Eldrid Roth grew up living one block away from the RJC campus, which meant he got to play hockey with the team before he was even a student. As a kid he and his brother Brian, and often other kids from town, would walk over to the school and help the students clear off the ice on the outdoor rink. Then they’d throw on their skates and join the teams for games of shinny.
Then in 1966, for Grade 9 Eldrid finally got to be a student. And for the first time that anyone could remember, three Grade 9 students made the high school team, including him. He loved making new friends on the team, including some of the older students he played with. “They all mentored me in getting where I was with my hockey,” he says. “All the new friends that I made there was just awesome.”
When Eldrid was a student, hockey was played outside until his Grade 12 year, when they put up the indoor arena. And while a game outdoors holds some nostalgia, as a student they all preferred the controlled environment of the indoor rink. You didn’t have to worry about snowstorms or people throwing snowballs at you as you skated by. “When you played some of the teams, parents stood on the side and just sort of ‘accidentally’ threw one over as you went by,” he says. “So you made sure you kept a buffer zone there along the boards.”
Graduation from RJC didn’t put an end to Eldrid’s involvement in athletics at the school.
He did move way from Rosthern for a few years, working in Langley, B.C. He then moved to Winnipeg to visit friends that were attending Canadian Mennonite Bible College, and to work in transportation. It was there he met his wife Phyllis. They moved back to Saskatoon together, but once their oldest daughter started in school they decided they wanted the small-town life and moved back to Rosthern. Once his kids started in hockey, Eldrid started coaching. He coached hockey for 18 years starting with the minor division, and up to the RJC students in the midget division. And during the years their kids were at the school Phyllis worked there as well, in finance.
After their kids graduated, they have maintained connection to and support of RJC. He and Phyllis have volunteered driving kids from nearby rural towns to RJC for classes. And Eldrid helped by driving buses for the hockey team to tournaments when they had trouble finding a driver.
And living so close to the school, both Eldrid and Phyllis attend sports games as fans.
“We’d like to just support and show the kids that we’re there for them. If anything happens, they can always give us a buzz if they feel comfortable with doing that,” he says.
Why have they helped support RJC all these years, even without their own kids at the school anymore? Eldrid believes supporting athletic opportunities helps build community. “It gets you to meet and get to know other kids, other students that you may not get to meet if you didn’t play the sport,” he says. For example, having RJC connect with the town of Rosthern to put together a football team builds relationships that would never happen otherwise. “I’ve seen a lot of friendships start that would never have started if they didn’t play football together and just bump shoulders and play in the same game and work out a game plan.”
For Eldrid, maintaining the connection with RJC and continuing to support the school is important. They do it, he says, “just to give back what the college gave to us and our kids, because it’s very valuable.”