Meet your PSP Fitness and Sports staff: Rocky Thorne
By Ryan Melanson,
Those who use the STADPLEX gym facilities likely know Rocky Thorne for his friendly greetings each evening at the front desk, but may not know that his involvement in the CAF and military sports dates back nearly 50 years.
It began as an ordinary seaman serving as a cook in HMCS Bonaventure in the late 60s. Thorne was known for being quite a good golfer, and word of his skills eventually reached VAdm Chuck Thomas, a national champion golfer himself.
“Two days later, as an ordinary seaman, I flew to holland with him to play golf. It was a pretty interesting career after that,” Thorne said.
While the cooking trade took him to bases across the country and saw him temporarily switch to both the RCAF and Army uniforms, it was sports that became the dominant theme of his long career.
Whether it was hockey, boxing, fastpitch, golf or other sports, he played hard at every base he was posted to, participating and winning in too many regional and national championships to count. His love for sport brought some unusual scenarios as well; anyone on board Bonaventure at the time will likely remember when Thorne welcomed civilian Clifford Johnson from Eastern Passage onto the aircraft carrier for a boxing match.
“I got pummelled, in front of my whole ship’s company. That was my last boxing match,” he said while laughing.
“I say my whole military career was honestly a sports scholarship, and it was just fantastic.”
Thorne’s love of sports also made the move to PSP a natural fit for him. While his age meant it was time to retire from the CAF as a PO1, he had no desire to leave the military environment behind.
“The military was my life and it really still is. I simply love and adore the military structure. And I promote it here at the front desk,” he said.
He’s also volunteered his time to support CAF sports, specifically women’s hockey. He began coaching the Mariners Hockey Team in 2006, building a program that took five straight regional championships, winning two national titles as well. He was already a high-level hockey referee at the time, but coaching was a new avenue.
“That really opened up a door for me and became a passion of mine. I started recruiting players all over the base,” he said. The experience also led to the opening of Rocky’s Hockey School at the Shearwater rink, which still hosts up to 40 members of all trades and ranks on Saturday nights. Current Base Commander Capt(N) Chris Sutherland is a regular participant, he said.
As he reflects on five decades of working for or supporting the Forces, he admits it wasn’t easy. While his service brought him around the globe, with experiences like deploying to the Middle East during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, traumatic situations led to problems down the road. Like many, he suffered with PTSD and anxieties issues for years before identifying the problem and beginning treatment.
“I’ve been seeing a psychologist for the last two years, and it really has helped. I’m a much better person now. People need to get help for this,” he said.
He and his wife of 44 years are considering their next steps and a full retirement, but Rocky can still be found weeknights at Stadplex for the time being, always ready to chat and encourage the next generation of CAF athletes.