Most babies have a hard enough time figuring out how to walk. The sheer ability to stand on two feet and not fall comes as a struggle. Now, think about a child who is still learning to stand on their feet, also trying to learn how to stand on ice skates. Crazy idea right? Well, that crazy idea happened to professor Tim Winegard.
“There are pictures of me in diapers and skates when I am like one and a half,” Winegard said. “My dad made a rink every year in the backyard and I literally learned how to skate and walk at the same time.”
On July 27, 1977, the man, the myth, the legend was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Since that moment, hockey was instilled in his DNA. Like most Canadians, Winegard had a dream. Professional hockey player. While for most that dream was never a possibility, for Winegard it was merely a matter of time.
“I breathed it, I ate it, I slept it, I did it, I thought it,” Winegard said. “Everything I did in my childhood revolved around hockey.”
Any spare time he had was spent improving on the ice rink. During recess, he would practice on his skates. The second he got home from school, he would go out into the backyard and skate. Any sliver of time that he could put into hockey, was put into hockey. However, at the age of 19, his professional hockey dream was ended due to shoulder surgery.
With his career in hockey put on pause, Winegard shifted his gears to his other passion: the military. Growing up in a family where his grandfather served in World War II, his great-grandfather fought in both world wars, and his great great grandfather fought in World War I and then some, it was hard for a young Winegard not to find a passion for the military.
Growing up, he remembers his great-grandfather telling him stories about the first world war and looking at his medals and pictures from that historic time period. Those interactions and stories led to Winegard’s second dream of becoming a military historian. However, there was one problem.
“How can you be a military historian and never be in the military?” Winegard said.
And so, much to his parents’ dismay, Winegard joined the Canadian army service in 2001. There Winegard became a jack of all trades. He worked his way up until he retired at the rank of captain in 2010.
For Winegard’s initial six years with the army, he was stationed with the Canadian army. But in his seventh year, he was attached to the British army and traveled overseas to England where he spent his final three years in service.
By this point in his life, Winegard had already received three different college degrees from three different universities. So he came to the conclusion, why not get a fourth? He applied to Oxford University. That’s right, that Oxford University. However, the decision to go to Oxford wasn’t because it was “Oxford” as Winegard put it. There was a much more personal reason behind his decision.
“I did not care that it was Oxford,” Winegard said. “The first World War is my area of specialty. My interest because of my great grandpa. So the preeminent first World War historian was at Oxford. […] I wanted to study under Hew Strachan. […] It wouldn’t have mattered if he was at a Canadian school, American school, British school, wherever he was, I wanted to go.”
And that is what he did. But not without a little stalking first. In order to get into the university, Winegard did some searching. He was able to find Strachan’s home phone number and called him personally. Winegard explained to Strachan who he was, what he wanted to do, told him that he had already written a bunch of academic articles on the subject and that he immensely wanted to study underneath Strachan.
After hearing Winegard’s pitch, Strachan said all right, send me some of your work. A short time later, he called Winegard back and said, “fair enough, you saved me a bunch of time looking through files, you’re it.”
Of course, Winegard still had to pass all the marks to get in. He said he did pretty good on them. Well, actually, Winegard said his marks were pretty much perfect. Winegard went on to graduate in 2010 with a Ph.D. from the university.
That degree, along with a lot of research, has helped Winegard to write four books regarding military history and indigenous peoples. Currently, he is working on his fifth book that is set to come out in 2019. That book was picked up by Penguin Books, the number one publishing company in the world, that is centered around how the mosquito has changed history.
“Of all my accomplishments, this one is by far a dream come true,” Winegard said. “I mean the biggest publisher in the world bought the rights to my book worldwide distribution.”
Shortly after graduating from Oxford, Winegard found himself in Washington D.C. for a work trip he was assigned while working at a university in Canada. While walking around downtown he passed Capital One Arena and noticed a Washington Capitals game was going on. Being the hockey fan that he is, Winegard purchased a scalper’s ticket and went in to watch the game.
“The funny part is I don’t even remember who the Capitals were playing,” Winegard said.
And that is because of what happened next.
He walked into the arena and found his seat, the second one from the end of the row. Next to him at the end of the row sat a pretty girl from Grand Junction named Becky Raney. The two of them hit it off instantly. Less than one year later, Winegard asked Raney to marry him.
“Looking back, I pretty much knew that night that I was going to marry this girl,” Winegard said. “[…] I don’t believe in fate at all, but the Jedi force aligned in our favor that night. Yoda was moving some force fields for us.”
On a side note, Raney was at one point the editor-in-chief of this very paper you are reading now. Crazy how things work out.
Following the extended immigration process that Winegard had to go through, which was made even longer due to his military background check, he moved to Grand Junction to be with Raney and her son Jaxson. A short time later, he was able to get a job as a professor teaching history at a nearby university.
Not too long after that, word got around about Winegard’s Canadian roots and his love for hockey. At the time the Colorado Mesa University hockey team was not in action due to the ice arena being closed down. However, players came to Winegard and asked him if the rink were to open back up if would he run the team. There Winegard agreed that he would run the team if the rink were to reopen, but he didn’t have a lot of confidence that it would.
Sure enough, it did. Being a man of his word, Winegard took over as the head coach for the CMU ice hockey team in 2014. Winegard’s hockey career was taken off pause.
While he loves the United States and the university, at some point Winegard would like to return home to live in Canada. But for now, the most interesting man in the world resides with his family here in Grand Junction.