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Ice hockey club captain Van Wieren a Dutch Canadian success story

Central figure at Flyers’ reunion

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HEERENVEEN - Players from the famed 1979/80 Feenstra Flyers ice hockey team recently laced up for a reunion game. One of the mainstays of the Heerenveen team of the era was player/coach Larry van Wieren, who now lives in Canada. The story of the former national team coach is one of many earlier returns to his native and his adoptive country.

Van Wieren (53) was born in the Frisian town of Bolsward. Soon after Larry’s birth, the Van Wieren family emigrated to Canada and settled near Edmonton, Alberta, where Larry eventually played hockey but preferred North American football.

When Van Wieren Sr. lost his job, oldest son Larry became the family’s breadwinner. A visit to his native country brought Larry to The Hague’s hockey club HIJS where he learned the ropes and developed his on ice and off-the-ice leadership qualities. After a stint with HIJS and another The Hague team, Van Wieren for one season was player/coach of the Utrecht Hunters, a team which eventually folded. Subsequently, Larry went back home to Canada where he married and went to work as a plumber.

In 1975, Heerenveen sponsor Sjoerd Feenstra enticed Van Wieren back to the Netherlands. Success followed and in his second season, Larry could celebrate as a champion and cup winner. The team won seven championships in a row, thanks to many other Dutch Canadian players such as Frank van Soldt, Leo Koopmans, Jack de Heer, Jan Janssen and Brian de Bruin, and locals such as Theo and Piet Nota. Ten years later, when Feenstra withdrew as Flyers’ sponsor, Van Wieren also left and took a job with Feenstra’s U.S. operations. Feenstra Verwarming is the Netherlands largest central heating and hot water systems’ supplier. Van Wieren lasted for three years until Feenstra, who had become executive of the Dutch Hockey League, called on him to coach the Dutch national team and to become director of the League. The effort failed to generate the hoped for success and the national team slowly sank in the world rankings. In 1994, Van Wieren, his wife and three daughters moved to Canada for the last time, where his skates were ‘put on ice.’ When Heerenveen’s reunion call came, Larry van Wieren realized he better get in shape.

As a member of the Dutch national team, Van Wieren played in 102 games where he scored 29 goals and had 59 assists.