Fallen hockey comrades honoured at Wurtele Arena

Wurtele Arena Manager Kevin Zalba admires three new banners raised in memory of base hockey players Joe Lescene, Rob Sneath, and Keith Cowden. Photo by Rodney Venis, Base Public Affairs

Wurtele Arena Manager Kevin Zalba admires three new banners raised in memory of base hockey players Joe Lescene, Rob Sneath, and Keith Cowden. Photo by Rodney Venis, Base Public Affairs

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

Banners honouring three fallen hockey players have been hung from the rafters in the Wurtele Arena.

Crafted by workers from Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) Cape Breton, the large colourful memorials now hang over centre ice, commemorating the lives of recreational hockey players Joe Lescene, Rob Sneath, and Keith ‘Butch’ Cowden.

While they may not have played in the NHL, all three were widely respected by their teammates and opponents and had reputations for hard work and sportsmanship, says Kevin Zalba, Wurtele Arena manager.

Zalba, a former sailor, has played hockey at the base since the early 1980s and knew all three players. 

“Raising these banners was an emotional moment for me,” says Zalba. “It was very fitting for the Wurtele Arena because it’s important for players to look up and say ‘I remember those guys’.”

The idea for the banners came following a tribute game for Lescene. Kelsey Khol and Matt Hood, Lescene’s teammates and workmates, suggested the idea to Zalba and offered up their expertise and assistance to get the banners made in their respective shops. Zalba brought the idea to the attention of former Base Commander Capt(N) Jason Boyd. An avid hockey player himself, Capt(N) Boyd gave his approval to the idea.

A proper official unveiling ceremony is still being planned when provincial health and safety regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic end.

Hockey Legacies

All three hockey players enjoyed lengthy military careers before transitioning to the DND civilian work force.

While Sneath and Cowden played for the Tritons hockey team in Canadian Armed Forces competitions, Lescene played for recreational league teams the Angry Beavers and FMF Outlaws. 

Lescene died in September 2017 in Oregon after falling 250 metres off a cliff while hiking. He was 51. The former Hull Technician had worked in the FMF Wood Shop after making the transition from the navy. 

Sneath served 24 years in the military before transitioning to Personnel Support Programs following his retirement in 2008. He died after a long battle with cancer in November 2017 at the age of 52. Sneath won 22 national and 35 regional hockey medals and was one of the most highly decorated military hockey players.

Cowden, a former Marine Engineer, retired as a Chief Petty Officer in 2007 and worked at FMF as a Mechanical Engineer. He died of cancer in December 2015 at the age of 57. He is remembered as a standout goaltender.

Three FMF shops produced and designed the banners and crafted the wooden dowels. Two of the banners have the Tritons logos and colours to honour Sneath and Cowden, while the other banner honours Lescene with his No. 89 jersey number and the Angry Beavers Colours.

The memory of all three players lives on in the arena.


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  1. Tammie Tompkins says:


    My brother Keith(Butch)Cowden loved hockey and really dedicated his whole life to this sport. So to have this banner raised with his name is incredible. Thank you for keeping his memory and hockey legacy alive, every time any of his family or friends walk into the Wurtele Arena.
    Best Goalie
    Love from his family

  2. Lookout says:

    We’ve made the correction. Thank you for letting us know!

  3. Wendy Blaney says:

    Hello! Keith Cowden is my brother and i miss him very much ❤️ Such an incredible honour for him I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart ❤️ Just one correction on the article he actually passed away December 2015

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