Local Author Launches Fifth Book on the History of Neepawa

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Local Author Launches Fifth Book on the History of Neepawa

Longtime area resident Rick Sparling has written several books about the history of Neepawa, focusing on sports. Business, and significant events. The latest, which launched just before the start of hockey season, is a complete history of the Neepawa Natives, now known as the Neepawa Titans, the local Junior ‘A’ hockey team that debuted in the 1989-90 season of the MJHL.

Sparling’s books are characterised by comprehensive research on the subject matter, whether that’s public school hockey or historical businesses in Neepawa. He says he developed his love of research from watching his mother delve into their family history when he was young, but it was when his wife fell ill and he needed a distraction that he started on his first book.

He estimates each of his books is a two-year process which involves time spend both physically in archives, including the Beautiful Plains Archive in Neepawa and the Winnipeg Archive which houses microfiche issues of the local papers, but also on the phone and computer reaching out to contacts. Over 150 people provided photos, memories, or leads for his most recent book, and Sparling estimates he talked to about a third of the over 700 players who have played for the team between 1989 and 2020.

One of his biggest sources of information on the Neepawa hockey team was Mary Ellen Clarke, who has been the billet coordinator for the team for fifteen years. Junior hockey players are billeted in local homes for the duration of their stay with the team, and are either employed in the community or attend the local high school. The billeting process, says Clarke, is crucial for the wellbeing of the players and for boosting their performance, and that family life is what stays with many of the players long after they leave the Junior ‘A’ hockey league.

For Sparling’s purposes, it meant that Clarke was still in touch with or had contact information for many of the young people who played over those years, helping him access complete information about the team. Unexpectedly, it was the players from earlier years, who often still had land lines or listed phone numbers, that were easier to locate, and those newer players who relied more on social media that were more difficult to track down.

Sparling says his next book might be on the history of snooker in Manitoba, another passion of his and a departure from the Neepawa-centric books his has written so far.

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Video Upload Date: September 17, 2022

As Neepawa and area’s local access television station, NACTV has been serving the community since 1977. The station is a community-owned not-for-profit organisation that broadcasts 24 hours a day and reaches homes throughout Manitoba and Canada on Bell ExpressVu 592, MTS Channel 30/1030, and WCG 117 as well as streaming online at nactv.tv.

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Neepawa is located in western Manitoba, about two hours west of Winnipeg and 45 minutes southeast of Riding Mountain National Park.

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