Saturday, July 25, 2015

An evening fit for a Hockey Hall of Fame

We were sitting in the Dairy Queen in Armstrong, B.C., when the email arrived.
We were there with our best friends, the female half of whom had donated a kidney in order to allow my wife, Dorothy, to undergo a transplant almost two years ago now.
Three days earlier, our son, an only child, had married Joanna Kwan in Vancouver.
These were special days and the fact that our friends were with us when the email arrived made it that much more special.
It was from Bruce Judd, the executive director of the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame. He was informing me that I had been nominated for the Bernie Pascall Media Award and that the selection committee had decided to honour me.
And so it was that Dorothy and I were in Penticton on Friday evening for the 24th annual B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction gala at the gorgeous South Okanagan Events Centre.
Believe me, I was thrilled to play a small part.
On a night when former NHL players Curt Fraser, Markus Naslund and Rob Niedermayer, along with Cam Kerr, a familiar face in B.C. hockey circles, and Team B.C. that won the 1979 Canada Winter Games title were inducted, Pascall handed me the plaque.
(As an aside, the 1979 Canada Winter Games were held in Brandon. While I didn’t cover the hockey, I was at the Brandon Sun at the time and Dorothy volunteered. She spent most of her time in cafeteria, so you can bet she crossed paths with the guys from that hockey team.)
The award recognizes “an individual with an excellent reputation, commitment and dedication” for their efforts aimed at “promotion within the game of hockey.”
The award was presented for the first time last year when it was given to Vancouver broadcaster Dan Russell. He’s a friend and I feel privileged to follow in his shadow.
I have been given a few awards in my time but none more meaningful to me than this one. Considering that my writing hasn’t appeared regularly in a newspaper in more than 19 months, I feel this award validates the work I do right here with Taking Note.
But it’s about more than that.
It’s all about the number of people who approached me on Friday and mentioned that they are Taking Note readers. It’s all about the tweets, retweets and DMs of congratulations from friends and acquaintances. (Thanks to David Michaud for getting that ball rolling.)
It’s all about a couple of Saturday morning phone calls from people who mean a whole lot to me.
Yes, that email from Judd was just the beginning of a beautiful experience.
I can’t leave Friday’s extravaganza without mentioning the other award winners.
Jordan Rauser, the captain of the junior B Campbell River Storm, received the Patricia Carter Award, which comes in the form of a bursary. Rauser played out his junior eligibility last season.
Luke Burzan of the North Shore Winter Club was honoured as the Hockey Now B.C. minor hockey player of the year. His WHL rights belong to the Moose Jaw Warriors, who selected him sixth overall. In an on-stage chat with emcee Dennis Beyak, Burzan didn’t let slip anything about his future plans.
The legendary Fred Sasakamoose was on hand to receive the Okanagan Hockey School’s Pioneer Award.
What a wonderful moment it was as a tremendously touching video chronicling Sasakamoose’s life was played and an emotional Sasakamoose made his way to the stage.
If you aren’t aware of Sasakamoose and all that he has done, get thee to Google and prepare to spend an hour or two.
At one point, Sasakamoose talked to what was a thoroughly captivated audience about how lonely it was being an aboriginal — he is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation — on the way to the NHL.
On this night, Sasakamoose was anything but lonely. He was on the receiving end of two emotionally charged standing ovations as he made a roomful of new friends and admirers.
That is the kind of night it was, and I will long remember being a small part of it.

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