By Brennan Phillips
Special to the Western News
The BC Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed four inductees into the family this year.
“These awards aren’t just about us retired players, it’s about the kids that come after us,” said Willie Mitchell, 2018 inductee during his speech. “I hope that my inclusion in the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame will inspire more kids to find their own way, whatever way in the world.”
Mitchell played for the Kelowna Spartans and the Melfort Mustangs in Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He got his NHL start after being drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1996. In the 2006 off-season, Mitchell signed with the Vancouver Canucks, and earned the title of top defensemen on the team twice, in 2008 and 2009.
After four seasons with the Canucks, he moved to the Los Angeles Kings, where he won two Stanley Cups. Mitchell represented Canada at the 2004 World Championships and helped bring home the gold for his country.
“Hockey has taken me to some incredible places; the Czech Republic, Madison Square Garden in New York, Stockholm, Germany,” Mitchell paused for a moment before adding, “And, Melfort, Saskatchewan.”
The evening began by remembering those who had been lost over the last year. Attendees were met at their tables by ribbons, in the colours of the Humboldt Broncos. The late Duncan Wray, owner of the Vernon Vipers, was paid tribute with the video retrospective that played during his induction in 2011.
“For the group standing behind me, our journey began in 1964, 54 years ago, ” said Gary Forbes, the general manager and coach for the Burnaby Lakers during the 1979/80 season when they took the Hardy Cup.
The Lakers were the North Shore League and playoff champions, defeating teams from Vernon, Prince Rupert, and Port Alberni, Alberta and Fredericton on their hunt to win the Canadian Intermediate A Hockey Championship, the Hardy Cup.
“We wanted to go as far as we could, we never really thought we’d get as far as we did, but we knew we were a really tight group of guys who really loved hockey,” said Forbes. “Gentlemen, the journey we started is complete. We went all the way.”
The second inductee was Gerry Sillers, who served as president of the Canucks Alumni for 27 years.
“I must say I feel a little bit awkward up here,” said Sillers. “I’m used to standing on the other side, handing out the awards, so bear with me.”
Part of the Vancouver Canucks for 50 years, after retiring from playing, Sillers joined the Canucks Alumni. As president of the alumni, Sillers helped raise almost $2 million for a number of charitable organizations and for his work was presented with the NHL’s 7th Man Award by the NHL Players Association.
“I’ve often said that when you volunteer for something you truly believe in, you don’t ask for or expect anything in return. You just hope that your time and effort are appreciated. And tonight, to be inducted into the B..C HHOF, is the ultimate gift of appreciation.”
“This is such a great honour,” said Scott Hannan, “looking back at all the past inductees. It’s such a privilege to be included with such a prestigious group. “
Hannan played for the Kelowna Rockets, from which he was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 1997. Though he spent the majority of his NHL experience with the Sharks, Hannan also played for a number of different teams, including the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals, and Nashville Predators.
“My junior career started in Kelowna. I was there in the beginning, back in the old Memorial Arena,” said Hannan. “You could see the foundations of what the team has built since those early days.”
Mitchell was another graduate from Kelowna’s hockey programs.
“The game has introduced me to some wonderful human beings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen back on the lessons learned from great teams and great leaders in my professional career, so the game just keeps giving,” he said in closing.