SUN Hockey Pool

Final farewell for Flames' Hotchkiss

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

CALGARY - The lesson just how much Harley Hotchkiss cared about his players came to Jamie Macoun when he was in the hospital.

Macoun suffered an eye injury, and during his recovery time the Calgary Flames defenceman received a surprising visit from the team's part-owner and his wife.

"Both Harley and Becky showed up with some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies," Macoun recalled. "When I told my parents one of the owners came to bring me cookies, they couldn't believe it, because back in the day with Harold Ballard in Toronto, you didn't see to much of that."

That humanity is just one of the reasons so much of the hockey world gathered Wednesday to pay their respects to Hotchkiss, who died last week at age 83 from prostate cancer.

The service included a who's who of attendees, with nearly several members of the Flames 1989 championship team, Flames players past and present plus the hockey community at whole, all the way up to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

"Harley was a close friend. There was no place else I should have been today but here," Bettman said. "It was a beautiful service, a great tribute to a great man who obviously meant a great deal, not just to his family but to his community."

Among the multitude of dignitaries in attendance were former Prime Minister Joe Clark and former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, as well as so many from the medical community with Hotchkiss tireless worked for through such endeavours as the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

Still, one of his greatest loves was hockey, and he was one of the original owners who brought the Atlanta Flames to the Stampede City in 1980.

Everybody in the hockey community he came in contact with soon learned how special of a person he was.

"Both Harley and Becky were so gracious to us, you really wanted to play hard for them," said Joe Nieuwendyk, another member of the 1989 team who is now GM of the Dallas Stars. "I was starting my NHL career, so you just assume that's the way it is everywhere. When you go through your career, you find how special Harley and Becky were to be around.

"He loved having the connection with the players and treated us all royally, and that never went away. It went beyond just us. My oldest brother, back in Ontario, was thinking about a career change, and Harley went out of his way to try and help him find employment in Calgary. That's the type of man he was."

Added Jim Peplinski: "One of the last things that will be said about Harley if you ask people of his life would be in regard to his financial or business success. It fascinates me that somebody so accomplished, no matter who you talk to, the first thing they would say is 'He was so nice to me' or 'He took the time.' Whoever you would think is the lowest of the low or the highest of the high, he treated them equally. An absolutely fascinating guy who will be impossible to replace."

Even after the playing days were done, the connection remained for so many.

"He was like my father, and I absolutely adored my father and adore Harley for everything he stood for. He gave us all strength and determination," said Lanny McDonald. "How he talks to people and how he treats people was one of his greatest attributes. He was such a great example for us all to follow, and what he did in the community and what he gave back to the community is legendary. Now it's up to us to continue that work and follow in his footsteps. We'll never be able to fill them, but we can try to follow them."

"At the end of the day, Harley was a friend of everybody," added former Flames GM Darryl Sutter. "He was a lot bigger than the sporting world, that's for sure. Deep down, Harley was a farm boy and his children spoke of that influence.

"He was a special man."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNRandySportak


Videos

Photos