By Marty Hastings
Kamloops This Week
Molly Clovechok knows it hasn’t really hit home, the reality of losing her husband of more than 69 years.
Kamloops hockey legend Andy Clovechok died peacefully on Saturday night. He was 93.
“I’m very fortunate to have family around me, but I know it’s not going to be easy,” 92-year-old Molly told KTW on Monday morning. “I sit here and think of things in the past. He was just great. He was loved by everybody.”
In 2012, Handy Andy, as he was known back when, was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in the team category with the 1945-1946 Vancouver Canucks, who played their inaugural season in the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHL) that year.
The induction ceremony sealed Andy’s hall-of-fame hat trick. He was already in the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, as a member of the 1947-1948 Edmonton Flyers who won the senior men’s Allan Cup.
“Imagine that, eh?” Andy, then 89, told KTW. “I’m looking forward to this one because that’s where I started in 1945-46 and it’s been a long time.”
Clovechok was paid about $60 a week during the Canucks’ inaugural season, in which he won the PCHL scoring title with 103 points, 56 of them goals. He was given a $40 raise for his exploits.
Born in Slovakia, Clovechok moved to Rosedale, Alta., with his mother when he was five. His father was already there, working in a coal mine.
In 1942, Clovechok joined the military service and eventually found himself in Lethbridge, where he played for the Bombers. After a stint with the Sea Island Seahawks in Vancouver, he attended training camp with the Canucks in 1945.
Vancouver bested the PCHL’s Southern Division-winning Hollywood Wolves 4-1 in the best-of-seven final series and was crowned 1945-1946 champion.
That same year, the Canucks won the United States Amateur Championship, beating the Eastern Hockey League champion Boston Olympics in Game 7 of a thrilling series played at the Vancouver Forum.
Clovechok moved to Kamloops in 1951 to play for the senior Elks and never left.
He bought a carpet and upholstery business in 1955 and became involved in Kamloops minor hockey for decades to come, serving as a coach, referee and director.
“Andy was instrumental in helping with the development of women’s hockey in the late 1970s,” KJ Klontz, a champion of the women’s game herself, wrote on Facebook. “A true gentleman. Sincere condolences to the Clovechok clan.”
CFJC-TV sports director Earl Seitz moved to the River City to do play-by-play for the 1973-1974 Kamloops Chiefs. Andy was his colour man.
“He was my Don Cherry. Not as controversial, but certainly every bit as insightful,” Seitz said. “He was an icon. I never heard anybody say a bad word about him. Ever.”
In 2009, Clovechok, who served for 24 years on the Kamloops Blazers’ board of directors when the franchise was owned and operated by the non-profit Kamloops Blazers Sports Society, was named a Blazer Legend in the builders’ category.
Handy Andy is Mr. Hockey in Kamloops and he bled blue and orange.
The Kamloops Junior Oilers became the Blazers before the 1984-1985 campaign. Andy did not miss a Blazers’ home game until the night he was inducted to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in September of 2012.
Molly and Andy — who had three children, Don, Terry and Jane — have their names etched onto their seats at Sandman Centre.
“This past season, he hadn’t been able to go, but listened to all the games on the radio,” Molly said. “He was always a Blazer. We’re part of the Blazers.”
Andy had taken a fall and broken his hip. He then contracted pneumonia and was fighting other illnesses in hospital.
“I know he wouldn’t have wanted to carry on that way,” Molly said. “He had a peaceful passing, but we’ll all miss him terribly.”
Neither his hockey legacy nor his character are in doubt, judging by the outpouring of support the family is receiving.
“There have been so many calls and cards at the door. I try to accommodate people and there are a lot of people around and arriving,” said Molly, whose 70th wedding anniversary would have been next July.
“It won’t hit me for a little while, I don’t think. Everybody loved him. He was a great man.”