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"DUH" 2003 Obituary


DUHATSCHEK 

DUHATSCHEK o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-06-23 published
A remarkable life, and a friend to all
By Eric DUHATSCHEK Monday, June 23, 2003 - Page S1
Nashville -- Roger NEILSON's legacy in hockey will endure because he coached 1,000 games among eight National Hockey League teams, because he was an innovator and because he served as a mentor and a tutor to others during a Hall of Fame career.
But the contributions of NEILSON, who died Saturday in Peterborough, Ontario, at 69 after a lengthy battle with cancer, contain a vibrancy matched by few others because of the countless Friendships he developed during his lifetime.
The proof of that came in June of last year when a dozen of his closest Friends organized a tribute to NEILSON. It was held in Toronto, a day before the National Hockey League awards dinner, to make it easier for people to attend, which they did. More than 1,300 people were there.
NEILSON was responsible for helping several players and coaches get to the National Hockey League, including Bob GAINEY, Craig RAMSAY and Colin CAMPBELL, players on the Peterborough Petes junior team that NEILSON coached in the 1970s.
Among those who benefited from NEILSON's guidance was Florida Panthers coach Mike KEENAN. Scotty BAUMAN/BOWMAN, the Hall of Fame coach, recalled Saturday how NEILSON talked him into hiring KEENAN, who had also coached the Petes, into running the Buffalo Sabres' minor-league affiliate in Rochester, New York in the early 1980s.
"Roger didn't have any enemies," KEENAN said. "He lived his life in a principled way. He had a great deal of respect for people and found goodness in all of them. He was very unique and all of us were blessed to know him.
"I'm saddened by his passing, but to me, this is a life to be celebrated, a life that was so influential to many of us."
NEILSON had an endless fascination with the rulebook that forced the powers in whatever league he happened to be coaching in to revise and clarify each loophole he probed. For a penalty shot, he would put a defenceman in the crease instead of a goaltender, instructing the defenceman to rush the shooter as soon as the latter crossed the blueline, to hurry him into a mistake.
Once, when his team was already two players short with less than two minutes remaining in the game, NEILSON kept sending players over the boards, getting penalties for delaying the game. The strategy worked, taking time off the clock and upsetting the other team's flow. At that stage of the game, it didn't matter how many penalties NEILSON's team was taking. If a coach tried that tactic today, the opposition would be awarded a penalty shot.
NEILSON, whose last job was as an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators, coached his 1,000th National Hockey League game on the final night of the 2001-02 regular season, temporarily filling in for Senators head coach Jacques MARTIN. NEILSON was involved with a dozen National Hockey League teams in a series of different capacities, including his eight different turns as a head coach. In 1982, he took the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup final, his one and only appearance in the championship series as a coach. The Canucks were swept by the New York Islanders.
It was during that playoff run that NEILSON placed a white towel on the end of a stick, a mock surrender to the on-ice officials.
In 1999, NEILSON was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer, and needed a bone marrow transplant. He also developed skin cancer, the result of a lifetime of being outdoors, in the sun, usually in raggedy old shorts and T-shirts, with a well-worn baseball cap perched on his head.
"He put in an incredible, inspiring fight with an insidious disease," said KEENAN, who added that NEILSON kept in constant contact with his mother Thelma, after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
"They found strength in each other. That's the type of individual Roger was. He'd reach out and touch somebody who needed help. He was deathly in pain the last few times we spoke, but he would not let it influence his life."
The high regard for NEILSON was clear during the tribute for him last year. Former coach and Hockey Night in Canada analyst Harry NEALE, who worked with NEILSON in Vancouver, was the master of ceremonies. But he was so overcome by emotion so many times that he let his good friend Roger steal the show.
NEILSON's self-deprecating sense of humor surfaced when he scanned the crowd and suggested that everyone he'd ever said hello to in his lifetime had turned up for the event. He quipped that at $125 a ticket, it must be an National Hockey League production. What other organization would set the price so outrageously high?
NEILSON's health was deteriorating this spring, but he managed to accompany the Senators on the road for their second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Senators pushed the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the New Jersey Devils, to seven games in the Eastern Conference final before being eliminated.
NEILSON's speech to the team before Game 6, with the Senators trailing 3-1 in the series, was cited by the players and the coaching staff as the inspiration for their comeback against the Devils.
"The only sad part is we weren't able to win a Stanley Cup for him this year," Martin said.
With his health failing, NEILSON asked BAUMAN/BOWMAN to be the keynote speaker at his annual coaching clinic in Windsor earlier this month.
"I talked to him only a week ago," BAUMAN/BOWMAN said. "I said, 'The coaches in the National Hockey League are getting blamed a lot for the [defensive] style that teams are playing.' I said, 'You should blame Roger NEILSON because he's the one training all these coaches.'
"Roger was a special person. The people that follow hockey know what he went through. I truly think he battled it right to the end and it was hockey that probably kept Roger going." eduhatschek@globeandmail.ca
Remembering Roger NEILSON
"The coaches in the National Hockey League have been getting blamed a lot for the style of game the teams are playing. I said, 'You should blame Roger NEILSON because he's training all these coaches.' "He battled right to the end. Hockey and life for Roger were intertwined. That probably kept him going to the end. He never got married. He was married to hockey."
Scott BAUMAN/BOWMAN
"All the awards he won this year tell you about his hockey career's innovativeness and what kind of person he is. Some people are going to remember Roger for nothing to do with hockey just because of what a humanitarian he is. He put up an unbelievable battle. From when he found out how sick he was, if had happened to most people, they would have had their demise many months ago. He fought hard."
Jim GREGORY
"I know I haven't met a person who could equal Roger's passion for hockey. The honours bestowed on him in the past year, the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada, did not come by accident. He has done so much for so many kids and I will always remember that legacy."
Harry NEALE
"He's an individual we can all be inspired by, by his ability to deal with some difficult situations in his own life. He has such a high level of respect for human beings. "He was fortunate in way he lived his life. It was impacted by his faith and his religion. He observed those principles on a daily basis, things most of us have a hard time dealing with. He saw the goodness in everyone else."
Mike KEENAN
"He did a lot of work at the grassroots level with his hockey camps, coaches' clinics, his baseball teams, his summer programs. He wasn't really in it for himself very much. "It's a word you use too often to make it special but in his case he was unique, he really was."
Bob GAINEY
"Hockey has lost a great mind, a great spirit, a great friend. The National Hockey League family mourns his loss but celebrates his legacy -- the generations of players he counselled, the coaches he moulded, the changes his imagination inspired and the millions of fans he entertained."
Gary BETTMAN
Life and times
Born: June 16, 1934, in Toronto.
Education: Roger NEILSON graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton with a degree in physical education.
Nickname: Captain Video because he was the first to analyze game videos to pick apart opponents' weaknesses.
Coaching career: NEILSON coached hockey teams for 50 years. He was a National Hockey League coach for Toronto, Buffalo, Vancouver, Los Angeles, the New York Rangers, Florida, Philadelphia and Ottawa. The Senators let him coach a game on April 13, 2002, so he could reach 1,000 for his career. He was an National Hockey League assistant in Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis and Ottawa.
Major Honours: Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builders category last year. Invested into the Order of Canada in May.
Tributes: ESPN Classic Canada will air a 24-hour tribute to NEILSON beginning today at 6 p.m. eastern daylight time. The programming will include a profile, footage from the famous white towel game during the 1982 Stanley Cup playoffs and his 1,000th game behind the bench.
Funeral: Services for NEILSON will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday at North View Pentecostal Church in Peterborough, Ontario (705-748-4573). The church is at the corner of Fairbairn Street and Tower Hill Road.

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DUHATSCHEK o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-17 published
Life was good for MAGNUSON
By Eric DUHATSCHEK, With a report from Allan MAKI Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - Page S1
It was one of those "catching up with" features newspapers run every so often. Last January, the Chicago Sun-Times profiled Keith MAGNUSON, one of the most popular players ever to pull on a Chicago Blackhawks sweater.
To the thousands who used to pack the old Chicago Stadium, MAGNUSON's ever-lasting appeal came from a rough-and-tumble playing style that produced a cracked cheekbone, three knee injuries requiring surgery, a torn Achilles' tendon, two broken ankles, a dislocated elbow, three broken jaws, a broken vertebra, a broken wrist, a dislocated shoulder, three missing teeth and more than 400 stitches.
MAGNUSON, after reflecting on his career, his hobbies and all the aches and pains that resulted from a 10-year National Hockey League career, observed: "Otherwise, I feel great. Cindy [his wife] and I are real proud of our kids."
"Life is good," MAGNUSON concluded.
Life for MAGNUSON ended at the age of 56 in a fatal automobile accident on Monday afternoon as he was returning home from a funeral for National Hockey League alumni association chairman Keith McCREARY, who died last week of cancer. MAGNUSON was the passenger in a car driven by former National Hockey League player Rob RAMAGE, the vice-chairman of the alumni association.
MAGNUSON played 589 National Hockey League games for the Blackhawks, and on his retirement in October of 1979, he joined the team's coaching staff, as an assistant to Eddie JOHNSTON. JOHNSTON, now the Pittsburgh Penguins' assistant general manager, remembered MAGNUSON yesterday as "the ultimate competitor. I mean, when Keith MAGNUSON put on the skates on, you didn't just get 100 per cent, you got 110 per cent every night. He just played with so much passion, it was unreal."
The Blackhawks made it to the Stanley Cup final twice in MAGNUSON's career, in 1971 and 1973, losing both times to the Montreal Canadiens. It was the heyday of hockey in Chicago. The Blackhawks had Dennis and Bobby HULL, the legendary Stan MIKITA and Tony ESPOSITO, a future Hall Of Fame member, in goal. MAGNUSON's job was to protect ESPOSITO, and he did it with a passion that JOHNSTON said was contagious in the Blackhawks' dressing room.
"What he always did very, very well was set the tone early in the game. He let the opposition know that when you dropped the puck in the game, "This was what you were going to see, guys, for 60 minutes.' "
MAGNUSON, who most recently was the director of sales for Coca-Cola Enterprises, grew up in Saskatoon as an all-round athlete. He was a boyhood chum of former National Hockey League coach Dave KING. The two attended Churchill elementary school and used to play 1-on-1 hockey: KING as a forward and MAGNUSON as a defenceman.
Eventually, MAGNUSON and four other teenagers from Saskatoon earned scholarships at the University of Denver and helped the Pioneers win two National Collegiate Athletic Association championships. MAGNUSON and Tim GOULD played every sport together and were also teamed as defence partners.
"We never missed a shift," said GOULD, whose wife, a nurse in Calgary, woke him early yesterday to inform him of MAGNUSON's death. "He was the greatest guy and a good friend."
GOULD said he and MAGNUSON used to dream up ways to get MAGNUSON to hockey, football and baseball games on Sunday.
MAGNUSON's parents were Baptists and considered the Sabbath a day of rest. It became GOULD's job to sneak into the MAGNUSON home while they were at church and take Keith's equipment to the rink or the diamond.
"Of course, if we scored a goal or a run, our names would be mentioned in the newspaper the next day," GOULD said. "But we thought we were keeping it secret."
GOULD said MAGNUSON was best known among his Friends for having a poor memory. Once in Saskatoon, MAGNUSON drove his dad's car to the rink for a Blades game, only to drive home with a teammate, the two of them completely immersed in the game they had just played.
The next morning, MAGNUSON's father asked where the car was. "Keith had to run back to the rink to get it," said Dale ZEMAN, another of MAGNUSON's former junior and college teammates. "There was also the night Keith and I went bowling when we were freshmen at Denver. We came out and couldn't find the car. It had rolled backwards three blocks because Keith forgot to put it in park."
GOULD said: "He was awful forgetful. We're having a reunion in June [for Denver University hockey] and we had a card printed up, and Keith's quote on it was: 'I'm going to be there -- and Cliff [KOROLL] is going to remind me.' The memories, that's what get you through this."
MAGNUSON is survived by his wife, his daughter, Molly, and his son, Kevin, a former University of Michigan defenceman who had a tryout with the Blackhawks. Recently, after a short playing career in the East Coast Hockey League, Kevin had gone back to school for his law degree, JOHNSTON said.
"To have something like this happen, this close to the holidays, the timing couldn't be worse. It's never good, but geez, here he is, going up there for a funeral for Keith McCREARY and then to have something like this happen.
"God, it's awful," he said. "We'll miss him. He was such a big part of the community in Chicago, an icon. Everybody knew Keith MAGNUSON. It's an awful tragedy."
San Jose Sharks general manager Doug WILSON, another of MAGNUSON's close Friends, was badly shaken by his former teammate's death. WILSON said he thought of MAGNUSON as something of a father figure. "Keith has had a profound influence on my life." Really, all I can say is, all my thoughts and prayers are with Cindy and the kids right now."
Jim DEMARIA, the Blackhawks executive director of communications, worked closely with MAGNUSON in his role as the founder and president of the Chicago alumni association.
"Any time you needed something, you could call Maggy," DEMARIA said. "He was the first guy in line to help any kind of charity you had. I mean, he was just that kind of person. And when the team wasn't doing real well, he was down in the room, talking to the coaches, telling the players, 'keep your chin up, keep working, things will turn around.' He was a real positive guy."

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