SUN Hockey Pool

Cup win Seaman's best gift

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Doc Seaman spent much of his life giving things away.

Providing for others was, aside from his horses, his biggest hobby.

He asked for nothing in return.

But on the day he was buried, the Calgary Flames owner received a gift from his city.

"What can you give back to a guy like Doc Seaman?" Jim Peplinski said outside the emptying doors in the noisy foyer of the First Alliance Church in southwest Calgary.

"Look around you."

The crowded church made it tough for players, friends and family of the 86-year-old philanthropist -- along with the many members of the general public who wanted to pay their respects -- to find each other an exchange stories that weren't covered during the memorial.

The numbers in attendance told a story of just how big an impact Seaman had even on those who'd never met him by virtue of his gifts to grassroots hockey, hospitals and the environment.

The biggest gift he ever received -- at least in his capacity as one of six original owners of the Flames -- was a Stanley Cup win in 1989.

"It was the highlight of our lives in the hockey world," said fellow owner Harley Hotchkiss, who earlier spoke to the audience about the 55-year relationship he had with partner and pal Seaman.

"To all of us -- and maybe in particular to Doc because he was the key player in bringing (the NHL franchise) here."

Celebrating along with the players back in '89, the owners had a special return home from Montreal after the Flames beat the Canadiens in six games to claim the Cup less than a decade after bringing the franchise to Calgary from Atlanta.

"We rode back in the plane after the win -- all six of us --and (trainer) Al Murray squirreled the Cup out of the hold of the plane. He wasn't supposed to, and we had it there. We celebrated all the way back to Calgary."

Realizing how much it would mean to the men who paid their salaries at the time might have been an afterthought.

But years of reflection and growing relationships with the group that brought the Flames to Calgary has made the players aware of its importance to the man.

Peplinski was part of that winning team, of course.

"For me, it's like a lot of things -- they take longer to sink in than you maybe realize at the time," said Peplinski, who calls Seaman's eldest son Bob one of his closest friends.

Peplinski remained tight with the family even when his playing days were done. He says one of the great things about Doc is he lived in the moment.

That was obvious in the decor of the church.

There were memoirs from his days as a pilot in the war, copies of his book Staying in the Game, pictures of his family -- essentially every aspect of his business and personal life.

Taking up a small space was a stand dedicated to that Cup victory, including a couple of final series tickets from both the Saddledome and the Montreal Forum. There were photos of Lanny McDonald, Tim Hunter and Peplinski hoisting the Cup and a photo of a Calgary street during the ensuing parade.

The team photo taken on the Forum ice was front and centre.

Oh, there was a close-up of a championship ring, too.

"I've never seen him wear his Stanley Cup ring," Peplinski said. "He was a tremendously competitive guy, but as soon as it was won ... I think in some respects, the thing he got the biggest kick out of in winning the Stanley Cup was having his horse eat oats out of the trophy."

Humble as anyone in his position in life could be, Seaman would have been embarrassed as well as touched by the things said about him yesterday. He strived to leave everything in his wake better than when he found it.

The Stanley Cup didn't define him, but it was a great gift for a man who had everything else he wanted.


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