Monday, 18 September 2017

Blades set to hit another homer with home opener

Team to honour former captain with return of the Pac-Man

Dave Chartier, left, speaks to reporters about Bruce Gordon.
    On an emotional level, the Saskatoon Blades appear to be set to match the spectacle of last year’s home opener at this year’s home opener.
    Almost a year ago, the Blades opened the 2016-17 campaign with “Thank You, Mr. Hockey Day” where the club saluted hockey icon in the late Gordie Howe and interred his and the ashes of his late wife, Colleen, at the base of the Gordie Howe statue that resides in front of the SaskTel Centre.
    This year in a campaign where the Blades return to their famous Pac-Man look from the 1980s to the early 1990s, the club will honour a former captain who wore that logo and made a lasting impact on Saskatoon after his hockey days. 
    When the Blades open their regular season schedule on Friday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre against the Swift Current Broncos, the blue and gold will honour Bruce Gordon, who was well-known for his career with the Saskatoon Police Service that spanned 28 years, in a pre-game ceremony.
One of the Blades team pictures featuring Bruce Gordon.
    The Marsden, Sask., product came to the Blades in a trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers early in the 1980-81 campaign, and the grinding winger quickly became the Saskatoon club’s captain. He would leave the major junior ranks following the 1981-82 campaign having collected 17 goals, 53 assists and 552 penalty minutes in 112 regular season games with the Blades.
    Following his time playing hockey, Gordon moved on to build a distinguished career with the police starting out on regular patrol, becoming a detective sergeant in the sex crimes unit and then to major crimes. Gordon became well-known for cracking cases that appeared to be unsolvable.
    At age 50, he retired from policing to study law at the University of Saskatchewan with the goal to become a defence lawyer. Gordon graduated from law school last spring, but on June 8, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. On June 29, a special ceremony was held at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon to call the 54-year-old to the bar.
    This ceremony is traditionally held in autumn, but an exception was made in Gordon’s case to hold the ceremony earlier due to his cancer diagnosis.
Bruce Gordon’s old Blades uniform on display.
    The Blades announced their plans to honour Gordon, who also coached minor hockey and volunteered at local road races, during a press conference on Monday at the SaskTel Centre. A fitting trio of characters who have character were brought in to speak at the presser who all have links to both the Saskatoon Police Service and the WHL.
    The trio included Dave Chartier, who was one of Gordon’s former teammates with the Blades and a former partner with the police service, and he talked about his deep friendship with the hard-working forward. Long time veteran Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele, who was a former Blades defenceman from 1966 to 1971 and built his own distinguished career with the Saskatoon Police Service, also delivered a short but heartfelt tribute. Both Chartier and Engele are retired from the police service.
    The third member to speak was Patrick Nogier, who played goal for two seasons in the WHL from 1985 to 1987 split between the Kamloops Blazers and Broncos and is still an inspector for the Saskatoon Police Service, and he spoke about Gordon’s never give up characteristics.
    Chartier was a 17-year-old rookie defenceman when he became teammates with Gordon in 1981-82, when the latter was embarking on what would be his final season in junior hockey. They developed a lifelong friendship and actually live next door to each other in the current day.
Inspector Patrick Nogier speaks about Bruce Gordon.
    Chartier will be one of a number of former teammates on hand for Friday’s festivities including Brian Skrudland, Daryl Stanley, Todd Strubey, Roger Kortko and Ron Dreger. Dennis Beyak, who is the voice of the Winnipeg Jets and the Blades assistant general manager during Gordon’s years, will be the emcee for the ceremony. Jackie McLeod and Daryl Lubiniecki, who both had long runs in the roles of head coach and general manager of the Blades, will also be on hand.
    During the presser, Chartier recalled one of the many recent talks he had with Gordon.
    “I asked him if he was scared,” said Chartier. “He said he was not scared.
    “He was just sad. He was sad for things that he won’t see his grand kids (and) his great relationship with his wife (Chris). It doesn’t surprise me one bit that he said he is not scared.
    “As a young guy going to training camp, I saw the determination and the lack of fear that he had as a leader for the Blades.”
    Engele spoke about how members of the police service are held to a higher standard than what is expected of the general public and that the Blades players are expected to hold themselves at a higher level away from the rink and treat everyone with respect. 
Long time Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele talks about Bruce Gordon.
    He said Gordon fit those expectations perfectly.
    “Bruce (Gordon) was a very good example of that as a police officer,” said Engele. “You couldn’t ask for a better person to work with - a harder working person.
    “I would call him a police officer on the ice. He was a hard-nosed hockey player who did his job and worked extremely hard.
    “You would put him more in terms of a plumber level player when he was on the ice. When he was on the ice, he carried a lot of respect.”
    Nogier, whose son Nelson played defence for the Blades from 2012 to 2014, worked with Gordon in the sex crimes unit for a couple of years. The former netminder spoke that the members of the police service think of Gordon when evaluating potential new officers noting the former Blades captain’s integrity and work ethic.
    “When we are looking to hire new prospective young individuals that want to join our police service, we are looking for people that bring certain characteristics with them,” said Nogier. “We look for the person that we know is going to be put into a situation and take those situations on head on.
Blades president Steve Hogle outlines the festivities for Friday night.
    “I heard that there was only six degrees of separation from talking about the sporting world and the policing world. What I’ve learned that when it comes to hockey there is only 1.5 degrees of separation when it comes to that.
    “When I met Bruce (Gordon), I knew quite quickly that this was an individual that for obvious reasons had all those characteristics.”
    Besides former teammates, police officers from Saskatoon and Regina will be attending Friday’s game along with lawyers, triathletes and cross fit athletes. Gordon completed as a triathlete and also took part in ironman competitions.
    During Friday’s game, the Blades will be raising money for cancer research at the Royal University Hospital with the auction of a Kelly Chase signed jersey, the sale of “Be Like Bruce” t-shirts and the proceeds from the night’s 50/50 draw.
A display of some of the Blades Pac-Man jerseys.
    “He (Gordon) exemplified at the rink what a teammate was all about,” said Chartier. “He didn’t want any glory.
    “He took care of each and every one of us. I think we all owe him the respect of coming back this Friday and saying thank you.”
    Blades president Steve Hogle expects few tears will be shed during the festivities on Friday night for Gordon.
    “Everybody he came into contact with was absolutely blown away about how he put others first,” said Hogle.
    “The impact he has had on people is made obvious to us by the reaction that we’ve seen with the alumni, with the police, with the triathlon community, with the legal community, with the cross fit community and they are all rallying and coming out on Friday night.”
    The tribute for Gordon is more than justified. You would be hard pressed to find anyone else that wore the team’s old Pac-Man logo that went on to have bigger impact on the Saskatoon community than Gordon did.

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