November 06, 2008

Honoring Ed Chynoweth

We're heading into Hockey Hall of Fame weekend. Players Igor Larionov and Glenn Anderson, and even the popular linesman Ray Scapinello will take almost all of the spotlight.

But there is a 4th person being inducted into the Hall this weekend. The late Ed Chynoweth is the only builder being inducted in 2008. Builders are no less important, and, in Chynoweth's case anyways, often more important than players.

I could never give Ed Chynoweth the proper credit that is due. So what I've done is asked Gregg Drinnan of Taking Note and The Kamloops Daily News to share his immense knowledge of Ed Chynoweth and of junior hockey history. If you are looking to keep up on the Western Hockey League or read some high quality junior hockey history content, definitely check out Drinnan's blog Taking Note.

For a full biography of Chynoweth's life and immense impact on not only junior hockey but all of hockey, Drinnan suggested reading this memorial piece.

He also offers this from a previous Kamloops Daily News column.

Born in Dodsland, Sask., Chynoweth almost became a lawyer – yes, a lawyer – before briefly venturing into the hotel business and then joining the Saskatoon Blades where he was the assistant general manager under the legendary Jack McLeod. From there, it was into the WHL office, which really was in its early days. With the exception of 1979-80, when he worked as the general manager of the Calgary Wranglers, Chynoweth ran the WHL from 1973 through the summer of 1995.

Chynoweth actually started in the WHL office in 1972 as the assistant to executive secretary Thomas K. Fisher. Chynoweth was named president at the league's annual meeting in Saskatoon in June 1973.

How much did things change under Chynoweth?

In 1973-74, the WHL had 12 teams, all of them in Canada; in 1994-95, there were 16 teams, five of them based in the U.S.

The Medicine Hat Tigers got into the league in time for the 1970-71 season. The Tigers paid a $2,000 expansion fee and became the league’s 10th team.

By the summer of 2006, Chynoweth was the majority owner of the Ice and the chairman of the board of governors. That summer, the Edmonton Oil Kings joined the WHL, paying a $4-million expansion fee in the process.

One year later, the Kamloops Blazers would be sold for more than $6 million.

The WHL under Chynoweth became a big business – a big, big business. And he wasn’t sure that he liked it. He had been there since the early days and he knew that it was the smaller communities that were the backbone of his league. He knew that his league needed communities like Moose Jaw and Prince Albert and Swift Current and Medicine Hat and Brandon, places where their WHL teams really were the only show in town.

"He has so much to do with the story of the Western Hockey League becoming modern,” Moose Jaw Warriors governor Darren Chow told the Regina Leader-Post’s Rob Vanstone. "With Moose Jaw, for instance, it has gone from a purchase of $250,000 to a team that's probably worth $10 million now.”

But don't think Chynoweth was all about business. In fact, Drinnan suggests Chynoweth's biggest legacy was greatly increased player education:

But you can’t mention Ed Chynoweth without referencing what is his greatest legacy – the WHL’s education policy. Basically, what it does is provide a player with a year’s worth of education (tuition and books) for each season played. It isn’t perfect but it’s far more than teams offered in the early years.

Back then, Chynoweth spent a lot of time talking about education without getting anywhere. Eventually, like water dripping from a faucet, he got through to ownership.

A press release issued by the WHL office in October 2008 announced “that a total of 246 WHL graduate players have been awarded WHL scholarships for the 2008-09 academic year. The WHL scholarship recipients are enrolled as full-time students in 57 different post-secondary institutions throughout North America.”

Special Thanks To Gregg Drinnan.

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