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Seaman's Hall induction recognition of a humble man

by Dan Rosen
Daryl "Doc" Seaman rarely spoke of the 82 combat missions he flew out of North Africa in World War II as a sub-hunting pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

It was personal, and in a way, memories "Doc" wanted to keep stashed away in the back of his mind.

"He didn't open up about that until the last few years (of his life)," Doc's son, Bob Seaman, told "There was some amazing stuff, like trying to fly into Gibraltar one night, running out of fuel, he couldn't find the air strip because it was so dark and they were flying by the light of the stars. Stuff you can't imagine when you're 20 years old."

But Bob Seaman said his dad, who passed away last year at the age of 86, wasn't much for words anyway.

Everything he did in his life -- from flying combat missions to building an oil empire out of nothing to preserving his OH Ranch to bringing the NHL and Olympics to Calgary and, of course, to donating millions of dollars through his philanthropic endeavors -- "Doc" Seaman did with a soft tone in his voice but with a huge heart in his chest.

So when Bob Seaman gets up Monday night at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to deliver his father's acceptance speech, one of the first things he plans on saying is, "This will probably be one of the shortest speeches in Hall of Fame history."

His dad would want it that way.

Actions, not words, defined "Doc" Seaman, and that's why he's posthumously going into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder's category, joining his close friend, former business partner and fellow Albertan oil tycoon Harley Hotchkiss, who was inducted into the Hall in 2006.

"He would have said very little because he's a lot like me in that he didn't relish public speaking," Bob Seaman said. "He would have just said thank you and been humbled and honored to be associated with his good friend Harley Hotchkiss in this kind of way. He would have been quite privileged and honored to be a part of that company."

"This recognition is a richly deserved honor for a man who knew and appreciated the Canadian value of hockey and the tradition of the game," Flames President and CEO Ken King said in a statement. "He was a visionary, our game's biggest fan, and passionate about both the Calgary Flames and his enduring support for hockey all throughout Canada for over 50 years. Those who care about hockey owe him a debt of gratitude."

Seaman flew his missions, built his oil empire, feverishly worked on his philanthropic endeavors and put a great deal of energy into preserving his OH Ranch, but hockey -- especially the Flames -- were one of his great passions.

"I think through everything he's done in his lifetime (this Hall of Fame induction) would have been the pinnacle of his achievements," Bob Seaman said. "He loved the game so much and he just would have been ecstatic."

Seaman was part of a group of six businessmen that brought the Flames to Calgary from Atlanta in 1980. He also was a key player in building the Scotiabank Saddledome and bringing the Olympics to the city in 1988.

"It was quite a thrill to be associated with that kind of a news item in Calgary. It was quite something," said Bob Seaman, who was 30 when his dad brought the Flames to the city. "It was amazing to be around."

Bob Seaman said his father simply approached then-Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed about building the arena.

"They shook hands, connected and the Saddledome was born," Bob Seaman said.

In the foreword of the Sydney Sharpe's book, "Staying in the Game: The Remarkable Story of Doc Seaman," released in 2008, Lougheed writes, "I had no idea why he wanted to see me at the Premier's office in Edmonton one day in 1980. He brought the most brilliant idea for gathering up into one package: the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, an NHL team, a hockey arena for both, and long-term funding for amateur sports. This was a remarkable initiative. Like all of Doc's community ideas, this one wasn't designed to make him any money. Rather, it was just another way he'd found to donate his own."

"Doc" and Hotchkiss donated a lot of their oil money to creating an opportunity for young Canadians to grow as people and hockey players. Bob Seaman estimates that Flames Project 75, which is now called the Seaman-Hotchkiss Foundation, has committed roughly $7 million to minor hockey development initiatives in Canada and has another $7 million to give.

There is a resource and meeting center at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto with Doc's name on it.

Canada's recent run of five straight World Junior Championship gold medals was rooted in the Seaman-Hotchkiss Foundation.

"They donated millions through natural gas production to further the game and create a database at the Center of Excellence in Calgary," Bob Seaman said. "He was a great believer. He was doing it with the ranches where he developed a baseline and moved up from there. He did the same with this. Get the facts and move forward."

Daryl "Doc" Seaman followed that philosophy in everything he did, but hockey always had a special place in this cowboy's heart.

Come Monday, when Bob Seaman delivers his short speech, "Doc's" special place in hockey's history will be solidified.

"As I said, the pinnacle," Bob Seaman said. "It's something he loved and really understood."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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