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"PON" 2003 Obituary


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PONTURO o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-04-11 published
Hockey News co-founder had winning formula
By James CHRISTIE Friday, April 11, 2003 - Page S10
Toronto -- No one was going to get rich from The Hockey News, Ken McKENZIE freely admitted. The wealth he shared was in the information it contained for fans and those in the hockey industry.
McKENZIE who died Wednesday at Trillium Hospital in Mississauga, was co-founder 1947 -- along with Will CÔTÉ -- of the publication that came to be known as hockey's Bible. He was 79.
His son, John McKENZIE, said Ken died suddenly when he went into septic shock following surgery for colon cancer.
Ken McKENZIE and CÔTÉ birthed a magazine that was a landmark in the Canadian periodicals industry -- a sport publication that survived when so many failed and folded. It evolved from a house organ for the National Hockey League -- McKENZIE was originally an National Hockey League publicist -- into an encyclopedic, authoritative publication. The content matured from reprints of stories by hockey beat writers in six National Hockey League towns to exclusive columns by The Hockey News's own editors and writers such as Steve DRYDEN and Bob McKENZIE (no relation,) who could challenge the National Hockey League and international hockey establishment. Ken McKENZIE was presented with the Elmer Ferguson Award for his pioneering role on the magazine's 50th anniversary in 1997 and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"He loved hockey and sports of all kinds," said John McKENZIE, a correspondent with American Broadcasting Company News in New York. "He had this idea when he was in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He got up on a table in the mess hall and called his buddies around and said 'If I started a hockey paper, would you guys buy it?'
"They all cheered. He started with only $383 and The Hockey News was born."
Ken McKENZIE cited the figure as precisely $383.81 in a 50th anniversary story in The Globe and Mail. He was famed for keeping a close eye on finances down to the penny.
Along with editing associate Charlie HALPIN, McKENZIE operated the paper on a shoestring with a handful of employees. Newspaper beat writers in each team's city were paid only a few dollars.
"When I paid those guys, it was 10 bucks, later on 50 bucks, whatever, it was the going rate," McKENZIE said. "It was always cheap. You weren't going to get rich in this business.... I'd say to a guy, 'You may be big in Calgary or Edmonton or Vancouver, but if you write for this paper, they'll know you all across Canada.' A lot of guys liked that."
As the National Hockey League's publicity director from the 1940s into the late 1960s, McKENZIE developed press and radio guides and had access to teams' statistics and mailing lists. He and CÔTÉ used those to convince almost 4,000 fans to send in $2 each ($3 in the United States) as advance subscription payments to finance the first issue. The circulation was 20,000 by the end of its first year.
The Hockey News under McKENZIE maintained its comfortable relationship with the National Hockey League. McKENZIE bought out COTE's interest in the mid-1960s, then eventually sold 80 per cent of the magazine to New York's WCC Publishing in 1973 for a reported $4-million and the balance in the 1980s. The headquarters moved from Montreal to Toronto and McKENZIE stayed as publisher intil 1981.
He wanted to continue writing and working, rather than retire, and after leaving the hockey paper, he and HALPIN bought into Ontario Golf News. McKENZIE was still associated with the golf paper at his death, said Ontario Golf advertising executive Ted VANCE.
"I know it was first viewed as a house organ, but go through his stuff in the early years and it wasn't strictly milquetoast, said DRYDEN, The Hockey News editor from 1991 to 2002. "He may have had favourites and protected some people. As National Hockey League publicist, he could not be a vociferous critic. But long before the sale of The Hockey News, it was getting an edge to it. In the end, it was a helluva idea."
Added Bob McKENZIE: " Whatever anyone says, it's a good legacy to have started The Hockey News and to see where it's at today." Parent corporation Tanscontinental Publishing said The Hockey News has a paid circulation of more than 100,000.
Ken McKENZIE is survived by his wife Lorraine of Mississauga, four children -- John McKENZIE and Jane Mckenzie KOPEC of New York, Kim McKENZIE in Oakville, Ontario, and Nancy Mckenzie PONTURO in Redding, Connecticut., -- and five grandchildren. His funeral will be 11 a.m., Monday April 14, at St. Luke's Anglican Church on Dixie Road, Mississauga.

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