September 06, 2016

Bob Falkenberg

"Steady" Bob Falkenberg was a reliable, defensive defenseman throughout his lengthy career.

The Stettler, Alberta native played his junior hockey with the famous Edmonton Oil Kings from 1962 through 1966. Twice in that time they won junior hockey's top prize - the Memorial Cup.

"We beat Niagara Falls in 1962 when Gary Dornhoefer was their best player and Oshawa in 1965 when Bobby Orr was their star," he said.

Falkenberg turn pro with the Detroit Red Wings organization in 1966, but over the next five seasons he only played sporadically with the big league team. Though he spend much of his time toiling in the minor leagues, he did piece together a 54 game NHL career.

"I scored one goal in the NHL," he said with a chuckle. "It was in the old Madison Square Gardens in New York against Eddie Giacomin."

In 1972 Falkenberg left the busses of the minor leagues behind and signed on with the World Hockey Association. He even got to go home, playing his first two seasons with the Alberta/Edmonton Oilers.

"The WHA was a fun place to play and the league did a lot to boost players' salaries," he said.

When the Oilers traded Falkenberg to the San Diego Mariners in 1974, Falkenberg admitted adjusting to California's winter was quite a shock compared to northern Alberta's.

"It was a little different, not having to shovel snow and jumping in my car to go to practice wearing shorts," he said.

Though San Diego is not generally considered to be much of a hockey market, Falkenberg disagrees.

"We used to average 5000 or 6000 fans a game, although when a team like Houston came in it would up to 10000 or 12000."

But ultimately the Mariners, like the WHA itself, collapsed.

"I think, for many fans, it became too pricey. They were used to minor league hockey where tickets were under $5 and suddenly they were in the WHA and the prices doubled.

In 1977-78 Falkenberg returned home to Edmonton, but without a hockey job. The Oilers ran into some injury problems and did sign him to play a couple of games, but otherwise his career was over.

Falkenberged ended up working as a promotions coordinator for Labatt's brewery in Edmonton.

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