Husband, father, coach, businessman, mentor. Born Aug. 12, 1949, in Winnipeg, died Feb. 11, 2013, in Winnipeg of cancer, aged 63.
Every now and then an individual comes into our lives who forever changes us for the better. Wayne Chernecki was such a person. Lighting up any room with his contagious smile, Wayne could make you want to be a better person by emulating his quiet, confident, respectful ways.
The son of Peter and Emily Chernecki, of proud Ukrainian-Canadian heritage, Wayne was an outstanding athlete in his youth. By age 19, he had won the Manitoba Junior Baseball League Triple Crown, been named most valuable player in his high school football league and been drafted by the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.
More important than all of Wayne’s athletic accomplishments, however, were his character and personality. He was humble but not apologetic, self-confident though never arrogant, strong but never a bully, and fiercely loyal to friends through good times and bad.
Of all his sports, Wayne chose to pursue hockey, first with the West Kildonan North Stars, then the Winnipeg Junior Jets of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League. Unique among his hockey peers, he at the same time pursued and obtained an honours degree (in commerce).
After stints at Springfield and Providence in the American Hockey League, Wayne tore up a knee and was eventually obliged to withdraw from hockey, by then having married his childhood sweetheart, Marilyn Guenther.
He quickly became immersed in the Winnipeg business scene, initially in dental equipment sales and financing, and then as a real-estate broker and property manager, eventually retiring as vice-president for Western Canada of Redcliff Property Managers Inc., a member of the David Thomson Group of Companies.
Fervently proud of his North End Winnipeg roots, Wayne moved comfortably through the boardrooms of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and elsewhere, also serving as the Thomson nominee on the board of True North Sports and Entertainment, now the owner of the new Winnipeg Jets.
After coaching his children on minor baseball and hockey teams, Wayne committed himself to coaching amateur hockey at the bantam, midget and junior A levels, leading the St. James Canadians of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League for seven years in which they won the league championship in two successive seasons.
When an opposing team used a trick right out of Slapshot to trap his undermanned team into a pregame brawl, Wayne refused to play the game. He always stood up for what he knew was right, his moral compass unswerving.
When his brother, Norman, was struck with cancer several years ago, Wayne was instrumental in his care and well-being. When his parents’ health failed, he never missed a day of stopping by the family home to check in on them, run an errand or just cheer them up. Wayne truly inspired all of us to strive to become better people.
Paul Brett was a friend of Wayne.