers’ on-ice stars, but that’s one duty she is no longer able to handle.

The Browns’ roles have changed over the years.

Howard started on a volunteer basis as a doorman and has moved to the top of the game-day staff ranks.

Freda’s disease has forced her to scale back a little bit.

One thing, however, has always remained the same — the couple’s love for the Blazers, their staff and their volunteers.

“This isn’t work,” Howard said. “I love this. This is my second home.

“I don’t even know where we would go from here if we couldn’t do this.”

Luckily for them, there are no plans in the works to remove the Browns from their posts.

“We will be here as long as the Blazers will let us stay here,” Freda said.

“I think they’ll have to kick us out the door.”

CBC Radio feature on the Browns

Click here to listen.

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