by Shawn P. Roarke
Harley Hotchkiss summarized his core values during a speech at a recent event, providing insight into the philosophy by which he conducts his life.
"I think you should always remember where you came from," Hotchkiss told the gathering. "And I always think you should do what you can to make things better, be part of the community."
That statement is simple on its surface, but potentially profound in its execution -- a fact Hotchkiss has illustrated repeatedly during his long and illustrious career in hockey.
This year, Hotchkiss' broad impact on the sport he has loved since his childhood on his family's tobacco farm in Tillsonburg, Ont., will be acknowledged by the Hockey Hall of Fame. Monday, Hotchkiss will be inducted into the builders wing as part of the 2006 Hall of Fame Induction Class, a quartet that also features "Miracle on Ice" coach Herb Brooks, Montreal and Colorado goalie Patrick Roy and longtime forward Dick Duff.
"As a farm boy growing up in Southern Ontario with hockey as a key part of my life, this is truly a very special honor," said Hotchkiss, the youngest of his family's six children. "I have certainly enjoyed the 26 years that I have been part of the NHL and am very humbled to be selected."
So, it is clear that Hotchkiss has never forgotten his roots, despite the fact that he has wandered far and wide from his family's home during the course of his successful career.
After serving in World War II, Hotchkiss earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University; a geology degree that would serve as the basis for the oil, natural gas, real estate and agricultural endeavors that would form the basis of his phenomenal business success.
Settling in Calgary soon after leaving MSU, Hotchkiss quickly became an integral part of that oil town's community.
He belongs to several professional societies relating to mineral and oil exploration. He has been named to the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, the Calgary Business Hall of Fame and has been awarded honorary degrees from both his alma mater and from the University of Calgary. In 1997, Hotchkiss was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1998, he was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence.
Yet, it was in the business of hockey where Hotchkiss' light has shone brightest, and, perhaps, where he has done the most for the city has called home for half a century.
"I have had the privilege to know Harley on a business and personal level for several years and truly believe that his induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame is richly deserved," said Ken King, the Flames president and CEO. "Harley's passion and commitment to hockey's growth have benefited all those individuals involved with our great game."
Hotchkiss was part of the group that brought NHL hockey to Calgary back in 1980, assuring his status as one of that city's most popular citizens in that hockey-mad city. But, Hotchkiss was only getting started.
The Flames have been a very successful team during Hotchkiss' reign, despite being a so-called small-market club. The Flames have won three Western Conference championships, including the most recent title in 2004. In 1989, the Flames won the franchise's first, and only, Stanley Cup.
Hotchkiss has also been an avid supporter of Hockey Canada throughout his tenure with the Flames. He was behind the building of the Pengrowth Saddledome and that building's lease with the Flames calls for the organization to make annual financial contributions to Hockey Canada for the continued development and growth of the game. He has also been an integral part of the of the Centre of Excellence, which offered coaching clinics, research in hockey development and sports injuries, as well as athletic scholarships to Canadian universities. Hotchkiss maintains a director's position with the Hockey Hall of Fame and he has played a huge role in developing community-based ice rinks throughout Canada.
In NHL circles, Hotchkiss is best known for his leadership abilities in the board room. Hotchkiss has served as chairman of the NHL Board of Governors for the past 13 years.
He played an instrumental role in ending the recent lockout and getting the game back on its feet in record time, a feat that shocked even the most optimistic hockey fan.
"We don't survive as a league without Harley Hotchkiss," Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, has said recently. "When it came to keeping 30 owners unified, it was unheard of. But nobody questioned his motives because they were genuine.
"We have worked close together. I have been fortunate in my job in the people I have met and dealt with from presidents and prime ministers to businessmen. I can say, without provocation, that Harley is the finest human being I have ever met, period."
Yes, it is indeed clear that Hotchkiss has lived his mission statement: he has never forgotten his roots, but he has moved forward to make his community -- and the game of hockey -- better.