Second World War veteran drops ceremonial puck at great-granddaughter’s hockey game

John Kozoriz, a veteran of the Second World War , drops the puck at his great-granddaughter's hockey game in Edmonton, Alta., on Nov. 11, 2019. Courtesy: Jess Anderson

On the evening of Nov. 11, a hockey game at Clareview Recreation Centre began with a very touching tribute.

“Since it was on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day, we thought we’d honour a 94-year-old World War Two vet,” said Doug Donnelly, who is the director of the Edmonton Girls Bantam Hockey Association and a veteran himself.

Donnelly, or “Doc” as he’s known, served 23 years in the Canadian Armed Forces as a physician’s assistant and served two tours — in Bosnia and Kosovo.

So, when he heard one of the young players involved in Monday’s game had a very special family connection, Doc knew he wanted to incorporate a tribute into the match.

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John Kozoriz, a veteran of the Second World War — and great-grandfather to Jordynn Anderson — dropped the puck.

“That’s quite an honour, actually,” the 94-year-old said. “Not everybody has that opportunity and I was pleased that I was invited.”

Kozoriz served nearly three decades in the Air Force. He signed up in March 1944.

“For one thing, I had a brother there. And besides, the Air Force had the advantage of sleeping in a bed every night. We always worked from base.”

John Kozoriz, a veteran of the Second World War , drops the puck at his great-granddaughter’s hockey game in Edmonton, Alta., on Nov. 11, 2019. Courtesy: Jess Anderson

“To have a World War Two vet coming out to a game is just unreal,” Doc said.

“Most of the World War Two vets now are passing on, there’s no more World War One vets that I’m aware of… Even back then in the war, they were very, very special guys.

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“[Kozoriz] was a tail gunner on an aircraft so he was always being shot at. He could see the enemy coming from behind. It would have been a scary situation.”

Doc was thrilled when Jordynn’s great-grandfather agreed to lead the ceremonial puck drop.

“I have the utmost respect. We’re talking about guys from World War Two. I’m a veteran, but when you look at the gentlemen and the ladies who have sacrificed their life back in World War One, World War Two — completely different war than we see today.”

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Jordynn spent the morning attending a ceremony at the Aviation Museum, where her great-grandfather laid a wreath for ex-air gunners.

“He tells me a bunch of stories. Some of them are really funny. Some of them are about how he lost a bunch of his friends. That just makes me admire him more,” the teenager said.

She said having him honoured at her game was incredibly special.

“I’ve been playing hockey for eight years now, and to have my great-grandfather part of that now? He served our country, so the reason I’m here is because of him.

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“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here and I want to honour him for that.”

For Kozoriz, it was an uplifting way to end an emotional day.

“It’s remembering tragedy and sacrifice. Obviously people who died had no choice in the matter. It’s unfortunate and it’s made a lot of people sad.

“I’d like to pay a tribute to those people who didn’t make it, who sacrificed for Canada,” he said.

“And I’d like to show my appreciation to those people who did show up at the various ceremonies across Edmonton. The crowds are still quite large. It shows that there’s still a lot of interest and appreciation for what was done. And you can’t knock that.”

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