Powell River Regals, a team with a rich history including four national championships and numerous provincial titles, will enter the BC Hockey Hall of Fame for its 1997 Allan Cup Canadian championship.
At a press conference held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Tuesday, January 17, the hall of fame announced its selections of individuals and/or teams for induction in 2017. The 1997 Regals are one of seven honourees chosen to join the hall.
Regals manager Tod English was on hand for the BC Hockey Hall of Fame announcement. As a longtime member of the club’s executive and a former player, English said the honour is a proud moment for not only the team, but also the entire community.
“There are people who were involved with that team, on and off the ice, who should be very proud: players, executive members, wives, girlfriends, parents, fans, the entire community,” said English. “Most of all, I’m proud that it was primarily a local team, which was unprecedented for senior hockey; 20 years later we’re being recognized, it’s like a win that keeps winning.”
Of the 25 players on the roster, 17 were born and raised in Powell River, all of whom benefited from a minor hockey system that featured coaches and volunteers who had been part of the club’s Hardy Cup national championship in 1970, said English.
“It was a testament to the hockey evolution and striving to be excellent in those early years, the ’60s and ’70s,” said English. “We became a product of good coaching and mentoring; a lot of Powell River kids ended up staying here because of that.”
English admitted the induction selection came as a surprise, even though the hall contacted the club in 2014 about an application sent in by local resident and former Peak sports reporter Glen Gibbs.
“It wasn’t initiated through our club; we were third-party nominated,” said English. “I had forgotten all about it.”
Gibbs, who covered the Regals as a sportswriter for more than a decade, initiated the process in 2007, one year after the team won its third Allan Cup.
“For the first three years afterward I called and asked about the submission; it took a long time,” said Gibbs. “Then two years ago they called and said we were on a shortlist.”
More information was requested and added to the submission. Originally, Gibbs concentrated on the Regals organization as a whole, but the hall’s nomination selection committee showed particular interest in the 1997 team.
“We narrowed it down to the fact that the 1997 team had 17 local players and 24 from BC, so it was a natural fit,” said Gibbs.
According to hall of fame executive director Bruce Judd, the history of the team and additional information provided by Gibbs were major factors in garnering attention, but the 1997 team stood out.
“In the past, most of the senior teams imported a lot of the players in, so it is hard to qualify a team that did that,” said Judd. “This [Regals] team had a lot of locals, which was appealing to the selection committee.”
The 18-member committee, consisting of sportswriters, current National Hockey League general managers and former players, looks at 15 to 18 nominees per year, including individuals and teams, before voting on who gains entry to the hall, said Judd.
“The protocol to get in is a lot tougher than it was 20 years ago,” said Judd. “For teams, as a starting point, they have to win a national championship to be considered.”
Senior teams already enshrined in the hall, which also features Canadian champions from professional and junior levels, include the 1931 and 1961 Trail Smoke Eaters and 1937 Kimberley Dynamiters.
Since it was established in 1993, the BC Hockey Hall of Fame has inducted a total of 104 players, coaches, referees, builders and teams.
In addition to the Regals, 2017 inductees include Vancouver Giants owner Ron Toigo, former Vancouver Canucks general manager Dave Nonis, recently retired National Hockey League linesman Brad Lazarowich, broadcaster John Shannon and former Canucks players Thomas Gradin and Tony Tanti.
“The neat thing is that Ron Toigo has a Powell River family connection, and Thomas Gradin and Tony Tanti both played with [former Canucks and Regals forward] Gary Lupul,” said English. “Gradin’s second training camp with the Canucks was held in Powell River, too, in 1979.”
To ensure a member of the Regals’ organization attended the press conference, English was made aware of the pending recognition one week prior to the official announcement, courtesy of Gibbs, who, as original submitter of the application, was contacted by the hall of fame first. Both were asked to keep the news to themselves until after the press conference.
“[Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster and selection committee member] Jim Hughson called me out of the blue,” said Gibbs. “Anyone who watches hockey knows his voice, so I knew right away why he was calling.”
In the aftermath of the announcement, word spread quickly throughout the Regals organization. Former player Scott Mastrodonato said members of the 1997 team, and all players from that era, realize how special the years leading up to and following that first Allan Cup were for the organization.
“When you look at the magnitude of it, we are still the regular guys from the Regals,” said Mastrodonato, who was named Allan Cup most valuable player in 1997. “But when you look at the other inductees, you realize what kind of company we’re in and just how big it is starts to sink in.”
For current roster player Rick McLaren, the Regals’ rookie of the year in 1997, the latest accomplishment for the team is a result of hard work, he said.
“The road was long and we took our bumps and bruises along the way,” said McLaren. “To get into the hall is an amazing honour; it’s very exciting.”
McLaren, a three-time Allan Cup champion, said for senior hockey players, “the Allan Cup is our Stanley Cup.” Going into the hall of fame, he added, “is the icing on the cake.”
BC Hockey Hall of Fame annual induction ceremony and gala dinner awards takes place at South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton on Friday, July 28.
For more information, go to bchhf.com.