It has to rank up there with one of the better-kept 'secrets' in hockey history: How the Vancouver Canucks Alumni and BC Hockey League have teamed up for more than 25 years to pour almost $400,000 into a hockey scholarship program ... without most people knowing about the initiative’s existence, much less its quarter-century of success.
It's a secret no more.
As the NHL and the Canucks were kicking off a new, 2013-14 regular season schedule, over a hundred guests and hockey dignitaries gathered in a Richmond banquet room in early October to stage the first-ever "Canuck Alumni/BC Hockey League Scholarship Appreciation Dinner."
Not too shabby an accomplishment for a bunch of somewhat beyond-their-prime hockey guys, especially considering it has taken them - by Orland Kurtenbach's reckoning - about 26 years to even agree on the menu. And 'Kurt' should know. The Canucks’ first captain and later head coach was one of the driving forces behind the Alumni. Kurtenbach established the fund back in the early 80's to help young hockey players continue their post-secondary education, while pursuing their athletic dreams at colleges and universities all over North America.
Many of those recipients - both past and present - were on hand to speak to the crowd about their experiences. Meanwhile, a strong contingent of Canucks Alumni, led by such former stars as Kirk McLean, Darcy Rota, Harold Snepsts and Thomas Gradin, were also in attendance to show their support for the historical success of the scholarship. They were joined by a large turnout of BCHL governors and team executives, various members of the educational fraternity from UBC and TWU, as well as representatives from new Canucks business partners Scotiabank and The Dueck Auto Group. Even Canucks mascot, FIN showed up – presumably when he heard they were serving salmon as the main course.
The evening's proceedings were conducted by Hall-of-Famer Jim Robson, who even dragged another famous face out of the crowd, Burnaby's Glenn Anderson, to help out with the raffle draw. Included in the program was a three-man panel hosted by BC Sports Hall-of-Famer Bernie Pascall. The ‘host stove’ portion of the night featured former UBC Thunderbirds standout Mickey McDowell, flanked by Canucks Alumni Doug Bodger and Kurtenbach.
After more than two-and-a-half decades of quietly putting their money - raised from charity events such as their annual schedule of exhibition games and golf tournaments - and their efforts into helping tomorrow's hockey stars and business leaders complete their educations, it's safe to say that the first-ever BCHL Scholarship Celebration has laid the foundation for what will quickly become the plan for future years to come.