When Bob Nicholson and Murray Costello invented the Order of Hockey in Canada in 2013, it was very much intended to be the hockey version of the Order of Canada.
Unlike entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it wasn’t created to further celebrate the greatness of the famed names in the history of game, although many would be the same. It was established more to honour the contributions made by some of the giants of the game for what they did, not intending to receive acclaim.
In that way, the Class of 2019 inducted into the Order of Hockey in Canada Tuesday in Edmonton at the annual Golf & Gala event may have come closest to fulfilling the original intent.
Two disciples of 2014 recipient Clare Drake — George Kingston and Ken Hitchcock — as well as the hugely respected Jayna Hefford from the currently challenged world of women’s hockey, received the honour mostly for what they have given back to the game.
It was the fifth time as the CEO of Hockey Canada that Tom Renney has handed out the awards and it’s become one of his favourite days.
“What I find to be really terrific, heart-warming and moving, to be honest, is the emotional connection the recipients make with the award. I can’t help but be deeply moved by what this award means to them,” said Renney.
“Ken, of course, is no stranger to Edmonton fans but I believe he’s perhaps an unknown commodity around the country and around the world in terms of what he’s done to inspire other coaches.
“He’s given every bit of himself. I don’t know anybody else who has given more of himself at more coaching symposiums and seminars than Ken Hitchcock.
“And he does so thanklessly and wanting no recognition for it. He wants to come in under the radar and leave under the radar.
“For what Ken has given the game in our country including three Olympic gold medals, two world championships, a Stanley Cup and he is exactly what this Order of Hockey in Canada is all about,” said Renney.
“George is certainly one of those individuals that has touched all of us. What he’s done with respect to the education of his athletes as a coach,” he said of the former U of Alberta Golden Bear player under Drake who went on to a lengthy coaching career with the University of Calgary Dinosaurs, followed by NHL jobs in San Jose, Florida and Minnesota and a lengthy list of international credits including being head coach of Canada for first IIHF World Championship in 39 years in 1994.
“When it comes to Jayna Hefford, I have her bio in front of me and when it comes to bullets, there are 49 of them. She’s been a trailblazer,” said Renney of the four-time Olympic gold medal winner.
Hefford is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hitchcock, as the third-winningest coach in NHL history, is unquestionably headed there. And if Drake opened the door with his recent induction on the route he travelled, Kingston would be the obvious next choice.
“It’s a huge honour to be up here with Ken and George and the ones that have come before me. I always wanted to be a hockey player and the opportunity to play for Canada and represent Canadians for 17 years is the greatest honour of my career,” said Hefford.
Kingston said he was planning to go into architecture until he had both Murray Smith and Clare Drake as coaches in high school and at the U of A, respectively.
“It was a six-year run with two of the great people and coaches. For me to follow in the footsteps of Clare is very, very special. As a result of those two men, who cared a not just coaching but developing people, I ended up in a very satisfying and important career in coaching.
“My earliest background in life was that to give was much better than receive and in hockey it was to give back, pay back and do things to make things better in our game was something that I think was sorely needed.
“That’s what people like Clare convinced other coaches when it came to sharing information. They were basically saying ‘Don’t worry about yourself in this formula. You’re going to get so much more back from giving to make hockey a better place to be.’ Hitch and I were so fortunate because we had so many sharing coaches.”
It branded them both. And that’s what made this year’s gala so great, despite having no gold medal teams to celebrate with a massive event at Commonwealth Stadium to parade in all the gold medal winners from Vancouver 2010 the last time it was held here.
“For me, I coached in the NHL where it was my job to win hockey games,” said Hitchcock. “To get recognized for this award means it’s a lot bigger than wins and losses. It really is the award for how much you gave back. And that’s what I’m most proud of, the giving back to my country and to young people — to mentor junior coaches and to mentor minor hockey coaches.
“To me, this honour is about how much you sacrificed. And the reason that was so important for me is how much people sacrificed for me to get where I’m at,” said the former midget AAA coach in Sherwood Park, who once sharpened skates at United Cycle.
“I did take real pride in slipping in and slipping out. I’m really proud of that. And I’m really, really proud of this.”
Source : https://edmontonsun.com/sports/hockey/nhl/edmonton-oilers/jones-clare-drake-desciples-hitchcock-and-kingston-join-hefford-as-order-of-hockey-in-canada-recipients