Jef Lekens, All times most popular player

Like most other players in those days, Joseph A.E. Lekens (° April 22nd, 1911) was raised in French. At early age young Lekens showed a lot of interest for skating and athletics. He considered the Antwerp rink located on the “Gezondheidsstraat” his second home and joins the recently founded club, “Mercurius”. Mercurius would later merge with “Le Puck”. “Le Puck” was founded by a bunch of youngsters out of frustration because they were, by any means possible, refused their rightful player positions by the older players of “CPA”.
With “le Puck” Lekens won several Belgian Championships during the late twenties. As well as in ice hockey, Lekens showed above average talent with speed skating and became Belgian Champion on the 1.500 m. He made his entrance in the National Ice hockey Team in 1929.
He was a renowned athlete in the late thirties at the “Beerschot A.V” – athletics club. He proved to be the fastest runner during the 1934 – 200 m hurdles. In the following years he finished second three times and third four times in the national championship. All these years he was a reliable athlete who successfully defended our national flag dozens of times.

In 1934 he co-founded the UPA residing in Brussels but at the opening of the ‘Sportpaleis” in Antwerp he and his team mates moved to the metropolis. During the winter of 1938 – 1939 Jef turned out to be the heart of “Brabo”, an all Canadian selection of players plus him. His team challenged any European top selection that season.  He had a gift to play the crowd like no one before, or after him, for that matter.

Every week supporters held their breath as he jumped over a table with a rack of chairs or 6 or 7 oil barrels at once. Or when supporters were dozing off during a slumber game he would turn it into a huge team fight holding his own like the master he was.

From 1942 he changed jersey’s and defended the Brussels colours until he returned to Antwerp in 1946 to start an entire new club, the “Metro IHC” that merged with “Brabo” only one year later. Being the leader he was, Jef started acting as a front man more and more and become Secretary of the Ice hockey division within the “Wintersportverbond”. As he retired from hockey as a player, Jef became referee and in charge of the selections for the Belgian National Team. In short, Jef was a great man. To make a living he kept a sports store at the “Hof Ter Bekestraat” in Antwerp.  Besides hockey equipment, he specialized in leather goods but as could be expected, Jeff’s heart and soul was ice hockey. So when the “BWB” - Belgian Cycling Federation put in a special order for the quick delivery of a number of helmets, Jef didn’t have the time to take the order because he was on his way out to some tournament with yet another hockey team.

On his own he managed both Antwerp hockey clubs “Antwerp” and “Brabo” and it hit him like a stone when several people from Antwerp founded “Olympia Club” in 1959 without consulting him.
But Jef was completely broke and eventually died on September 13th, 1973 in degrading circumstances. Only a week before his death his lock, stock an barrel was impounded and several people such as Alfred De Ceuninck, Joe Pelsmaeker and Frits Batavier had to donate some money to prevent this “giant of ice hockey heart” from dying from starvation.
As a token of appreciation the Dutch Ice hockey Federation donated a sum of NLG. 425, = to help cover the cost of the burial service.
Today, the memory of Joseph Lekens lives on in the hearts and minds of supporters of the “good ol’ days.

Posted on September 1, 2013 at 02:31 by OVB