CALGARY - One of the founding members of the Calgary Flames was remembered Wednesday as a man without an enemy in the world who inspired greatness in his players through his kind ways.
A steady stream of Flames greats, past and present, as well as business associates and politicians — including former Alberta premier Ralph Klein — filed into the cavernous First Alliance Church in southeast Calgary to pay tribute to Harley Hotchkiss.
The 83-year-old former owner of the NHL club had been battling prostate cancer. He sold his stake in the team this past season and died at home last week.
"He's touched a lot of lives and certainly in the hockey world everybody was saddened by it," said former Flames star Joe Nieuwendyk, a three-time Stanley Cup winner who is now general manager of the Dallas Stars. "The hockey world has lost an important figure and he was a terrific man."
Nieuwendyk, who earlier this week was named as one of the new members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, said he will always remember how compassionate Hotchkiss was.
"You really wanted to play hard for a man like that," he said. "He loved having the connection with the players and he treated us all royally."
A businessman and philanthropist, Hotchkiss was part of the group that bought the Atlanta Flames in 1980 and brought them to Calgary. He served as chairman of the NHL's board of governors from 1995 to 2007 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2006. He was married to his wife, Becky, for 60 years.
Former Flame Jamie Macoun said Hotchkiss went through his life without making anyone angry.
"I still remember getting an eye injury and I was in the hospital here in town and both Harley and Becky showed up with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies," he said.
"Back in the day of Harold Ballard in Toronto you didn't see much of that. Somehow he managed to go through life without really offending anyone."
Six Flames players were honorary pallbearers for the service — current captain Jarome Iginla, Joel Otto, Colin Patterson, Dana Murzyn, Perry Berezan and Jim Peplinski.
"He treated people equally and consistently over the 31 years that I knew him" Peplinski told reporters.
Lanny McDonald was the lone Flame slated to deliver a tribute to Hotchkiss during the service.He told reporters Hotchkiss had been like a father to him.
"He was all strength and determination," said McDonald.
"It's how he talks to people and how he treats people that was one of his greatest attributes. He was such a great example for all of us to follow."