There is no question that Rich Kramp was a very talented hockey player and although he was raised in a military household, where regular posting orders were an ordinary occurrence, his family clearly encouraged and supported his talent, no matter where they lived.
Rich obviously inherited his father’s athletic gene since his father had been a semi-pro hockey player prior to joining the air force. “My dad was always my coach until I hit the junior ranks. I played minor hockey over in Europe, since we were stationed there, then I played in Comox and I also played for the Chilliwack Bruins who were Junior A at the time and the New Westminster Bruins,” he explained. He then signed on as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres and played with their farm team, winning the US Hockey League’s Scoring Champion title during the ’75-’76 season. In total, Rich played in the US for eleven years before making the decision to head back to Chilliwack in 1981. “I really enjoyed living down there and had applied for my green card but through the process came back up here to Chilliwack. Rod Cooper, who owned Auld Phillips, hired me to work in the warehouse while I waited for the process to be finalized. Shortly after starting with them, I became a supervisor and one thing led to another and I never left,” he chuckled.
Although he gave up playing hockey professionally when he returned to Chilliwack, Rich continued to play recreational hockey and one day decided that he wanted to help out the community, in the same manner that he’d helped out the City of Milwaukee. “I played in Milwaukee for five years and back there, we were involved in the MACC Fund (Milwaukee Athletes for Childhood Cancer). I had a blast doing this back there. This was a year-round fund and as athletes we were always involved in promos to raise money for this special cause. I thought that I’d like to do this in Chilliwack. I talked to Greg Robinson about setting up something and he thought that it was a good idea. Greg was my roommate when we both played for Chicago and when I came back here in 1981, he was already back living in Chilliwack,” he said. Soon after, the CATT Fund (Chilliwack Athletes for Turkeys and Toys) was born and it’s been going strong for the last twenty-five years.
The first couple of years, competitors played ringette; a game requiring the use of straight sticks to control a rubber ring. The objective of the game, as with most sports, is to score goals by shooting the ring into the opponent’s net. “After two years, we decided that we had to move away from ringette and move to a less physical contact sport. We introduced volleyball and it’s been that way ever since. This was a good move,” he laughed.
After eleven years of organizing an event that became one of the highlights of the Christmas season, Rich decided that it was time to move on. “At the same time, I didn’t want to have it just end because Chilliwack Community Services came to rely on the toys and the cash. The event became part of their Christmas Sharing program, so I approached Rotary and they’ve been doing it for the last fourteen years. I knew that they’d have the people and resources needed to move the event forward. The Mt. Cheam Rotary Club took it on and they’ve done a great job ever since. It’s a great thing to know that something that you started is still a tradition in the community and that it continues to help those in need,” he said. The CATT fund just wrapped up this past weekend and this year the event raised $20,000 and collected 375 toys for Chilliwack Community Services’ Christmas Sharing efforts.
While Auld Phillips was a great starting point for Rich after he moved back to Chilliwack, he eventually moved on and for the last twenty years has been busy with his own contracting company; building homes throughout the area. He also continues to play hockey with the same group of guys that he played with back in 1981. “We all used to play rec hockey together and now we’re playing old-timer’s hockey,” he laughed.
He is a proud father of 30 year old son, Nelson and 28 year old daughter, Jessica. “Nelson is a contractor in Vancouver and Jessica is a veterinarian assistant. They’re good kids,” he beamed. Rich and his second wife, Robbie, are also very proud of their four year old daughter, Shelby. “She just started skating last year and now wants to play hockey. She’s a real sweetie. We also have a new one on the way in January,” he said proudly. The family lives on a hobby farm in East Chilliwack and life on the farm with a curious and energetic little girl is quite the adventure. “We have two miniature donkeys, two goats, chickens, two dogs and a cat.” We both chuckled in unison, “And a partridge in a pear tree.”