"There is comfort in strength of love;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain, or break the heart
A great man whose foundation was family, a big laugh, an even bigger heart and an affinity for his community was honoured Wednesday.
Thousands of people attended the memorial service at the First Alliance Church for original Calgary Flames owner Harley Hotchkiss, who passed away June 22.
Family, friends, business leaders, politicians and a virtual who's who in the hockey world were in attendance including current and former Flames players.
Hotchkiss was one of six Calgary businessmen who bought and moved the NHL's Atlanta Flames hockey team to Calgary in 1980. A tireless philanthropist who worked hard to improve health care. Hotchkiss is regarded as one of the men who helped make Calgary a thriving Western Canadian city.
Former Flame captain Lanny McDonald, business leader and family friend Dick Haskayne and Dr. Samuel Weiss, the inaugural director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, were among those who paid tribute to Hotchkiss.
"The greatest tribute I can pay a man is to say he was like my father. Harley was that," said McDonald.
"Harley would be so touched that all of you have come to honour him here today. It speaks to who he was as a man.
"Harley was a man of great influence. He didn't need a big microphone. It was how he said it as much as what he said. Funny how great leaders know what to say at the right time and show up when you need them the most."
McDonald fondly recalled the hand-written letters players would receive from Hotchkiss.
"He was famous for the hand-written letters. His penmanship was beautiful. And when you opened that letter you knew you had been addressed by a man who meant what he said."
Family members also told of Hotchkiss' unflinching commitment to family and how, on the recent Father's Day, despite his deteriorating condition, how he was able to smile and tell jokes with his grand kids and children.
Hotchkiss, who earned a degree at the University of Michigan in geology moved to Calgary the day after graduated in 1951. He returned to Ontario, where he was born, later that year to marry Becky. The pair never left Calgary.
For his significant contributions to the community, Hotchkiss was awarded Canada's highest citizenship honour, the Companion of the Order of Canada in 2009.
A former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the NHL, Hotchkiss was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006. His reach into the hockey world was evident at the memorial service with attendees that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Pat Quinn and a host of players, including former Flames captain Joe Nieuwendyk, who will soon join Hotchkiss in the Hall of Fame.
Other Flames players and alumni in attendance included Gary Roberts, Al MacInnis, Colin Patterson, Joel Otto, Jim Peplinski, Dana Murzyn, Theo Fleury. Perry Berezan, Craig Conroy, Rhett Warrener, Mike Vernon and Jarome Iginla.
The Flames honourary pall-bearers were Iginla, Peplinski, Murzyn, Patterson, Otto and Patterson.
Former Flames Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference were also at the service, as were the many Flames executives and employees whom Hotchkiss made a point of getting know personally.
Hotchkiss, who passed at age 83, was a special person.
"Harley was one of the very best, ever," noted one former Flame.
How very true.