CALGARY - Even while receiving a gift, Harley Hotchkiss would give something in return.
That’s how wonderful a person the former Calgary Flames co-owner truly was.
It was the spring of 2008 when a meeting with Mr. Hotchkiss was set, and he gave a reminder how a gentleman carries himself daily.
Two years in a row, he happily did an incredible favour by donating a night with him and his wife Rebecca at a Flames game to help raise money.
My son, Kenton, was fortunate to go to Europe to play in tournaments — in Sweden the first time, and in Switzerland and Italy in the second year — and Mr. Hotchkiss was willing to aid in the fundraising by offering to auction an evening at a game as his guest in the owners’ suite.
Naturally, my son had a small token of appreciation to give and met him at his downtown office.
What we foolishly figured would be a short visit lasted well over an hour. Despite his busy schedule, Mr. Hotchkiss wanted to hear not only all about Kenton’s trip but also all about his plans for the future.
With the grace he amazingly always carried himself, Mr. Hotchkiss intently listened to the hopes and dreams of a youngster on the cusp of turning 17 years old, During that conversation, you could see a youth believe he could conquer the world thanks to the support of a man who was a stranger shortly beforehand.
Then, of course, came the questions about the trip. There was no detail he didn’t want to know about the hockey and about the sightseeing, which included several stops throughout Italy.
With exuberance, Mr. Hotchkiss asked if they had visited the Murano glass factory in Venice, noting how it was one of his favourite places in Italy.
Curiously enough, it was a glass Venetian gondola in the gift box, which Mr. Hotchkiss opened and heartfully said his thanks.
Then came his gift in return.
As we readied to leave, Mr. Hotchkiss made a point while shaking hands to tell the lanky teenager before him to feel he could always touch base in the future, be it to ask for career advice, for a reference in future endeavours or even just to chat, he was just a phone call away.
As we left, my son asked whether he meant those words, amazed that one of the pillars of the community and a giant in the business would care that much about somebody he’d just met.
Before answering, I couldn’t help but think of how much Mr. Hotchkiss has given throughout his life and the manner in which he’s carried himself while doing it.
You couldn’t help but think of the efforts he did to keep the Flames here during the club’s dark days — those seven seasons without playoffs amidst a NHL world in which they had to battle with a 60-cent dollar and even how he convinced U.S. teams to support the clubs north of the border in financial trouble.
You couldn’t help but think of all he’s given to the community — how all those honours and awards were so deserved in light of how much he’d done for others.
Lastly, I remembered a conversation with Trevor Linden when Mr. Hotchkiss was about to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Linden was the president of the NHLPA during the lockout which wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season and sat across the table with Mr. Hotchkiss throughout that whole process. However, Linden made no bones about knowing the way his adversary did business, saying the collective bargaining agreement could be done over a handshake with Mr. Hotchkiss.
With those thoughts in mind, the response to my son concerning Mr. Hotchkiss’ generosity was an emphatic “yes,” and then came his amazement such a person would be that open.
The city of Calgary is a poorer place today with the loss of one of its leaders.
Thankfully, we’re all richer because Harley Hotchkiss chose to make it his home.