A view of the National Assembly of Quebec on the morning of October 19, 2019. (Photo: James Milks)
The weekend's planned activities got started on Friday afternoon at the Centre Vidéotron, the NHL class arena which is home to the Remparts de Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The group got its exercise as it travelled from the press box high above the seating to out-of-the-way rooms deep in the bowels of the building. Unfortunately, because it was a game day, the team dressing room was off-limits.
The Friday night meet-and-greet took place in the arena's Bunker Suite, where members were treated to an all-you-can eat dinner ahead of the game between the Remparts and L'Océanic de Rimouski. The 44-person strong SIHR group was seated behind the Remparts bench, but despite their pulling for the home team, head coach Patrick Roy and his team came out on the losing end of a 2-1 score.
A crisp and sunny fall morning greeted members as they made their way to Hotel le Concorde for the meeting next to the historic Plains of Abraham, which was dressed up in fall colours and a Halloween experience put on by the National Battlefields Commission.
A brief business agenda started Saturday's meeting in which meeting host Jean-Patrice Martel welcomed the group and discussed a few logistics before President Fred Addis asked for a moment of silence in honour of recently deceased member George Rekela of Minnesota. James Milks delivered a brief statement about the proposed website update and Treasurer Bryan Lawrence discussed the group's finances. The 2020 fall meeting location was revealed, and all members are invited to Hershey Pennsylvania.
During the roll-call, member Nick Murray of New Brunswick, who had an impressive junior and senior hockey career between the mid-1950s and the late 1960s, made a passionate and emotional plea for hockey leagues and officials to take brain injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) more seriously, as many former players continue to suffer.
A SIHR record-setting number of women presenters were on hand to discuss a variety of topics ranging from Quebec City teams to personal experiences as both players and fans.
Benoit Claîroux, with his usual wit and sprinkling of humour, kicked off the presentations with a retrospective on the Quebec Ramparts Major Junior team, in which he chronicled the two iterations of the team and many of the notable players who suited up for the club.
The charismatic and entertaining Stéphane Lévesque delivered his presentation titled Le Hockey au Centre du Québec in French, while his daughter Marie-Laurence did a wonderful job of translating to English on-the-fly. He discussed the adventure which led to the publication of the book of the same name and how he interviewed men and women from all walks of life about their relationship with hockey through art, culture, community, sport and even suffering. He recalled many of the unique characters he met along the way and shared mementos given to him by some of the people and players featured in the book.
Ottawa resident Pam Coburn presented The Boston Bruins Training Camps in Quebec City, having gathered much of the information during her research for her first book Hitch, Hockey's Unsung Hero, which is the story of her grandfather and Boston Bruins legend Lionel Hitchman.
The day's first special guest, Hingham, Massachusetts, resident Frank Brown – recipient of the 2019 Professional Hockey Writers' Association's Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award – spoke about Elmer Ferguson and the path he cleared for all hockey writers and recounted a few highlights from his own 35-year career covering some of hockey's most iconic moments.
(Summary continues after photos)
Stéphane Lévesque (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Frank Brown addressing the group. (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Marc Durand with Serger Bernier (center) and Bill Sproule (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Pam Coburn (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Andrew Caddell and Margie Ross (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Claudia Delli-Colli (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Jim Ronson (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Nadine Arsenault (Photo: Dean Robinson)
Following the on-site catered lunch, meeting co-organizer Marc Durand moderated a conversation with guest speaker Serge Bernier, in which he recounted growing up in Matane, Quebec, and his 12-year pro hockey career. He mused about how he made $20,000 the year he played on the Flyers forward line with Bobby Clarke, but how things had improved considerably by the time he joined the WHA, for which he received a $100,000 signing bonus, and a $100,000 per-year salary for three years. He graciously answered questions about all aspects of his life and career, and many good laughs were had by all.
Claudia Delli-Colli from the University of Sherbrooke presented The Life and Times of the Black Aces in Sherbrooke, which recalled the all-black line of Manny McIntyre, Herb Carnegie and his brother Ossie.
The history of the women's game and the ongoing challenge faced by the sport to be economically viable was the focus of Andrew Caddell's presentation, The Girl and Women's Hockey. He was joined by female pioneer player Margie Ross who skated with many amateur teams and later in the Canadian University system where she was a perennial MVP. Her unique perspective as a female player was a welcomed addition to the Society's meeting presentations.
Blood, Fire and Ice is a novel by Jim Ronson in which he delivers some creative non-fiction based on the life of hockey pioneer James G. A. Creighton. The story draws on many historical events and weaves in the hockey stick making abilities of the Mic Mac aboriginal people of the Matitime Provinces.
Rounding out the day was a somewhat unconventional presentation titled Reflective Punch: A Graphic Design Examination of Violence in the 2018-19 NHL Season by Nadine Arsenault of Toronto in which she discussed the subject of her master's thesis in graphic design – which is the study and visual interpretation of hockey fights.
Before the conclusion, NHL statistician Benny Ercolani was announced as the inaugural winner of the Society's newly created Ernie Fitzsimmons Award. The award, presented for excellence in the field of hockey statistical/research publication, honours Ercolani's 40+ years as the NHL's Head Statistician.
A group dinner was enjoyed following the meeting and many stories were told and laughs were had.
See you in St. Catharines!