Oh, baby, we’ve come a long way in a short time!

Oh, baby, we’ve come a long way in a short time!

Oh, baby, we’ve come a long way in a short time!

It really is hard to fathom how far the non-profit Western Canada Professional Hockey Scouts Foundation has travelled in such a short period of time.

It likely won’t come as a surprise that the dream began about 15 years ago over beer and chicken wings while a few guys were out on the scouting trail.

Scott Bradley, Ron Delorme, Erin Ginnell and Garth Malarchuk were the main pushes behind the early discussions. As they moved forward, they were able to add the likes of Mike Barnett, Ross Mahoney, Jeff Crisp, Wayne Lauinger, Craig Button and Jim Crosson to their group.

“Since then,” Malarchuk, the chairman of the board of directors, said, “we have added many valuable and experienced hockey people.”

And now the Foundation is preparing to induct 45 past and present-day scouts into its Wall of Honour on July 30.

That Wall of Honour is permanently housed in the Okotoks Centennial Arena, the home of the junior Oilers. Okotoks, a city of about 36,000 located 38 km south of Calgary, has welcomed the Foundation with open arms.

Things really got serious in October 2022 when a big part of the west’s scouting community was in Chilliwack at a BCHL Showcase. That’s when the Foundation’s four co-founders, along with Mike Penny, got together and decided that if it was going to happen, well, it was time to get serious about it.

And that’s exactly what happened.

“Our idea to establish a wall of honour for the scouts from the early years came about from a number of discussions amongst our group where we wanted to recognize the commitments and contributions of the more experienced scouts in the game,” Malarchuk recalled. “These were guys who we all had had tremendous respect for in terms of their dedication and how well they had treated all of us when we all started scouting. We just didn’t want them to be forgotten and felt they needed to be recognized for their contributions and what they meant to the successes of their NHL teams.”

It wasn’t long before Foundation members were meeting via Zoom and holding regular discussions about the future. Early on it was decided that while a Wall of Honour would be a key piece, there would be a lot more than that to the Foundation.

As Malarchuk explained: “Our group then decided to expand on our blueprint and to establish a non-profit foundation with the mandate of assisting individuals, charities and communities associated with the game of hockey that might require support and/or financial assistance.”

It’s important to note, too, that an organization that honours scouts in this fashion is a first in Canada. There is a group in the United States that is there for baseball scouts and Malarchuk is quick to admit that his people used it as something of a template.

Once it was apparent that things were moving forward, a board of directors was established, headed up by Ginnell (Vegas Golden Knights) as president, Malarchuk (Toronto Maple Leafs) as chairman of the board and secretary, and Mahoney (Washington Capitals) as vice-president.

Before long the board also featured Button, Bradley, Crisp, Crosson, Delorme and Lauinger. Added as associate directors were Barnett, Marshall Davidson, Gregg Drinnan, who doubles as editor and historian, banquet co-ordinaor Robyn Jackson, Shane Malloy, video co-ordinator Gary Taylor and Bryce Thoma.

Despite not starting a serious push to get organized before late October 2022, the Foundation held its startup banquet in Okotoks on Sept. 30, 2023. To say it was a success would be something of an understatement. Featuring a roast of Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean, along with silent and live sweater auctions, the proceeds allowed the Foundation to get started on the purchase and installation of the Wall of Honour and its three video screens.

The Foundation, with a mission of being there for others in need, also was able to provide financial assistance to one of our own, who was dealing with health issues that resulted in an extended stay away from home, and to the Bear Clan Bow River, which does such good work on the streets of Calgary.

It’s fair to say, then, that the Foundation is up and running. A website (hockeyscoutsfoundation.com) has been created and is regularly being modified and added to, and the planning is well underway for the inaugural induction dinner on July 30.

In fact, the tables at the startup banquet had hardly been cleaned when work began on the inaugural banquet. The date (Tuesday, July 30) was selected because it coincides with Hockey Canada’s summer camps in Calgary so there will be lots of scouts in the area.

The highlight will be the induction of the inaugural class of scouts into the Wall of Honour. Many of them will be in attendance, while others will be represented by family members. The slate of inductees was put together by a six-person selection committee.

The Foundation also has struck the Ace Award in honour of Garnet (Ace) Bailey, a longtime scout who was the Los Angeles Kings’ director of pro scouting when he died aboard the plane that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. He was 53.

Glen Sather, a Hockey Hall of Famer and a friend of Bailey’s for many years, will present the inaugural Ace Award in Okotoks on July 30. The award is to go annually to someone who goes above and beyond what might have been expected in helping the scouting fraternity in some fashion.

While the startup banquet featured the roasting of MacLean, the Foundation board chose a Tales from the Road theme for the inaugural dinner, and it will include a couple of Hot Stove sessions that will feature hockey personalities like Ken Holland, John Davidson, Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser and Button.

The Foundation also partnered with Fractal Hockey Consulting and Hockey Prospect Radio on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio. Fractal is using its marketing acumen on behalf of the Foundation in searching out sponsors and other opportunities. That will free up board members to plan the organization’s future and to take care of things like the annual banquet.

Gregg Drinnan
Western Canada Professional Hockey Scouts Foundation