RED DEER - The Canada Winter Games attract volunteers and spectators from all walks of life, but for one volunteer, the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer are particularly special.
Billings, a Red Deer native, was back in his hometown during the winter months for the first time in nearly ten years, as he and his wife both volunteered for the 2019 games.
According to Billings, it was important for him to take part in the Canada Winter Games in his hometown, as he was part of the inaugural games in 1967. In fact, Billings was a member of the gold medal-winning University of Alberta Golden Bears, who represented Alberta at the games.
"It makes me feel old, for one thing," said Billings on volunteering for the Canada Winter Games 52 years after winning gold. "I’m glad to still be here to enjoy it, and it probably means more to me now than when it happened, because I understand things a little better, you know, you cherish things more. I’m excited for all the young kids too, I’m looking forward to seeing it and being a part of it again."
Billings said as time passed by, he gained a greater appreciation for the one-in-a-lifetime experience in 1967.
"I didn’t really understand it all back then, I was just 19 years old, and in my first year of University," he said. "It was just exciting to be part of it. We played in the Quebec Coliseum, the building that Jean Beliveau built, that’s exciting. You walk in there, and you look up and see all these guys and say ’wow, I can’t believe I’m here’. Then we finally won, and that was hard to accept, we sat there and thought ’wow, did we really do this’? Then it hits home after awhile, and just like anything that you win, it was surreal."
Billings had the honour of representing the historic 1967 Men’s Hockey team at the 2019 Canada Winter Games Opening Ceremonies as well, as was selected as one of the final torch-bearers.
Although 52 years have passed, Billings said he still carries fond memories of the 1967 Canada Winter Games, and is looking forward to make new memories in 2019.