CANMORE – Five outstanding individuals and back-to-back Memorial Cup champions comprise the 2019 Induction Class for the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame (AHHF).
Theoren Fleury, Kevin Lowe, Shirley Cameron, Bob Ridley, Duncan MacDougall, and the 1986-87 and 1987-88 Medicine Hat Tigers were enshrined in Alberta’s hockey history on Sunday night at the AHHF Awards Gala, hosted by Hockey Alberta and the Hockey Alberta Foundation at the Coast Hotel in Canmore.
A consistent theme among the inductees was the interesting twists and turns that can happen in life, and especially in setting the direction of an individual’s career in hockey.
Theo Fleury played with the Calgary Flames for 11 seasons, from 1988 to 1998 and was an important part of their Stanley Cup championship in 1989. He led the team in regular season scoring six times, and five times in the playoffs. His NHL career also included stops with the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.
In his speech, Fleury reflected on some of the highlights of his career, including when he played junior hockey for the Moose Jaw Warriors. He recalled the ice plant going down in the old “Crushed Can” in the playoffs against the eventual Memorial Cup champion Medicine Hat Tigers, and game four having to played in Regina. He suggested that the Tigers might only have won a single Memorial Cup had they played in Moose Jaw.
But Fleury focused on his work off the ice, and helping people deal with trauma, mental health and addiction issues.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but it’s more important what you leave behind,” said Fleury. “I try and help people understand what trauma does to an individual. I try to give them hope and inspiration.”
Kevin Lowe is a pillar of the Edmonton community and one of the key leaders who built the Edmonton Oilers into a Stanley Cup dynasty team. As a defenceman, he was a solid positional player in his own zone, a team leader and an astute playmaker on offence. His leadership on and off the ice was a major component of Cup championships in both Edmonton and New York.
In his speech, Lowe recalled how he came to Edmonton in 1979, after being drafted by the Oilers, having not been further west in Canada than London, Ontario. At the time, he didn’t even realize the Oilers were in the NHL at the time. And the fact that he even was drafted by the Oilers with the final pick in the first round was a surprise, as he had been ranked as high as number four overall.
“But if you work hard, pay your dues, eventually good things will happen,” Lowe said. “And none of these things happen without the strong support of my family.”
Shirley Cameron is one of the most important individuals in the growth and development of women’s hockey in Alberta, dating back to the early 1970s as a player, coach and builder of the sport. Shirley was one of the founders of the Edmonton Chimos, and the team’s leader for more than three decades. The 1983-84 Chimos were inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.
In her speech, Cameron recalled she could never have envisioned a lifelong involvement in hockey from her early days playing pond hockey in the Bonnyville area.
“My dreams could never possibly have gotten this far,” said Cameron. “I remember thinking wouldn’t it be the coolest thing to play for an all-girls team against another all-girls team, and we’d have jerseys.”
That dream came true when she answered a radio ad in Edmonton, and ended up playing for “the Tuesday night girls.” That group of players became the Edmonton Chimos, and that team helped the sport of female hockey grow by traveling throughout rural Alberta to play oldtimer teams and show girls the sport of hockey.
Duncan MacDougall has played a tremendous role in the development of on-ice officials over more than four decades of involvement in hockey in Alberta. Whether a new official just starting out in the officiating program, or a senior official preparing for provincial, national, international or professional work, Duncan has helped many of them with their achievements and advancements in officiating.
In his speech, MacDougall recalled how the first time he ever thought about the officials who work a hockey game was when he was 12 years old, and was watching the Western league all-star game in Edmonton. He was able to hear referee Lloyd Gilmour talking to the players, and was impressed with Gilmour’s demeanor.
After that, he answered a newspaper ad looking to recruit referees to work in northwest Edmonton.
“It was fun, it was challenging, and when you left the ice, you felt like you’d done a good job,” said MacDougall.
As sports director for CHAT TV & Radio, Bob Ridley has spent 50 years covering and promoting amateur sports in Medicine Hat and surrounding area. Bob has been an integral part of the Medicine Hat Tigers Hockey Club since the team’s inception in 1970. Serving as the play-by-play voice for the Tigers, only missing one broadcast in over 3,900 games.
In his speech, Ridley talked about how he didn’t set out to become an announcer; rather he wanted to be a hockey player, until he recognized his size and ability wouldn’t let that happen.
He reflected on how special it was to be part of the same induction class as the 1986-87 and 1987-88 Medicine Hat Tigers teams. He also recalled the first Tigers team to reach the Memorial Cup in 1973, and the opportunity he had to call games in the Montreal Forum in the same broadcast booth as Danny Gallivan.
Ridley also reflected on more than 2,800,000 kilometres covered during his 45 years as the bus driver for the Tigers, and the hundreds of chats that were held at the front of the bus with players, including current NHL broadcaster Kelly Hrudey.
MEDICINE HAT TIGERS
The 1986-87 and 1987-88 Medicine Hat Tigers are the only Alberta team to win back-to-back Memorial Cups, as the Canadian major junior hockey champions, and one of only eight teams in the Cup’s 100-year history to win back-to-back titles.
Scott McCrady spoke on behalf of the teams and agreed with Ridley that inducting the two Medicine Hat teams would not have been complete without their broadcaster and bus driver.
“Thanks for always getting us home Bob,” McCrady said.
McCrady also reflected on the importance of decisions and lauded the team’s general manager Russ Farwell for making all the right decisions those two seasons, including hiring the right coaches, Bryan Maxwell and Barry Melrose. He recalled how, prior to the final game against Oshawa in 1987, Maxwell stressed how winning every little battle was going to be the key – including winning the ceremonial faceoff.
“Team first, individual second, and no one is bigger than the sum of the parts,” said McCrady.
Also recognized during the AHHF Gala was the gold medalist U18 Female Team Alberta hockey team from the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. The team had gathered earlier in the day at the Iron Goat restaurant in Canmore for the presentation of their championship rings. It was the first time the team had been together since the victory on March 2.
Sunday’s AHHF Gala kicked off in the afternoon with a VIP reception for the 2019 induction class at the Canmore Opera House, which included two hot stove sessions involving this year’s inductees.
The Gala also runs in conjunction with the Hockey Alberta Foundation Golf Classic, a key fundraiser for the Hockey Alberta Foundation’s Every Kid Every Community Program.
The 14th annual Golf Classic – presented by ATB Wealth – also takes place in Canmore, beginning Monday evening with a special reception for all participants, as well the celebrity golfers.The tournament goes Tuesday at the Silvertip Resort. Celebrity golfers include Mark Giordano, Mel Davidson, Jordan Eberle, Theo Fleury, Gord Bamford, Ben Hebert, Curtis Glencross, Carla MacLeod, Cale Makar, Kevin Lowe and Jamie Macoun.
In addition to the Golf Classic, Silvertip will also host the first half of the Hockey Alberta Foundation’s annual Rinks to Links program on Tuesday morning, where 20 youths from the HEROS (Hockey Education Reaching Out Society) program from the Calgary area will take part in a golf lesson. From there, the group will head to the Canmore Arena for an afternoon on-ice session.
The Every Kid Every Community program was launched in 2011, with the goal of ensuring a gateway to play hockey for any child in Alberta who is interested in the sport. The goal is to provide every child in Alberta the opportunity to play hockey, have fun and, in many cases, experience the sport for the first time. Funding through Every Kid Every Community is available to assist amateur sports organizations, minor hockey organizations, youth groups, recreation groups, or any community group with an idea, project or program that helps establish an event or program to get local children active in hockey.