Brad Hornung says he was humbled and honoured when University of Regina president Vianne Timmons, and Stephen King, a senior researcher in the president’s office and a former classmate of his, visited him at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre to tell him he was to receive an honorary degree from his alma mater. Although he has received many awards over the years, Hornung says he is always surprised to be recognized.
“There are a lot of people with spinal cord injuries who have accomplished more than I have; they inspire me,” he says. “We might not know their names but they are achieving things every day.”
Born and raised in Regina, and playing for his hometown Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, Hornung was 18 when his dream of pursuing a professional hockey career came to an abrupt end. During a game in March 1987, Hornung suffered a severe spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic. He harboured no anger toward the player whose badly-timed body check ended his playing career, but faced his adversity in stride, graduating from Archbishop M. C. O’Neill High School and then continuing his education at the University of Regina. (King shared classroom notes with him.)
“Mom and dad instilled in me the importance of education,” Hornung explains, “and I was fortunate to be able to take two or three courses per semester at the University of Regina.”
Hornung received his Bachelor’s degree in History from Campion College at the University in 1996. He then took several classes through the Faculty of Business Administration.
Each year, the Western Hockey League awards the Brad Hornung Trophy to the player who best exemplifies talent, desire and sportsmanship – traits that Hornung always displayed.
He has remained connected to the game he loves, working for several years as a scout for the Chicago Black Hawks of the National Hockey League. He currently works for the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau and, in this capacity, attends every Regina Pats home game, helping the NHL identify up-and-coming players. It is difficult to assess a player on their statistics alone, Hornung says, so he looks for both their quantitative and qualitative characteristics to include in his scouting reports. Hockey demands rapid-fire decision-making, he adds, so he looks for what he calls “hockey sense” and “intuition on the ice,” along with the personal mannerisms that exhibit a player’s leadership traits in game situations.
Illustrating that the hockey world is a small one, with innumerable interconnections, Hornung played hockey in the WHL against another University of Regina honorary degree recipient, Sheldon Kennedy. They were also teammates and roommates on Team West in an international under-17 tournament that featured teams representing five regions of Canada and national teams from other countries.
The Regina Pats have honoured Brad Hornung by retiring his number 8 jersey: it hangs in the Brandt Centre above where he stations himself to watch and analyze the games for his scouting reports. Each year, the Western Hockey League awards the Brad Hornung Trophy to the player who best exemplifies talent, desire and sportsmanship – traits that Hornung always displayed.
Hornung will receive his honorary degree on June 8.