It was a night filled with stories and excitement as the NHL Alumni Association hosted their 18th annual NHL Alumni Awards Gala Celebration. The awards for the evening included the 2019 Keith Magnuson ‘Man of the Year’: presented to an NHL Alumni member who has applied the intangibles of perseverance, commitment and teamwork developed through the game into a successful post-career transition. The Keith McCreary ‘7th Teammate Award’: a member of the NHL family who has been a positive ambassador in the hockey community. The Ace Bailey ‘Award of Courage’: presented to a recipient who has shown exceptional courage and exemplary determination in life. The Outstanding Alumni Award: given to an individual Alumni Chapter President that is dedicated to the success of their local Alumni chapter by community involvement and contributing to growing the game at the grassroots level. NHL Alumni Honorary Member: presented to a group or individual who has distinguished themselves as a prominent figure in their dedicated field.
To kick off the night, a cocktail reception was hosted with drinks as Alumni, family and media members mingled with attendees such as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. Once the ceremony was ready to take place, everyone filed into the event space where veteran TV host Ron MacLean started the night. MacLean brought up Gary Bettman to make the ‘first assist’, by handing off the Stanley Cup to Bourque. In 2001, after Colorado won the Stanley Cup, Captain Joe Sakic, took the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and traded it right off to Ray Bourque to have the first lift. An iconic moment that continued today. The Stanley Cup was brought out and Bettman handed it to a surprised and smiling Bourque for an unforgettable moment.
This was something special, “With everybody that’s come before me that’s won this award, it’s an incredible honour and privilege to be here tonight.” Bourque stated. Being a prominent NHL Alumni member and hockey legend who has continued to be involved in the game and community through his work with the Bourque Family Foundation, which has changed countless number of lives. His foundation has contributed over 20 million dollars to over 1,000 different organizations. His success on the ice has transitioned over to his successful charitable efforts and Ray was incredibly deserving of this year’s Keith Magnuson ‘Man of The Year’ Award. “For me, it’s an honor to win.” Bourque.
During January of the 2019 NHL season, the St. Louis Blues and defenseman Colton Parayko were sitting in last place. With little to no hope of making the playoffs, the team battled back with an improbable run leading them to becoming considerable Stanley Cup contenders. Cheering the whole way was a young girl named Laila Anderson. Laila was in a battle of her own, after being diagnosed with HLH, a rare life-threatening auto-immune disease that only a limited amount of people in the world have ever been diagnosed with. NHL Alumni member Kelly Chase introduced Laila to Alexander Steen as she was in the hospital, which sparked an immediate friendship that was soon joined by Colton Parayko and other St. Louis teammates. Her inspiring story served as motivation for the team during the playoffs to battle strong, hard and not give up. Being surprised with tickets to playoff games on multiple occasions and eventually being there for their Stanley Cup win, Laila was a vital part of the team’s historic season and Stanley Cup Championship. Laila was named the 2019 winner of the Keith McCreary 7th Teammate Award, with Kelly Chase presenting her with a miniature Stanley Cup to pair with her official Stanley Cup ring, given to her by her boys. Laila’s strength was an inspiration to the team and everyone who heard her story.
On April 6th, 2018 the entire nation was stunned to learn of the tragic Humboldt accident that saw the loss of 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, including Jaxon Joseph, son of NHL Alumni Chris Joseph. In the aftermath of this painful event, Chris and his family have been a beacon of hope for those affected and the country as a whole. Chris’ compassion, openness, and determination to make roads safer are constant embodiments of strength and courage for the entire hockey community. We are tremendously honoured to name Chris Joseph as our 2019 Ace Bailey ‘Award of Courage’ recipient.
Next on the list was the Outstanding Alumni Award. This was the award’s first year and came by a unanimous decision: Cliff Koroll. Not only is he an active member in the community but also the Chicago Alumni Chapter President. In attendance was Chicago great Dennis Hull, and was summoned to the stage to hand off the award. The two played seven seasons in Chicago together, reaching the playoffs every year. Koroll had rightfully earned this award by dedicating efforts in his local chapter to grow the game at the grassroots level. A well-deserving honour for a man whose impact is continuing today through his work in the Chicago Chapter.
To wrap up a night filled tremendous successes and achievements, the final award was the NHL Alumni Honorary Member. This designation is awarded to someone who has never suited up for an NHL team or played in a single NHL game, more so they have distinguished themselves in their own field. This year’s winner, Captain Charles Scot-Brown, has done more than distinguish himself, he has fought for his country, having served in World War II during the largest seaborne invasion in history on D-Day. A highly decorated veteran who had the tough task of taking out German radar installations on Sword Beach, Charles Scot-Brown is a prime example and embodies everything the honour is about. The NHL Alumni is truly grateful for his bravery and sacrifice.
Celebrating these awards is a special date on the calendar every year. The history of past recipients are all unique in their own way. This year’s ‘class’ adds to that bringing with them memories and stories that won’t be forgotten. Their hard work and dedication continue on beyond the sport and floods into the community where their efforts will have a lasting impact. It was another successful ceremony and we look forward to next year!