Plane crash claims former Hitmen owner

Former Calgary Hitmen owner Chuck Matson (inset) was on board a small plane when it crashed and...

Former Calgary Hitmen owner Chuck Matson (inset) was on board a small plane when it crashed and burned in a farm pasture around 2 p.m. on Friday about 10km north-west of the town of Sundre, Alberta. (MIKE DREW/QMI Agency)

KATIE SCHNEIDER and MICHAEL WOOD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 PM ET

CALGARY - The hockey world is mourning the loss of former Calgary Hitmen owner Chuck Matson, who was killed in a plane crash near Sundre along with two other Albertans.

Matson, 51, who was one of original part-owners of the Western Hockey League team along with Theoren Fleury and Bret Hart, was among the three men who died when the single engine, four-seat Cirrus SR22 crashed into a farmer’s field just west of Sundre Friday afternoon.

A 42-year-old man from Edmonton, and a 43-year-old man from Spruce Grove, Alta., whose names haven’t been released, were also killed.

The news has shocked and saddened those who knew him best, like Fleury.

“He was a man of faith, a man of integrity, a self-made man, a hard working guy,” he said of Matson, who founded an oil and gas company.

“I remember the day I got traded from Calgary, he was the first guy I called.”

Matson is survived by his wife Elaine and three daughters, said Fleury.

“He has an amazing family he should have been very proud of,” he said.

“It’s been a difficult day.”

Matson’s family were too distraught to comment Saturday.

A spokesman for Transportation Safety Board confirmed the small plane departed from Springbank Airport the same day, although its destination is still unknown.

“Apparently there wasn’t a flight plan filed for this aircraft ... we weren’t aware of any,” said spokesman Chris Krepski.

“There are regulations regarding when flight plans are required or not, depending on the nature of a flight.”

Investigators were still at the scene Saturday, along with representatives from Cirrus Aircraft, who were on site providing technical expertise to investigators and conducting their own probe of the crash.

According to FlightAware.com, the plane, registered to Matson, left Edmonton on Thursday night and landed at Calgary’s Springbank Airport on Friday.

An online ad posted in August suggested Matson was interested in selling the aircraft.

The Flames, which now own the Hitmen, issued a statement expressing their sadness at the loss.

“Chuck was an important member of our hockey family and a respected individual in the Calgary community who played a key role in returning the Western Hockey League to our City,” the statement said.

“The Calgary Flames and Calgary Hitmen would like to extend our condolences to Chuck’s family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time of sorrow.”

Sun sports columnist Eric Francis said Matson was an influential man in the junior hockey world.

“Hitmen fans have people like Chuck to thank for bringing junior hockey to Calgary,” he said.

“Not only was he an investor, he cared deeply for the players, especially those who had to carry on after Graham James devastated the organization.

“When the organization was at its lowest point, Chuck was at one of his finest.

-With files from Dave Dormer


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