Try to define Harley Hotchkiss’s legacy, challenges The Calgary Herald. It’s terribly difficult to find a starting point.
Business successes, charitable contributions, hockey accomplishments — all of it begins to pile up when discussing Hotchkiss, who died Wednesday.
The man was CEO of this, owner of that. Honoured member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Companion of the Order of Canada.
But Robyn Regehr wants to talk asparagus.
A few years back, Hotchkiss mentions that his son’s farm in Ontario grew asparagus. Regehr, in turn, mentions that he had a thriving asparagus patch at his cabin.
“He says, ‘Well, you know what? I’m going out to see my son. When I come back, I’ll bring you some fresh asparagus,’ ” says Regehr. “It was just something said during a nice conversation. Then I get this call, maybe a month or two later, and he says, ‘Robyn, what are you doing? Why don’t you come by the place? I’ve got some fresh asparagus here for you.’ ”
So Regehr and his brother-in-law Andrew motored over to Hotchkiss’s house.
“I knew he was tired — they’d just travelled all day from Ontario — but he made time to sit down with both of us.”
Andrew’s grandfather, like Hotchkiss, had been a geologist, a development which provided new stream of conversation. About mutual friends, gas and oil, stuff like that.
“We sat there for probably an hour, an hour and a half, just chatting,” says Regehr. “Harley’s a very nice person. A genuine person.”
The Herald recalls that another time Regehr was talking about his interest in planes. Hotchkiss noted that one of his sons owns a local charter company. Vague plans were made for a tour of the hangars.
“I said, ‘Sure. If you get a chance, let me know,’ ” says Regehr. “It took about a year and half of both of us trying to get our schedules organized, and we finally did it. He never forgot about it in all that time. And we ended up having a great, great morning.”
These kinds of moments — born of a common interest in flying or asparagus or whatever — are what Hotchkiss became known for.
“Very caring, as you can tell from those stories,” says Regehr. “When he said something, he really meant it.”
Hotchkiss, of course, had been instrumental in bringing the NHL brand to Calgary. And not only was he co-owner of the squad, he served as chairman of the NHL board of governors.
On top of all that is the credit he gets for helping to solve the 2004-05 lockout. Basically, Hotchkiss turned out to be the only person that either side, the players and the owners, would trust.
“He just exuded class and dignity,” Lanny McDonald, who won the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989, says. “The way that he treated people — and spoke to people — it felt like you were the most important person in the world. That’s just how he made you feel . . . special all the time. He pulled you in and made you feel a part of the family.”
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