Mention Charles “Chuck” Wheeler’s name, and those who worked with and knew him through Dalhousie University will say he had one dominant trait: positivity.
“Everything Chuck did and talked about was positive,” said Trevor Doyle, who played for the Dal Tigers men’s hockey team from 1996 to 1999. “Honest, caring and wanted the best for both the Dalhousie Tigers and for you personally.”
“Chuck was such a positive gentleman. He gave so much to our men’s hockey program. He was so supportive all the time,” said Karen Moore, former Dal varsity athletics director. “It was hard not to like him.”
Wheeler, a longtime member of the men’s hockey team both in the front office and as an extra hand, passed away on May 30. He was 93.
Showing up with a smile
Having served from 1993 to 1997 as the team’s president, Wheeler became general manager of Dal’s men’s hockey team for the next 15 years. Before his time with the hockey team, he had long careers in the Royal Canadian Air Force and at Bridgestone Tires. He was also a student at Dal in the ’90s when he began with the hockey team. Wheeler graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Dal in 2000.
Judi Rice, former president of the Black & Gold Club (a group of Dal alumni who support the Tigers) and a friend of Wheeler, said she has vivid memories of seeing Wheeler in his regular positive mood.
“He always had a smile on his face and he always said hi to you no matter what,” Rice said.
Doyle worked at Dal hockey camps in the summer and saw Wheeler “nearly on a daily basis.” Doyle said he looked up to Wheeler as a mentor and so did countless other Tigers players.
“He treated everybody the same. He would talk to every single guy to make them feel welcome. He wanted them to feel a part of the Tigers hockey family,” Doyle said. “He added so much to the program through who he was.”
“Everybody knew who Chuck Wheeler was,” Rice said.
Staying busy one way or another
Moore said one of Wheeler’s largest contributions to Dal was organizing his team’s year-end banquet, one similar in size to the Tigers’ athletic banquet.
“That was a big undertaking. He organized all the different awards, dinner, the presentation and speakers. Coaches and staff helped, but he was the one doing most of the work,” Moore said.
Wheeler’s contributions included small-scale tasks, too.
“He gave hours and hours and hours of his time. He liked to stay busy,” said Moore. “He would sell pucks for puck-throwing contests [between periods] or run the 50/50. He enjoyed that aspect of the job as well.”
“He was a good role model for the [players]. He worked to get his degree [at 73 years old] and continued to volunteer at that age,” said Shane Easter, who coached the team from 1998-2000. “Chuck got a lot out of it too. He was a part of the team and was in it to help out the program. He was so easygoing and easy to talk to.”
Rice said she encourages former athletes to find a way to give back to the school after they finish at Dal. While working with Wheeler, she said he set the same example.
“Chuck would want people to give back to the university,” she said, referencing Wheeler’s years of schooling and work at Dal. “He encouraged present-day athletes to contribute when they had the chance after they graduated.”
“He never wanted any recognition,” Doyle said when considering how Wheeler would be remembered. “He was one of those guys who would sit at the back of the room and watch it all unfold and let other people have their time to shine. He was a heart and soul guy that would do anything for you. I think everyone that knew Chuck would do the same for him.”
Wheeler’s positivity was infectious and helped his players grow as people, said Moore.
“There were times when the guys [on the team] were going through rough times, either in hockey or in their life, and Chuck was there to lend that helping hand,” Doyle said. “He would be that father figure that they needed at that time.”
Editor’s note: The original version of this article was published in Issue 2, Volume 153 of the Dalhousie Gazette. This online version contains an additional quote from another of Chuck Wheeler’s co-workers.