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Friday, August 24, 2007

Ex-Blazers new owners

From The Daily News of Saturday, Aug. 25, 2007 . . .

Jarome Iginla looked exhausted, like he had just gone seven games with the
Edmonton Oilers.
It was late Thursday night, moments after the Kamloops Blazers Sports
Society membership had voted resoundingly (151-43) to sell its WHL franchise
to River City Hockey Inc. (RCH), a group that includes Iginla.
“It was pretty intense,” Iginla, the Calgary Flames’ captain, said as he
displayed that trademark smile. “It really does (weaken the knees). There’s
so many emotions but that’s the way it should be.
“That shows what a great hockey city Kamloops is, what a great junior hockey
city Kamloops is.”
Iginla was the final member of the ownership group to speak, as he, Darryl
Sydor and Shane Doan got up late in the proceedings.
Mark Recchi had led off the meeting some two hours earlier. It was Recchi’s
job to hammer home the point that RCH felt it had been shown a lack of
respect over the previous 14 months, since it first attempted to purchase
the club last summer.
Recchi was especially critical of the society’s board of directors for not
meeting with RCH earlier than it had.
“They refused to meet with us,” Recchi said. “They refused to put the offer
to the membership. They refused to allow us to appear at the members’
meeting. The reason was that we were not members at the time.
“They went ahead and called a members’ meeting without proper legal notice.
They only gave 11 days (notice) instead of 14. The summary of our offer
which was laid out for the members at the meeting was concealed from the
members. As those of you know who were at the meeting (of July 11, 2006)
basically the meeting got overwhelmed.”
Had things been handled differently, Recchi said, what ended in Thursday’s
decision may not have transpired.
“We probably wouldn’t be here if we felt the agenda was run properly last
year,” he said. “We would probably have walked away if things had been
addressed a little bit better last year.”
It remained late in the meeting, then, for the other three ex-Blazers to do
their bit.
All three reminisced about how much it meant to them to have played in
Kamloops and the role the city and its citizens played in shaping them as
responsible adults.
“Coming here at the age of 16 and under the guidance of Bob Brown and (Ken)
Hitchcock . . . these are the years when I really learned what it takes to
be a man,” Sydor said.
When it was Doan’s turn, he offered: “I’ve moved here . . . this is my home
now. My wife’s family lives here . . . Kamloops is a huge part of my life.”
Doan made reference to a truck on the outskirts of Kamloops that sports a
sign that reads This is Blazer Country.
“That’s the Blazer pride,” Doan said, his voice rising. “That’s why we’re
involved. That’s why we want to buy the team . . . that’s what we want. We
want that to be able to pass it on. . . . We just want an opportunity.
“Our offer is just an offer. It’s not a power play. It’s not a hostile
takeover. We’re members just like you now. We have the right to vote. We’re
not trying to be hostile. . . . we’re not trying to do anything that is
sleight of hand. . . . We’re not trying to steal anything away.”
Doan also made a promise.
“We have no plans of raising ticket prices,” he said. “No way. There’s no
plans of that. It says that on our website. This is not so much about profit
as it is about pride; this is about pride for us.”
Iginla drew a rousing ovation when he opened by pointing out that the four
ex-Blazers have “won five Memorial Cups, three world junior championships,
five world championships, an Olympic gold medal and four Stanley Cups.”
He added: “We came in here as young men and we looked for guidance. . . . In
our era, when we played here we had it. The best coaching . . . we had the
best billets, we had the best management. It was always about helping us . .
. developing a work ethic and being appreciative of our opportunities.”
Iginla, who wasn’t part of RCH last summer, admitted to enjoying the outcome
a lot more than the process.
“Through the whole process it’s been hard for us because it’s such a
passionate issue and we know it’s very important to all of you,” he told the
crowd. “As eveyrone has said, it’s very important to us, too. We want to
have an impact. You guys had a huge impact on us.”
When it was all over and the impact of what had happened was beginning to
set in, Iginla said it felt “pretty overwhleming.”
“It’s a huge honour,” he said. “To see the support and the passion. I’ve
never been to a meeting like this . . . a townhall meeting. There was a lot
of passion.”
It was, he said, what hockey in Canada is all about.
“Exactly,” he said. “It was pretty intense . . . and the support that was
shown was very special.”
Iginla also admitted that getting up and speaking in front of the members
was one of the tougher things with which he has been faced.
“You get up there and you’ve thought about what you want to say before and
you have a plan, but it goes out the window,” he said. “It’s gone.
“And it’s tough because we don’t have a lot of experience at that part.”
The post-meeting feeling, Doan said, was “definitely something like (after a
game).”
“It’s a great experience to be a part of something like that to see how it
goes and how it works,” he said.
As for the resounding victory scored by RCH, Doan said: “I think that was
really important for all of us who were involved to realize . . . we wanted
the people to realize that we are an extension of what they have taught us,
what the community has taught us, what the society and the foundation have
all taught us.”

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