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Celebrating Tillsonburg’s hockey heritage

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Tillsonburg has much to be proud of when it comes to hockey.

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In his remarks at the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour opening ceremonies at the Tillsonburg Community Centre Saturday morning, Mayor Stephen Molnar noted Tillsonburg is the hometown of Colin Campbell, NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, and his son Gregory Campbell, a winner of the Stanley Cup in 2011 (Colin reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1982).

It was the hockey home for Gary Green, who at the age of 26 in 1978-79 became the youngest coach in NHL history … and Harley Hotchkiss, former co-owner of the Calgary Flames and chairman of the NHL’s board of governors from 1995-2007… and Eddie Oatman, who won the Stanley Cup in 1912 and had a 29-year professional hockey career.

The Town of Tillsonburg, now approaching its 150 th year in 2022, was also home to The Livvies basketball team, who represented Canada at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Molnar noted.

Tillsonburg’s Kinsmen Memorial Arena was built in 1949, replacing the town’s first arena (the 1902-1927 Barkley Brothers Electric Rink), and Gerry Livingston was actively involved in raising community funds to build the Memorial Arena.

In 2003, said Molnar, the Memorial arena was renovated with participation and fundraising support from the It’s for Everyone Revitalization committee. One of the fundraisers featured Ron MacLean and Don Cherry.

In 2017, the Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club was host to an NHL 100 event, which also included MacLean as a keynote speaker.

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Stompin’ Tom Connors, widely known for his Tillsonburg song, wrote and performed The Hockey Song. Molnar noted Connors’ obituary was presented by Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden.

In addition to the Colin Campbell Community Arena and Kinsmen Memorial Arena, Tillsonburg is home to the JL Scott McLean Outdoor Recreation Pad, which opened in January 2019.

“Beyond the celebration of Tillsonburg’s rich sports and hockey history, we also continue to celebrate our true local heroes,” said Molnar, noting the contributions of primary and public care health workers, emergency service personnel (fire and dispatch, OPP, EMS) and essential workers.

“Join in saying thank you for their efforts to ensure our personal and community health and safety, especially over the past 22 months in the COVID-19 pandemic. As we enjoy the fireworks this (Saturday) evening, let the sights and sounds echo our appreciation for what they have all individually and collectively done for us.

“Welcome and enjoy the weekend, and for those from out of town, thanks for coming and please return often to enjoy the sights, sounds and flavours of Tillsonburg as we launch our 150 Years in 2022.”

The weekend Rogers Hometown Hockey festival schedule included live music by CJ Lee and Happy Pappy. NHL alumni Gregory Campbell signed autographs. Scheduled on site events included the Sobeys Grocery Games, Hockey Circus Show, Playmobil Wordplay, Harvey’s Great Can-EH-dian Trivia and the Desjardins Rink Community Cup (ball hockey). And on Monday, starting at 7 pm., a live SportsNet broadcast from the Tillsonburg Community Centre with Ron MacLean and Tara Stone.

Happy Pappy was on stage during the Rogers Hometown Hockey festival in Tillsonburg Sunday. (Chris Abbott/Norfolk and Tillsonburg News)
Happy Pappy was on stage during the Rogers Hometown Hockey festival in Tillsonburg Sunday. (Chris Abbott/Norfolk and Tillsonburg News)

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