More than two months later, Bob Swail still doesn't know the name of the stranger who cheered him on when Bob's distraught daughter couldn't.
But he sure appreciates the gesture made by the mystery man who took Brenda's place at the hockey rink.
This story goes back to the end of March and the annual Playmakers hockey tournament at Saanich's Pearkes Arena.
It's an old-timers tourney - creaky old, in some cases. Qualicum Beach's Swail, for example, plays for the Parksville Panters, a team of octogenarians. "I like to tell people I put on a burst of slow," he says.
At age 83, Bob figured this year's tournament would be his last.
That's one reason daughter Brenda really, really wanted to make the trip from Calgary to see him play. It also had to do with the sense of loss she was feeling: Brenda was to fly here exactly a week after the funeral of her stepdad, with whom she was also close.
Sadly, when she got to Calgary airport, she found her flight had been cancelled, meaning she would lose a whole day and only have enough time on Vancouver Island to glimpse Bob's last game.
"I blurted out 'I have to get to Victoria. My dad's 83 and he's playing in his last hockey tournament and I want to watch him!' " Still in line, an upset Brenda ended up on her cellphone to Victoria's Days Inn, trying to relay a message to her father, who was to pick her up at the airport. She didn't notice the man in front of her in the queue until he turned and said, "Don't worry, things will be OK." The stranger told her that if they ended up on the same flight to Victoria, his wife could drive her to the hotel.
They were still in line when her dad called back, telling her not to bother flying for such a short visit.
"Maybe come in the spring instead when we can spend more time together," Bob said, "Are you sure, Dad?" replied Brenda, crying.
After she hung up, the stranger waved her ahead of him, just in case a seat to Victoria opened up. Alas, none did. She cancelled her tickets, then sought out the kind man, gave him a hug: "Thanks for everything, but I'm not going to Victoria."
"But you have to go watch your dad play hockey," he replied.
"Sorry," the still-crying Brenda said, and walked away. And that was that... until two days later when her dad called, bursting with excitement: "Your buddy Ron came to watch me play hockey."
Ron? "I didn't know his name until that moment," Brenda says, "but I will remember it forever."
Ron - they still don't know his last name - had taken it upon himself to show up at Pearkes Arena to cheer Bob on Brenda's behalf.
"It happened that when he showed up, we were playing," Bob says. "It was just a fluke." It was also a fluke that Ron, upon entering the rink, talked to a tournament volunteer who had already heard of Bob and Brenda's troubles. She was able to take him to Bob as he left the ice.
They had a nice little chat. Ron said that watching all those old guys play inspired him to play more hockey. And then he was gone, before Bob could even learn his last name.
"I sure appreciate the fact that he came, because Brenda was really distressed, upset," says Bob.
The experience buoyed Bob, to the point that he decided that maybe this isn't his last year on the blades, after all. He says he would like to be back, at age 84, for the 2014 Playmakers tournament. That would give his daughter the chance to see him play again, cheer him on in person.
Brenda says she'll be here, cheering - and she hopes she's not alone.
"If my dad is there, I will be there, and I hope by some chance Ron is, too," Brenda says.
"I would really like to meet him again and thank him for the impact he has had on my life. It's rare that you meet someone who can feel another person's pain - and a stranger's pain at that.
"May everyone be lucky enough in life to meet their own Man Named Ron."
/ Qualicum Beach resident Bob Swail, 83, wears No. 19 for the Parksville Panters.;
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