Lance Black believes longtime NHLer Reg Leach’s story is “a compelling one of giving back and of redemption.”
That’s part of the reason Black, president of the B.C. Hockey League’s Victoria Grizzlies, is bringing the former Philadelphia Flyers sniper in to be the keynote speaker at the inaugural Grizzlies Gala Dinner and fundraiser auction on Oct. 6 at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort and Spa.
Another is the fact that Black was a kid growing up in Flin Flon, Man. when Leach was starring with the Western Canada (Junior) Hockey League’s Bombers, a team that included future Flyer and Flin Flon native, Bobby Clarke.
Black, a “lifelong Bombers and Flyers fan” who took over from fellow Grizzlies co-owner John Wilson as president before this season, says he’s been looking for ways to increase awareness of the team.
“I was sitting around in the office thinking, what’s a good way to reintroduce people to our hockey club, when I looked over at a picture of Bobby Clarke,” Black says.
He managed to secure an appearance by Leach, who for some time now has spoken to groups about life in hockey, his battle with alcohol and what it was like to go from a tiny First Nations community in Manitoba to the bright lights of the NHL.
Black sees parallels between the Bombers and the Grizzlies.
Flin Flon, a community of 13,000 residents, lost its major junior hockey team in 1978 before re-emerging in junior A in 1985. The West Shore almost lost the Grizzlies, he says, but the combined efforts of the ownership group have started to turn things around.
“The Grizzlies were very close to folding a couple years ago. John Wilson reached out to me and asked how can we get this thing alive again,” Black says.
“We had the largest attendance jump in the league last year … I think we’ve got our mojo back. Now when I phone, people are excited to be a part of our organization.”
Being in first place doesn’t hurt, either, he adds.
Also on the retired hockey pro guest list are Victoria’s Matt Pettinger, who last played for Vancouver in 2010; BCHL president and Canucks alum John Grisdale, and Lyle Moffatt, who spent most of his career with the Winnipeg Jets and has lived in Victoria for many years.
While there is a team fundraising aspect to the night, the evening is more about increasing awareness of the Grizzlies in the community, Black says. The hope is to sell between 200 and 250 tickets for the event, which will be hosted by CFAX radio personality Steve Duffy and have the auctioneering duties handled by fellow radio newsman Cliff Lequesne.
Auction items include four nights in a luxury golf resort home in Montana, a week in a beachfront condo in Cabo San Lucas, a Reggie Leach jersey and a Dallas Stars package that is still being assembled.
Cocktail hour starts at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7. Tickets are $125 each or $450 for half a table (four people) or $900 for an eight-person table and can be booked by calling the Grizzlies office at 250-385-1555, Scott Didmon at 250-213-6660, or Black at 250-514-5609.