The Twentieth Anniversary weekend kicked off on Friday evening with a meet-and-greet session at the Ambassador Conference Resort. Following a period of socializing, author and former CFL star Frank Cosentino made a presentation on his most recent book "Hockey Gods at The Summit", which is a novel approach for puck historians on the 1972 Canada-Soviet series.
The audience was then treated an impromptu address by former St. Louis Blues goaltender and now Lt. Col. Ed Stanieowski, who retold a compelling account of the Stanley Cup visit with Canadian and American troops in Afghanistan. Also in attendance was Major Rob Parent, a former Kingston Junior Hockey Star drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in 1977. Both men were invited by Jake Bartlett of Charlottetown, PEI, in relation to his presentation which was to be delivered the next day.
The colonel's talk set the stage for the Annual General Meeting and research presentations which took place at the majestic Currie Hall, on the campus of Royal Military College on Saturday. A welcome message on behalf of RMC was delivered by Professor Emeritus Jack Pike, who detailed the history of the meeting venue. Opened on May 17, 1922, Currie Hall was built to commemorate the deeds of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War and is a federal heritage building. Located on Point Frederick, just across the harbour from downtown Kingston at the mouth of the Cataraqui River, RMC is one of Canada's pre-eminent heritage and military sites. The college opened in 1876 under the leadership of Canada's second prime minister, Alexander Mackenzie, and it also has a storied hockey history: the sport's oldest ongoing rivalry, between the RMC Paladins and the Queen's University Gaels, dates back to 1886.
Members of the Executive delivered reports which showed that SIHR is doing well financially and continues to build on its membership base and public image. Past-President Len Kotylo announced that all of the incumbent officers were acclaimed, negating the need for an election for the positions of regional Vice-Presidents. The group also passed a motion presented by Ernie Fitzsimmons to support a book on early professional hockey prior to the formation of the NHL.
The group recessed for lunch in the RMC mess hall before returning to Currie Hall for the many finely illustrated papers, which featured "NHLers in Military Service" given by Prince Edward Island's Jake Bartlett, Rev. Glen Goodhnd's "The Other Brother, Kevin Slater's "Rivalry and Ringers in Temiskaming: 1905-1907" and Benoit Clairoux's assessment of "NHL vs. WHA Pre-Season Games". Each was effectively presented and provoked good discussions.
Honorary President Brian McFarlane was the first guest speaker, and regaled the group with a few stories from his book "From the Broadcast Booth". A panel discussion followed, in which Mark Potter, President of the International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum, provided a good outline of the original shrine founded in 1943 and its struggle to move downtown to the tourist trail. It complimented the opening tour of the Hall conducted by Beth Duff and her nine-year-old grandson, Josh, enjoyed by sixteen members on Friday afternoon. Bill Oliver, former Royal Military College athletic director, distributed a box of his 2003 book "RMC Hockey History Digest" and used the occasion to announce an agreement to resume the RMC-West Point hockey series in 2012. The third panellist was none other than SIHR member and former player Jim Connelly, who discussed his Memorial Cup, Allan Cup and Olympic on-ice exploits. In the evening a group of sixty-four members and guests gathered back at the Ambassador Conference Resort for a banquet honouring the founding members.
Following dinner and the ceremonial cake-cutting by co-founders Bill Fitsell and Ed Grenda, President James Milks opened the presentations portion of the evening by retelling how he came to discover SIHR nearly a decade ago. Secretary Lloyd Davis and Treasurer Paul Bruno invited each of the eight founding members in attendance to the front to be presented with engraved pen and personalized stationery sets as a token of the societyâ€™s appreciation for their part in the creation of the group.
Past-President and founding member Ernie Fitzsimmons took a few moments to remember the three deceased founding members, and recounted his many visits and exchanges of research with the men over the years. Executive Vice-President Jean-Patrice Martel delivered a humorous and insightful presentation on the history of the newsletter, revealing among other facts that it has had a total of eleven names in its lifetime and at least one editor that need a refresher on volume and issue numbers.
A surprised and touched Bill Fitsell made the group roar with laughter with his comments following the unveiling of the "Fitsell Cup" by Paul Bruno, which will mark the playing of a ball hockey match at each spring and fall meeting of the society. The inaugural game was played the following morning when seventeen members divided into Team Ontario and Team Quebec met in a joyously friendly floor hockey match at the Kingston Military Community Sports Centre.
Before the evening concluded, Paul Bruno and Lloyd Davis were announced as the first recipients of the new President's Award, which is to be given annually for "Outstanding contributions to the Society".