Paul Lorieau sings his last anthem for the Edmonton Oilers as the Edmonton Oilers battle the Minnesota Wild at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta. April 8, 2011.
Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - With the recent heat wave in Edmonton, hockey could have been the last thing for people to think about this week.
But three separate events — a death, an Order of Canada appointment and a hockey tournament — have put the sport in the forefront for many people. More importantly, perhaps, it serves as a reminder of the high calibre of local people involved in the game and the foundation they have built over the years.
The week began with the wonderful news that Clare Drake had been named to the Order of Canada. The former coach of the Golden Bears — the University of Alberta’s men’s hockey team — has become a legend for his innovative coaching techniques.
While numbers certainly punctuate his success — 697 wins, 296 losses and 37 ties in a 28-year run with the U of A, with six national championships — what made Drake stand out, though, is how he treats people and how he’s quick to recognize their success.
I first met Drake in the mid-1970s when I was in high school. I became a sports reporter at the Journal in 1979 and chatted with him at many events over the years.
I have been very fortunate in my life to win a few awards. There was always a card of congratulations from Drake shortly after I received the award.
I phoned Drake on Wednesday afternoon to congratulate him on the Order of Canada citation. I told him how much I appreciated hearing from him in the past.
“It’s something I always try to do when people I know do well,” he said.
Drake should know he’s a part of the success of thousands of people because of his encouragement and friendship.
Hours after getting the great news about Drake, the Edmonton hockey community was saddened with the death of Edmonton Oilers anthem singer Paul Lorieau. Cancer claimed him on Tuesday at age 71.
Lorieau was a most gracious man and always had time to stop, shake hands and have a little chat in between singing at Oilers home games.
The anthem was so much more than him. In 2006, in the middle of the Oilers’ Stanley Cup run, Lorieau sang a few of the first few verses of O Canada before holding the microphone above him. The crowd sang the majority of our national anthem while Lorieau stood at centre ice and just smiled.
I personally saw what class the man had. Lorieau came up to the media dining lounge after singing the anthem. I use a wheelchair and was sitting when I approached his table. Lorieau rose to greet me and shake hands.
The day before Lorieau’s passing, the Brick Invitational Super Novice Hockey Tournament began at the West Edmonton Mall Ice Palace. Now in its 24th year, the 14-team tournament is welcoming a new team from Pennsylvania which is coached by former NHLer Mark Recchi.
The week-long event features some of the best nine and 10-year-old hockey players in North America.
Tournament chairman Craig Styles says several plans are in the works for a 25th anniversary celebration next year.
Just follow the dots and it shows how close and vibrant the hockey tournament is in Edmonton.
Drake retired as head coach of the Golden Bears in 1988. Styles, who played on a national championship team for Drake in 1975, helped start the Brick tournament in 1989. Lorieau sang the anthem for several years at the tournament.
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