Hockey ‘fixture’ laid to rest

After their 3-0 win Saturday night the Lakers gave Sarah Kivimaki a game puck.
Kivimaki is the daughter of long time score clock operator Lanny Freeman.
Photo submitted by Cassandra Bundz

By Allan Bradbury

Staff Writer

On October 21, the Fort Frances sports community lost a strong supporter of local hockey and a longtime volunteer. ‘Lant’ Lanny Freeman passed away after experiencing a medical emergency at the Lakers game on Oct. 20.

The Lakers game was delayed briefly while he was attended to by paramedics, according to Lakers President Gary Silander.

Silander says hockey in the Fort Frances area has lost a very dedicated volunteer with Freeman’s passing.

“If you asked him, he was there,” Silander said. “He was always in the timekeepers’ box. You didn’t have to worry about him, he was always going to be there and he was good at what he did.”

Lakers coach Dave Allison also voiced his respect for Freeman as well.

“Lanny Freeman and his family have been huge supporters of Fort Frances athletics,” Allison said. “The Freeman family has been synonymous with contribution and volunteerism and optimism in every factor of athletics.”

Freeman’s daughter Sarah Kivimaki says her father was involved in many different levels of sport in the community. In addition to working the clock, he was also part of different committees like the OFSSAA and Dudley Hewitt Cup committees.

Kivimaki is the Lakers’ billet co-ordinator and is one of the announcers in the arena during Lakers games.

For Freeman, volunteering with hockey was a family affair. He and his two brothers worked the box for many years.

“Traditionally in the box it was my dad working the time clock, my uncle Everett would do the score sheet and my uncle Mike was the announcer,” Kivimaki said. “Then, sadly, my uncle Mike passed away, so it left my dad and uncle Everett. Then in 2017 my uncle passed away and I couldn’t see him in the box alone, so that’s when I stepped in and started doing the box with my dad.”

Silander remarked about Freeman’s dedication; that no matter what, he was at games – even during moose season, when he spent most of his time at a moose camp.

“He’d spend his summers [at the cabin] and in the fall he’d go to moose camp,” Silander said. “And he would actually come from moose camp back to the rink, work the time clock and go back to moose camp. Sometimes at night, sometimes the next morning, but he never missed a game.”

Silander says he remembers Freeman being at the rink when he played hockey in high school.

Freeman’s daughter Kivimaki says a game was delayed the day she was born because her father was late.

“When I was born back in ‘78 he was supposed to be working the clock at a Muskies’ game and they started 20 minutes late when my dad finally came to the rink,” Kivimaki said.

“I played high school hockey here myself in the ‘80s,” Silander said. “ He was working the penalty box back then. He’s been a fixture in there for sure.”

Kivimaki says her father worked the clock for many teams over the years including minor hockey, Muskies high school hockey and each of the teams in the SIJHL since it began.

“The interesting thing about my dad is he has run the time clock for everybody, right?” Kivimaki said. “So when the SIJHL hockey started here with the Thunder he was in the box and then it went to the Sabres, he was in the box, and then he’s been with the Lakers since so he’s been there quite some time.”

Silander was happy to note that most of the current Lakers attended Freeman’s memorial service on Wednesday.

As a tribute to Freeman’s service to the team, players will be wearing stickers on their helmets bearing Freeman’s initials for the rest of the season. In the first game after Freeman’s passing, the Lakers fought hard to win for Freeman and his family, but fell 4-2 to the Kam River Walleye. When the Lakers shut out the Thunder Bay North Stars 3-0 they brought the game puck to Kivimaki in the penalty box and took a photo with her.

A memorial celebration is being planned for one of the game nights in November as well.