Legendary hockey fan “Mr. Centre Ice” passes away at age 105

Legendary hockey fan “Mr. Centre Ice” passes away at age 105
DUNNVILLE—Back in 2021, ‘Mr. Centre Ice’ George Culver displayed one of the custom-made centre ice pucks that were part of his efforts to preserve the memory and spirit of local hockey in his hometown of Dunnville. —Haldimand Press archive photo.

By Sheila Phibbs

The Haldimand Press

DUNNVILLE—The town of Dunnville lost a beloved citizen recently as George Culver, known to many as “Mr. Centre Ice”, passed away on January 8, 2023. He would have turned 106 this March.

George was born and raised in Dunnville and worked in the gas drilling industry. He and his wife, Shirley, were married 64 years when she passed away in 2003. They enjoyed travelling the world and did so for as long their health allowed. The couple had one daughter and granddaughter and George was proud to have three great-grandchildren.

Among George’s many community activities was  Dunnville’s Amity Lodge #32. According to Kyle MacDonald, Worshipful Master of Amity Lodge #32, George became a Freemason in 1951 and was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in the fall of that year. He travelled with Dr. W.C.B. Mills, the Worshipful Master of Amity Lodge in 1967, and was acquainted with M. W. Bro. James N. Allan who was Grand Master of Ontario in 1965-66.

DUNNVILLE—In 2021 George Culver bundled up to watch cars drive by and send their birthday greetings for his 104th birthday on March 16.

Though he resigned from the Masons in 1991, George’s membership was restored in 2019. MacDonald remembers George as a “straight shooter” and “very genuine”. He adds, “George was an incredibly interesting man who always had stories from real life experiences to capture the attention of the listener.”

MacDonald recalls George’s determination to be at the lodge and says, “We made sure that he was able to attend in November and December of 2021. His presence was an inspiration to Freemasons across Ontario and Canada. He was recognized by our Grand Lodge for being an active member of Freemasonry at the age of 104. He will long be remembered by all who had the privilege of meeting him.”

In the obituary for her uncle, Jane Culver writes, “George was an idea man and usually couldn’t rest until they were complete, or letting anyone else lose sight of the goal!” 

This was most evident in his efforts to have a flagpole installed at the spot that was centre ice of the old Dunnville Arena.

DUNNVILLE—In 2022 George Culver is shown with the Centre Ice award he had created for the first hockey player or referee to reach 100 years of age.
—Haldimand Press archive photos.

Stories in The Haldimand Press not only featured George as one of the County’s centenarians, but as a passionate hockey fan with a dream to commemorate the old arena – and the players and fans who gathered there. He became known as “Mr. Centre Ice” for his advocacy of the project and his appreciation of local hockey.

When the flag was officially raised at the former centre ice location in the Dunnville Waterfront Park, George said in a December 2019 Haldimand Press article, “I didn’t think it was ever going to come true…. I give myself some credit that my 100 years old can accomplish this…. The flagpole honours old hockey players, the old arena, and John Cowan who rebuilt (the arena).”

Earlier in 2019, The Haldimand Press reported that raising, lowering, and replacing the flag as required would be the responsibility of the Dunnville Boat Club, which had strongly supported George’s flag project. There was to be an exception to the County’s flag policy – the club would lower the flag to half staff “upon the passing of Mr. Culver”. A January 9 post on the Haldimand County Facebook page pays tribute to George alongside a photo of the lowered centre ice flag. Several comments relate the gratitude area residents felt toward George Culver, with some calling it “a sad day” for the community.

Haldimand Ward 5 Councillor Rob Shirton offers his condolences to the family and community, saying, “Mr. George Culver lived a very full and productive life – he was instrumental in having the flag pole installed at centre ice of the old arena in Dunnville. He will be missed by many.”

When discussing his longevity with The Haldimand Press, George shared his belief in light therapy. It could be said that George was, himself, a shining light who brightened his community and the lives of those around him. His efforts to honour the old arena are his legacy and ensure that the centre ice continues to be a gathering place. His love of the game, the players, the fans, and that old building, make Mr. Centre Ice one of Dunnville’s hockey legends.