TIME WAS LONG FORGOTTEN UNTIL THE PHONE RANG.
Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY Dennis McCarthy may refer to:
Maybe good guys do finish first. Maybe all the years of quietly, doggedly, working to level the playing ice for thousands of needy kids in the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. earned Ronny Van Gompel this incredible trip down memory lane he's been on the past few months.
This trip that the Los Angeles Kings The Los Angeles Kings are a professional ice hockey team based in Los Angeles, California, USA. They are members of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). official timekeeper at the Forum has found himself remembering back to 1943 in Antwerp, Belgium - back to when he and his brother, Carl, were a couple of teen-age kids joining the underground resistance with other young men to fight for their country.
Back to the day when they ran up separate hills to escape German soldiers, and never saw each other again.
``I heard shots fired, and thought that they got him - that he was dead,'' Van Gompel said from his Burbank home Friday.
``Carl never made it home, I never made it home. We both got into a slight disagreement with the German army, and never saw one another again. I thought I had buried those years forever.''
But they returned with a phone call in July while Van Gompel was at home recuperating from open heart surgery, and working on plans to expand his HELP program - Hockey Equipment Lending Program, (818) 768-5819 - to reach more kids.
He was adding roller hockey roller hockey
Hockey played on a hard surface in which two opposing teams of roller skaters, using curved sticks, try to drive a ball into the opponents' goal. equipment, and taking on a new partner - the Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. Police Department's Jeopardy program, also aimed at getting kids off the streets and into sports programs.
``Is your name Van Gompel, and were you born on June 6th?'' the man on the other end of the phone wanted to know.
``Yes, but who is this?'' Van Gompel asked, getting irritated ir·ri·tate
v. ir·ri·tat·ed, ir·ri·tat·ing, ir·ri·tates
1. To rouse to impatience or anger; annoy: a loud bossy voice that irritates listeners. , and threatening to hang up.
``Do you have a brother named Carl?''
``Yes, but he's dead.''
``No, sir, he's my father,'' said the man named Ivan - Van Gompel's nephew.
``They'd been searching for me since 1960, and finally found "Finally Found" was the debut single from the Honeyz. This was their most successful single in the UK and worldwide, securing a number 4 position in the UK singles chart and achieved platinum status in Australia  Tracklisting
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me over the Internet,'' Van Gompel said, shaking his head, still not quite believing it.
When the family found out he was recuperating from open heart surgery, a niece, Gerda, was sent over from Belgium to help him.
``She wanted to know all about my life, what I had been doing,'' Van Gompel said. ``I told her about working as a timekeeper for 30 years with the National Hockey League National Hockey League (NHL)
Organization of professional North American ice-hockey teams. The league was formed in 1917 by five Canadian teams; the first U.S. team, the Boston Bruins, was added in 1924. It today consists of 30 teams in two conferences and six divisions. , and my work with kids.''
About how he scrapped together $350 in 1955 to outfit 20 kids from the neighborhood with jerseys and ice skates - kids Ronny noticed didn't have much in the way of money or a man's guiding hand around the house - kids just hanging out, prime candidates for getting in trouble.
``I took 'em over to the old Schram's Hockey Rink on Vineland, and taught 'em how to skate and play hockey,'' he told his niece. ``I taught 'em that there is no `I' in team.''
Later, he would expand and take in more kids with his HELP program for kids who couldn't afford to rent hockey equipment, let alone buy it.
The concept was simple and to the point. Keep your grades up, and you could use all the equipment you wanted. Let them fall, and you lost the privilege until you improved your grades.
It all goes back to his philosophy that you don't get something for nothing, Van Gompel told his niece. That you had to work for it. Only then would you really appreciate it.
She told him about the former star of the Kings, Wayne Gretzky Noun 1. Wayne Gretzky - high-scoring Canadian ice-hockey player (born in 1961)
Gretzky , and how when he set the record with 802 scoring goals, one of the first things First Things is a monthly ecumenical journal concerned with the creation of a "religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society" (First Things website). he did was give Van Gompel 802 pieces of hockey equipment for the kids in HELP.
Gerda listened and shook her head. Isn't it amazing a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. ? she asked her uncle. What he had been doing in America all these years, his brother's family had been doing in Belgium - providing sports equipment for poor kids wanting to play baseball and basketball.
Van Gompel smiled. ``Yes, isn't it,'' he said, feeling better than he had in years - ``Feeling like I was watching that old TV show, `This is Your Life,' '' he said Friday.
The phone rang again in Ronny Van Gompel's house the other day. It was Gerda from Belgium, thanking her uncle for the boxes of sporting equipment that had just arrived from L.A. Gear and the Eastern Co.
Boxes filled with basketball shoes and baseball equipment - with a card that read ``From the poor kids of California to the poor kids of Antwerp.''
Yeah, maybe good guys do finish first.
MEMO: Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
Photo: L.A. Kings timekeeper Ronny Van Gompel runs a hockey equipment program for kids in the Valley.