Neil Franklin (Melita) has been volunteering his time in minor hockey for over three decades and he doesn’t plan on changing that any time soon.
The 67-year-old father of three and grandfather of eight is well known in the Westman South region for his community spirit and for being a mentor for coaches and young players.
“He just loves hockey and loves to give back,” said Randi Yeomans, President of Melita Minor Hockey. “He’s really passionate about the kids and he likes to help them improve and he’s big on team spirit. He coached hockey for so many years that he just has so much knowledge that he wants to share.”
Neil was born in Deloraine (approximately 50 kilometres from Melita) and is the brother of former Hockey Manitoba President Brian Franklin (2007-2012). Neil’s nephew Tony (Brian’s son) currently serves as the Vice President of Hockey Manitoba’s Board of Directors.
After working and living in Saskatchewan from 1978-1982, Neil returned home to Manitoba with his wife Pat and their two young daughters, Riley (now 47 years old), and Alissa ( now 42 years old). Neil’s youngest daughter, Britney was born in Melita in 1986.
Neil was part-owner of Tweed’s Garage Ltd. for 14 years before he became sole owner in 1996 and renamed the business Franklin Chrysler. He closed the car dealership and later in 2004, he began working as a salesman at Southwest Chevrolet until his retirement in December of 2017.
Neil played a key role in getting girls hockey started in Melita many years ago when Alissa and Britney were playing. In addition to coaching the Deloraine/Melita high school hockey team for 12 years, Neil coached Alissa for two years and Britney for 10 years. Alissa’s Peewee (Under-13) team was the first to ever win a Female Provincial Championship in the early 1990’s.
For the past four seasons, Neil has been helping out with practices for the local U7, U9 and U11 groups when he has time. The coaches love having him come out as he takes time to work with kids who could use a little extra help.
“If I can teach a player just one thing throughout the year, whether it’s a skating drill, how to hold the stick properly, or how to properly pass and receive a puck, then I feel that it is mission accomplished. “ Franklin said.
Although his hockey knowledge and experience is certainly valued, it’s Neil’s approach to teaching both hockey and life skills that really sets him apart.
“It was very evident at our year end celebration night how much he is appreciated, as he was thanked numerous times by our coaches, ” Yeomans said. “He is patient and kind with everyone, and truly works to bring out the full potential in each child.”
Neil has five grandkids that are currently playing minor hockey in Manitoba: Rhett (U15), Mardee (U13), Madden (U13), Hudson (U9), and Tate (U9).
Neil’s oldest grandson, Griffen, 21, recently completed his junior hockey career with the Castlegar Rebels of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Griffen will attend the University of Edmonton-Acadia next year and will play on their hockey team. Neil’s grandson Kai, 19, previously played minor hockey and currently attends university and the Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Neil’s youngest grandaughter Drew is two and a half years old so it will be at least a few years before she is playing hockey.
“It’s great. We don’t miss many games. We’ll get everybody’s schedule and we’ll mark all the kids on the calendar. Sometimes Pat goes one direction and I go to the other. It’s something that we cherish very much and we wouldn’t give it up for anything right now.” Franklin said.
Besides hockey, Neil is very active in the local community. He currently umpires men’s and youth baseball and women’s fastball, serves on the board for the Westman Wildcats. serves on the council for Victoria United Church and is the Past President of the Melita Golf Club. Neil also volunteers his time for the local K40 (Kinsmen) club and is employed on a part-time basis by Redpath Funeral Home in Melita and Wheatland Funeral Services in Killarney.
Hockey Manitoba would like to thank Neil for his dedication to minor hockey and for providing a great example for all of us when it comes to the importance of giving back to your community.