HALIFAX, N.S. – The Order of Hockey in Canada welcomes two players and two executives to its ranks of distinguished honourees who have made outstanding contributions or service to the growth and development of the sport of hockey in Canada.
The Distinguished Honourees of the Order of Hockey in Canada were announced in Halifax, host-city of the 2016 Hockey Canada Foundation Celebrity Classic gala and golf tournament, where David Branch, Geraldine Heaney, Mario Lemieux, and Bob Nicholson will be formally celebrated.
David Branch – As president of the Canadian Hockey League since 1996 and commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) since 1979, Branch oversees the world’s largest development league encompassing the OHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Western Hockey League. He has been instrumental in leading a number of player-safety campaigns on topics that include anti-violence and mental health.
Geraldine Heaney – A two-time Olympic medallist and seven-time world champion in women’s hockey, Heaney has been inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame (2008), Hockey Hall of Fame (2013), and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (2014). Heaney helped put women’s hockey on the map with her gold medal-winning goal at the inaugural IIHF World Women’s Championship in 1990, and her impact on the next crop of female hockey talent continues through her coaching activity in her hometown.
Mario Lemieux – Co-owner and chairman of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lemieux’s NHL and international successes have left their mark on hockey in Canada and around the world. As a member of Team Canada, Lemieux recorded 49 points in 36 games, and he served as captain for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey-winning team and the golden 2002 Olympic Winter Games team. Other international successes include winning the 1987 Canada Cup, a silver medal at the 1985 IIHF World Championship, and a bronze at the 1983 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Bob Nicholson – CEO and vice-chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group, Nicholson served as president and CEO of Hockey Canada from 1998-2014, overseeing the nation’s gold-medal performances at seven Olympic Winter Games, 12 IIHF World Junior Championships, five IIHF World Championships, 10 IIHF World Women’s Championships, four IIHF World Women’s U18 Championships, three IIHF World U18 Championships, two IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships, and one Paralympic Winter Games. In addition to the high-performance wins, Nicholson continues to dedicate himself to the growth and development of the sport through his work as chairman of the IIHF Development & Coaching Committee.
“Between David, Geraldine, Mario, and Bob, they have impacted millions of people in Canada and around the world through their work within the sport of hockey,” said Tom Renney, president and chief executive officer, Hockey Canada. “I congratulate them all, on behalf of my colleagues at Hockey Canada and the Order of Hockey in Canada selection committee, as well as our board of directors, volunteers, and the 750,000 registered members from coast-to-coast-to-coast, on this well-deserved recognition.”
The addition of this year’s class brings the total number of honourees to 18 since the Order of Hockey in Canada’s inception in 2012, including: Jean Béliveau (2012); Cassie Campbell-Pascall (2012); Clare Drake (2014); Jim Gregory (2015); Wayne Gretzky (2012); Paul Henderson (2013); Gordie Howe (2012); Dave King (2013); Mark Messier (2013); Pat Quinn (2015); Gordon Renwick (2012); France St-Louis (2014); Serge Savard (2015); and Steve Yzerman (2014).
A selection committee of 12 members - appointed by the Order of Hockey in Canada executive committee, established by Hockey Canada – is tasked with nominating and selecting, via secret ballot, the annual recipients of the Order of Hockey in Canada. The committee members represent a cross-section of individuals with great and varied experience around the game of hockey in Canada.
This year’s honourees will be celebrated as part of the 2016 Hockey Canada Foundation Celebrity Classic, June 20 and 21 in Halifax.
Nova Scotia legacy plans unveiled
Halifax is the first city without an NHL team to host the prestigious event. Half of the proceeds from the 2016 Hockey Canada Foundation Celebrity Classic will support a provincial legacy plan as selected by the local steering committee for the event.
Daniel Gallivan, Q.C., chair of the steering committee, announced Tuesday that Hockey Nova Scotia, the Sidney Crosby Foundation, and the Long Pond Hockey Arena Building Society will share the proceeds that will remain locally, to be used for programs and projects that support the growth and development of the sport in the province.
“We have seen tremendous support from the community to-date, and I believe that is in large part because of the knowledge that the Celebrity Classic benefits our region directly, and in a very meaningful way,” said Gallivan. "Our committee considered several options. We ultimately agreed to support these three because we believe that, together, they will have a lasting and positive effect on hockey and those who play the game in Nova Scotia."
The remaining proceeds from the 2016 Hockey Canada Foundation Celebrity Classic will go to the Foundation to support the future development and delivery of Hockey Canada programs, projects, and activities across the country.
Visit the Hockey Canada website for more information on the Hockey Canada Foundation, the 2016 Celebrity Classic, and the Order of Hockey in Canada.