Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Hockey world mourns loss of Baizley

  • Print
default video player to use on WFP

Don Baizley died the way he lived: with dignity, with compassion for others and without fanfare.

"He was probably the most honest, caring and compassionate individual I know," offered lifelong friend Vic Grant. "I’ve known Don a long time, but he’s taught me a lot in the last 14 months. All through this, he’s only been worried about others."

Baizley, 71, passed away early Thursday morning after a battle with non-smoker’s lung cancer, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most powerful, yet unassuming, members of Canada’s professional hockey community.

Baizley first gained prominence in the early 1970s as the agent for WHA Winnipeg Jets’ superstars Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and Lars Erik Sjoberg before going on to represent a who’s-who of NHL stars, including Teemu Selanne, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya and Theoren Fleury.

"He was just the epitome of a nice guy."

-Bob Irving

But Baizley loathed to be referred to as a player agent. "He was a lawyer who represented clients," chuckled CJOB sports director Bob Irving, a friend and colleague.

Baizley has long been considered a behind-the-scenes foundation for the success of the original WHA Jets, who eventually were absorbed into the NHL in 1979. Baizley’s relationship with Swedish and Finnish players, in particular, was the backbone of a intentionally short list of players, by mega-agent standards. Baizley’s client career spanned from Hedberg and Nilsson to current Winnipeg Jet defenceman Toby Enstrom.

"Let’s put it this way: if not for 'Baiz' Winnipeg would never have seen the likes of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson," said Grant, who first met Baizley when both were high school field lacrosse players. Their relationship grew when Baizley began representing WHA players while Grant covered the Jets for the Winnipeg Tribune, before a two-plus-decade radio career with CJOB.

"He was instrumental in that movement of Swedish and Finnish players (to North America). With him getting those players to come over... that was a main building block to what we have today."

Shunned publicity

Baizley was notorious in the hockey industry for shunning publicity.

"He was just so genuine," Irving said. "He was humble. He never, ever wanted to be in the limelight. He had the most integrity. He’s one of the most super people I’ve ever met in my life. He was just the epitome of a nice guy."

Added Grant: "He was not only a hockey mentor to these players, he was a family mentor, too."

In fact, Joe Sakic, now Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations of the Colorado Avalanche, spent three hours with Baizley in Winnipeg this past Sunday.

Anders Hedberg made five visits to Winnipeg over recent months to visit his ailing friend. Kariya and Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu also made treks to see Baizley.

In an email to the Free Press, Hedberg wrote: "Baiz, as we always called him, was honest, funny, smart, a listener and advisor and quality right through. He was one of a kind. My wife (Gun-Marie) and I are very lucky to have know him and very sorry to have lost such a dear friend."

Baizley’s fondness for his hometown was also legendary. Over the years, according to Irving, he grew tired of trying to explain to his NHL contemporaries why he choose to stay in Winnipeg, along with wife -- high-school sweetheart Lesley — and daughter Marnie and son Gord.

Once offered a job as a top NHL-level executive that would require relocating to Toronto, Baizley reportedly replied: "I have a home on a lake that’s a 65-minute drive. I can get to my office in 10 minutes. I can get to the rink in 15 minutes. I can get to the airport in 20 minutes. You tell me what that would be worth in Toronto?"

Baizley turned down the job.

"You think you’re prepared for something like this," Grant concluded. "(Wednesday) we said goodbye to each other because he recognized that his time was extremely short. He was thanking me for being his friend. Yet it was him who taught me a lot about life. We’ve lost a gentleman and a person who I was so appreciative to call a friend."


Updated on Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 9:47 AM CDT: adds photo

1:34 PM: Adds reaction.

2:19 PM: Joe Sakic is Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations of the Colorado Avalanche.

10:02 PM: corrects typo.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Cali For Jets Nation

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google