Yesterday, Huntsville honoured another of its sporting legends.
Surrounded by family and friends, former Huntsville resident Roy MacGregor helped to unveil a display of some of his sports memorabilia at the Don Lough Arena.
“It’s like a reunion!” said Mayor Scott Aitchison, and indeed it was. Among those gathered were MacGregor’s longtime friends and hockey pals, Tim Kelly and Don Strano—who appear in a boyhood photo in the display along with MacGregor, Peter Salmon and Doug Conway—and former neighbours Murray and Stella Ruby.
MacGregor laughed over that photo, which captures five young, smiling hockey players, arms around each other, and in which he is sporting a black eye. “Just to show you how close Eric [Ruby] and I have been over the years, he and I had an argument yesterday about whether he gave it to me or Brent [Munroe, another boyhood friend] gave it to me. We fought on the first day coming home from kindergarten and we stayed best friends forever, and I appreciate that so much.”
And of Kelly he said, “We used to have serious discussions about who was the better player, Bobby Orr or Tim Kelly. Tim could hold his own.”
Ever the storyteller, with more than 50 book titles to his name and an exceptional journalism career, MacGregor shared some delightful tales with those gathered for the occasion. Like the one about the old-timers team he was part of that went to Helsinki, Finland to play a few exhibition games, “the ones that foolishly called themselves the Toronto Maple Leaves.” An error in translation from English to Finnish noted that they were the ex-Leafs and they arrived to arenas filled to the brim with hockey fans. “They took one look at us and they only put four players on the ice.”
Or the time that they went to Russia, while MacGregor was working for Maclean’s magazine. “There was a guy in Poland called Lech Wałęsa and he was causing all kinds of problems and they said if Poland blows up we want you to be there.” Maclean’s gave MacGregor a folder of information to take along, one he threw in his hockey bag without reading first. “It was all kinds of documentation, stories about how bad Russia was,” he said. “Needless to say, it took me hours and hours and hours to get through customs. I was detained, body searched, and came out with a good story.”
And there was an emotional moment, too, after a small, framed article next to the display was revealed. It’s a copy of a story that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, headed by a sketch of some hockey players.
“Our eldest daughter Kerry, she was so affected by the Humboldt bus crash, that she drew this,” explained MacGregor. “She’s not an artist, but she drew this little thing about the team arriving at heaven, and this fellow known as Jonathan [Pitre], the butterfly boy, who had died earlier and had always dreamed about playing hockey.”
In the cartoon, the Humboldt players ask Pitre, who, the article explains, couldn’t play hockey because of his rare skin condition but who MacGregor’s daughter has decked out in hockey gear on that heavenly sheet of ice, ‘Hey, you play?’ The cartoon went viral online and is now being used to raise funds for an organization that supports families affected by the same disease Pitre had.
(Above left) An article about a cartoon sketched by MacGregor’s daughter Kerry that depicts Humboldt Broncos hockey players and “butterfly boy” Jonathan Pitre, who died within days of each other.
(Above right) Details of MacGregor’s sport and journalism history are included in the display.
MacGregor has received many accolades for his illustrious career: he was inducted into both the Ontario and Huntsville Sports Halls of Fame in 2015 and 2013 respectively, he was a media inductee in the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012, and he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005, among other awards.
He is humble about all of it, and joked, “I think too much of this is positive, you should really balance out with a bit of the truth, so next time I come over I will be bringing my grade 12 report card on which the principal Doug Stone wrote in large red letters on the bottom of it going, going—”
Mayor Aitchison noted that it was special treat to be able to share some of MacGregor’s sports memorabilia with the Huntsville community. “Huntsville has one of the richest sports pasts, sports histories, sports cultures of any community anywhere in Ontario. We made a commitment to try to celebrate it.”
Councillor Johnathan Wiebe, who chairs the Sports Memorabilia Working Group and co-chairs the Community Services Advisory Committee, added, “I’m really excited about this… This is just one more example of our community showing and sharing stories from the past, and the stories that we tell are really the things that make up our community and make up who we are.” He thanked working group members Sara White, Amanda Hill, Teri Souter and Kari Lambe, for their efforts.
The Roy MacGregor Sports Memorabilia display is available for viewing in the upper warm viewing area of the Don Lough Arena any time the Canada Summit Centre is open.
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