PENTICTON, Canada - The British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame (BCHHF) inducted five new members at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on July 25: Steve Yzerman, Cliff Ronning, Don Hay, Allan Matthews, and Larry Lund.
In the player category, Yzerman brought the most star power. The former captain of the Detroit Red Wings, who was born in the small BC town of Cranbrook and played his early minor hockey in Kamloops, had a 22-season NHL career with three Stanley Cups. A few of his international highlights include setting a modern-day Canadian record with 20 points at the 1990 IIHF World Championship, winning gold at the 2002 Olympics, and serving as the general manager of Canada’s 2007 (gold) and 2008 (silver) IIHF World Championship squads.
Ronning didn’t win any Stanley Cups or equal Yzerman’s offensive prowess, but the popular ex-Vancouver Canuck still ranks 98th in the NHL’s all-time scoring derby with 869 points in 1137 career games. That’s an amazing achievement for a player many believed would never make the NHL due to his small stature (5-8, 165 pounds). The Burnaby native also played for the Canadian national team in the mid-1980’s, and represented his country at the 1991 IIHF World Championship.
To the regret of the packed house, Yzerman and Ronning were unable to attend (the former watching his daughters compete in equestrian events in Kentucky, the latter taking a long-planned trip in Italy). But those who spoke on their behalf made up for their absence with great anecdotes.
Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson recounted how Yzerman’s family once nearly relocated from BC to the Northwest Territories due to a job offer, before his mother put her foot down and said: “We’re not moving.” Nicholson said Yzerman now quips, “I would have been a great whaler if we’d gone there."
Nicholson pointed out that Yzerman’s record as Team Canada’s World Championship GM now stands at 17 wins and one loss, the latter coming in Russia’s 5-4 OT win in the gold medal game in Quebec City in May. “We let it slip away, but we’re going to get the job done at the 2010 Olympics,” he said.
Pat Quinn, Canada’s 2002 bench boss in Salt Lake City, told IIHF.com: “His selection is a slam-dunk. Steve was a special contributor for us in 2002. He played for us on one leg, with a bad knee, but he refused to accept any special treatment.”
Meanwhile, for Ronning, it was entertaining to hear the reminiscences of Al Patterson, the former coach of the Western Hockey League (WHL) New Westminster Bruins, and Ron Perrick, Ronning’s longtime agent.
Patterson described how Ronning used to secretly borrow Eldon “Pokey” Reddick’s gear to play goal in a firefighter’s league at New Westminster’s Queens Park Arena, just to get more insight into the mindset of a netminder. Reddick would complain about his gear being wet when he went to put it on, and only discovered the real reason a couple of years ago. On another occasion, Ronning got into trouble for parking at the Pacific Coliseum in the reserved spot of the Vancouver Canucks’ owner, simply because it was #7, and that was Ronning’s lucky number.
Perrick pointed out that when Jari Kurri played in the Italian League for Milan in 1991, he scored 27 goals, while Ronning had 74 with Asiago in 1990.
Don Hay was inducted primarily for his WHL coaching career, including three Canadian national junior championships with Kamloops (1992, 1994, 1995) and one with the Vancouver Giants (2007). He also served as the bench boss of the Phoenix Coyotes (1996-97) and Calgary Flames (2000-01) But the 54-year-old former firefighter is known internationally for coaching Canada to gold on home ice at the 1995 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Ken Hitchcock, the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Canada’s 2008 IIHF World Championship team, called Hay his “best friend” and “relentless in his pursuit of excellence.” This year, Hay’s Giants were eliminated in the second round of the WHL playoffs by the Spokane Chiefs, and Hitchcock invited Hay to join him in Columbus to relax, talk, and play some golf. Instead, Hitchcock lamented: “Every night at 9 o’clock, I had to sit down with him and analyze video footage of Spokane versus Vancouver.”
Hay, who had a brief mid-1970’s minor league playing career in the IHL, wasn’t above poking fun at himself: “I would like to have come in as a player, but obviously the selection committee saw how I played, so there wasn’t a chance of that.” He was previously named the WHL’s all-time greatest coach in 1999.
Allan Matthews, a longtime Hockey Canada executive and IIHF committee member, was inducted in the builder category. The Kimberley, BC product is a former president of the BC Amateur Hockey Association, among many other achievements as a volunteer and team leader. Matthews said he was “honoured to be part of the family that is the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.”
Larry Lund, a native Penticton son, received two standing ovations during his induction. Lund played 459 games with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association in the 1970’s. But he was honoured as a builder for founding the world-famous Okanagan Hockey School in 1963. It had just 30 students that year; today, the school serves 3,000 students annually from 24 countries as far away as Japan and the United Arab Emirates. “I’m not sure anyone’s been inducted who deserved it more than Larry Lund or contributed more to minor hockey,” said Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke in a recorded video message.
Undoubtedly, Penticton is passionate about its hockey legacy, and that makes it a deserving venue for the BCHHF. The city of 40,000, four hours from Vancouver, might simply seem like a picturesque vacation destination, with its winding roads, lakeside wineries, and warm winds. But the kind of cheer Pat Quinn got at the inductions ceremonies for coaching Canada’s entry to gold at the 2008 IIHF U18 Championship is hard to imagine in many other cities.
The British Columbia provincial government has earmarked $100,000 to establish a new BCHHF museum.
A silent auction allowed guests to bid on autographed hockey memorabilia like an Eric Lindros stick, a Bobby Orr photo collage, and a Ducks jersey from Scott Niedermayer.
Stockwell Day, the Canadian Minister of Public Safety, conducted a live auction, ending with the $2500 sale of a signed Red Wings jersey from Gordie Howe.
A moment of silence was observed for BC sports figures who passed away in 2008, including Ed Chynoweth, the longtime president of the Canadian Hockey League; Luc Bourdon, the 21-year-old Vancouver Canucks defenseman who died in a motorcycle accident; and Bob Ackles, a minor hockey teammate of John Ferguson who was best-known as the president of the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions.