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Harley Hotchkiss: Family man

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

In a special column, Calgary Flames president and CEO, Ken King, reflects on original Flames owner, Harley Hotchkiss, who passed away this week.

Ken King

"I realize at 82 that I'm playing the 3rd period. I enjoy the game and even though age brings some challenges, I have a few shifts left and I intend to play hard, like all of you, with a deep sense of appreciation........"  Harley Hotchkiss, March 10, 2010, speech accepting Chamber of Commerce Award.

In his book, "HAT TRICK", Harley used the hockey term to characterize and compartmentalize three of his four greatest passions - Hockey, Business and Community. The fourth passion - and the most important to him - was family. This heartfelt subject was woven throughout nearly every page of his life story and every conversation. His immediate and extended family meant more than anything to him. He spoke lovingly and often about everyone in it.

He also loved his hockey family.

One of the favourite adventures on his calendar was his annual "hockey trip". He and his wife Becky would select a road trip and travel with the team. Together, they would slog through the post game bus trips to the airports and late night hotel check-ins, watch practice on game day and be there for the "road games". On each trip they also made sure to be hosts of a dinner to which the coaches, trainers, public relations people, and travelling media were all always invited. He appreciated the work of those in the game that are largely unsung, as well as the players.

During home games, he and Becky were always planted firmly in their seats and never took their eyes off the game. He watched as fan, not as an owner. Trips to the dressing room were rare. On special occasions or milestones, Harley always made sure the player or players knew they were appreciated. His support was equally unwavering when times got tough. His practice was to support, never to criticize.

Admiration and respect were provided to the fourth line player as well as the team's star. And while the game has changed during Harley's time in it, his approach didn't. Today's players appreciated the sincerity in his manner and truly believed he deeply cared for them, one and all.

As well, Flames alumni were never far from his memory. They weren't alumni to him; it was as though they never left the team. They won the Stanley Cup, competed for championships, and fought hard to even make the playoffs in some years. He was as grateful for them today as when they played. Harley never ever forgot their special contributions.

As a Flames owner and board member Harley was a partner's partner. Hard to believe the group could have assembled more like-minded people. Thorough and meticulous with the material Harley always made a meaningful contribution.

It is unlikely the full scope of Harley's commitment to the sport will ever be completely understood. He would be OK with that. But, you should know that his intellectual and material contributions are unparalleled, just as those of other original partners, Doc and BJ Seaman, and his partners today. For instance, grassroots hockey owes a great debt to Harley. Many current NHL players got a start because of Harley's contributions to hockey in Canada. His only repayment is that we all share his passion for the game.

For all his contributions he might just have enjoyed most, the appreciation of those receiving his annual fall harvest of home grown fresh vegetables delivered personally by him to the office, or the five-year aged cheddar always brought at Christmas, or the consistent drubbings (and considerable cash taken) he laid on us playing gin rummy.

If integrity and decency are art, then Harley is a true Master.

The hockey fraternity is less with the passing of Harley, but far greater for having had him.

Ken King

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