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Ed Chynoweth made hockey a better game

Monday, 11.03.2008 / 9:30 AM / Hall of Fame

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

When we die, life goes on, but it's not the same for those closest to us.

All of hockey has felt that way since the April 22 death of Ed Chynoweth, the 20-year president of the Canadian Hockey League.

Chynoweth was a giant, one of the great builders of hockey in Canada. Young players from all over the world have benefited from the changes he instituted in junior hockey. He was also the president of the Western Hockey League for 23 years. That's why every WHL player wears an "EC" decal on his helmet this season.

Chynoweth was the first full-time president of the WHL, serving from 1972-95. He led the Canadian Hockey League, which includes the WHL, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 1975-95. Shortly after Ed's death at age 66, it was announced that the WHL champion will receive the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

Many former Canadian junior players, past and present, have gone on to NHL careers, but many more have gotten college educations as a result of the scholarship programs that Chynoweth instituted. 

"Ed was the prime mover in the concept that not everybody gets to 'The Show,'" said his longtime friend, Jim Donlevy, the WHL's director of education services. "These kids worked their buns off during their careers in the WHL and we have to protect them, Ed said. It was part of his philosophy to develop the whole person, not just inside the boards. This is his legacy, a huge legacy for this man. It's wonderful what he did.

"He never apologized for a kid wanting to play in the WHL to get to the NHL. That's their objective. Ed was able to convince others that there was no question that something had to be done on the post-career education-end of things. The seeds of that course were planted by Ed."

Bill Hay, the longtime president of the Hockey Hall of Fame, was one of Chynoweth's best friends.

"Ed has two sons in the game and we are very close to them, Ed and Dean," Hay said. "Linda is his widow and my wife and Linda are good pals. We are helping them get through this. It will take awhile."

Jeff Chynoweth is the president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice of the WHL and has been with the club since its inception in 1995. The Ice has the highest winning percentage in the WHL over the past 10 seasons.

Jeff Chynoweth has extensive experience in the league, having worked with the Spokane Chiefs, Medicine Hat Tigers, Brandon Wheat Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Red Deer Rebels.

The club started as the Edmonton Ice, an expansion team that Ed Chynoweth created. Too much competition from the Edmonton Oilers, colleges and local youth-hockey made Edmonton a tough market for the WHL so Ed moved the team to Cranbrook, British Columbia, the biggest city in the Kootenay River valley that includes Trail, Fernie, Castlegar, Creston and Nelson.

Dean Chynoweth was a star defenseman for the Medicine Hat Tigers and was the New York Islanders' first pick, No. 13, in the 1987 Entry Draft. He played 241 games for the Islanders and Boston Bruins and retired in 1998. Dean Chynoweth went right into coaching as an assistant for two years with the IHL Utah Grizzles and then coached the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds for 4 years.

For the past 4 seasons, Dean Chynoweth has been the general manager and head coach of the Swift Current Broncos.

 Ed Chynoweth was born in Dodsland, Saskatchewan. Hay remembers Ed, way back, grooming a big, lanky country kid from Hanna, Alberta. Chynoweth was always proud of his protege's success.

"Ed and Lanny McDonald were good friends," said Bill Hay. "Lanny spoke at Ed's funeral. Eddie was the kindest, politest guy. He took a young Lanny under his wing and taught him how to speak, what to say and when to say it. He taught him to be sincere, do his homework, live his conscience and be satisfied with it.

"Oren Koules, the Tampa Bay Lightning owner, was at the funeral and spoke to me. He said, 'Bill, it's not quite a sellout but it's a pretty good house. With luck, Eddie, we might go into overtime and get another concession.' That's the way Eddie was always thinking."

"Ed was the prime mover in the concept that not everybody gets to 'The Show.' These kids worked their buns off during their careers in the WHL and we have to protect them, Ed said. It was part of his philosophy to develop the whole person, not just inside the boards. This is his legacy, a huge legacy for this man. It's wonderful what he did" -- Jim Donlevy, the WHL's director of education services
"I got Ed on the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee in 1990," Hay said. "We needed someone who was knowledgeable about the amateur side of the game, juniors and below. Ed fit in well through the WHL and CHL. Through those associations, he had made many agreements with the NHL. Everyone knew Ed and Ed knew everyone.

"Ed had a strong sense of humor and his honesty was well-known," Hay continued. "He was such a happy guy to be around and not only that, he was smart. Ed set goals and knew how to get there."

"Ed was a great contributor to the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee. I used to run the business of the Hall by him and look forward to his counsel. He was a good, smart businessman.

"He didn't win them all. He had to move his Edmonton team to Kootenay. He understood working with the NHL and how important they are to the development of junior hockey. The NHL is the top end and Ed was in grassroots development."

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland was one of the earliest WHL players developed under Chynoweth's WHL leadership. He was a star goaltender in 2 seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers and played 9 professional seasons, including stints with 2 NHL teams. Following his career, Holland looked for continuing opportunities in hockey and sought Chynoweth's advice on several occasions.

"Ed was really an upbeat guy and he had a real gift of dealing with people.  He had the gift of gab, loved life and made people feel comfortable. He loved hockey and had a great passion for the sport and the players."
-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland

"I was scouting Western Canada in the mid-1980s and 1990s and I would see Ed at rinks and at some of the functions," Holland said. "He was a tremendous builder when you think of where junior hockey was. It was a nice little business and then he became chairman of the board of the WHL and ultimately the CHL. The WHL went from being a nice little junior league to another level in helping to develop young players. The games are on TV now. The Memorial Cup is a big show and the World Juniors are stronger because of him. He was involved in the growth of all of those things.

"He grew the game and kept Canada strong in growing and developing players, and helping them get an education. The education program was an incredibly important part of the development of junior hockey, especially in the West, but also all across Canada."

"Ed was really an upbeat guy and he had a real gift of dealing with people," Holland said. "He had the gift of gab, loved life and made people feel comfortable. He loved hockey and had a great passion for the sport and the players. He was one of the lead people in bringing the three Canadian junior leagues together and defining which league got which players."

Donlevy had a long career in education and coaching sports and found another career when Chynoweth tabbed him to head the WHL's college-scholarship program.

"Ed went to the Calgary Foundation and the Hockey Canada Foundation and they all merged together to create a legacy fund," said Donlevy, the former head football coach at the University of Alberta. "Part of it came from a fund left over from the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. It was Ed's vision to tap into that. Ed and (Daryl K.) "Doc" Seaman and some other great people in Calgary found the funds so that I could be reimbursed and it's all worked out beautifully. He gave me the opportunity to do the most rewarding thing in my professional life.

"The clubs raise the money now and the WHL office administers the program," Donlevy continued. "The WHL is the single biggest contributor to athletics in Canadian schools, other than the federal government. This is a critical part of our league and we get testimonials from kids who have graduated college and appreciate coming out of school debt-free.

"We've sent 260 players to 60 schools of higher education in Canada and the United States." 

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