William R. Ukrainetz
Born: April 26, 1925 (Lethbridge, Alberta)
Died: January 2, 2015 (Great Falls, Montana)
Bill (Uke) Ukrainetz was a longtime defenceman with the Great Falls (Mont.) Americans, a senior team that often competed against Canadian teams.
The son of a coal miner, Ukrainetz attended a Ukrainian-language school until Grade 4 in his hometown of Lethbridge, Alta. After completing Grade 12, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy, serving aboard the minesweeper HMCS Medicine Hat as a radio operator. His service took him as far away as Bermuda and Australia.
By 1946, he was playing hockey for the Camp 133 team in the Lethbridge and District Commercial hockey league. He also skated for the Lethbridge Legionnaires team.
In 1947, he joined the Great Falls VFW Hornets team, which played at the Civic Centre in the Montana city. He met and married Lois Westdal, a local figure skater. He later opened Uke’s Sports with his father in-law.
Ukrainetz became playing manager of the Great Falls Americans, which won two consecutive championships in the Alta-Mont International Hockey League. In 1954-55, Ukrainetz recorded four assists in 12 league games. His 26 penalty minutes led the league. The “solid-hitting blue-liner,” as he was described by the Medicine Hat News, played with the Americans at least until 1959-60. Among his teammates on the Americans was Earl Ingarfield, who would go on to play 746 NHL games.
He later worked for distillers, where he earned a reputation for creative liquor decanters, including a figurine of Elvis Presley done for McCormick Distilling of Kansas City, Mo. In the late 1970s, he purchased Lindbergh Lake Lodge (also known as the Laird’s Lodge), which has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places.