Don Baizley carved out a career as a highly respected hockey agent, but he was remembered Wednesday first and foremost as a father, husband, lawyer and friend.
About 2,000 people attended a memorial service at the MTS Centre for Baizley, who died two weeks ago at 71 after a 14-month battle with non-smoker's lung cancer.
Fellow members of the legal profession and many of Baizley's clients poured in through the main doors shoulder-to-shoulder with regular hockey fans, friends and neighbours.
Baizley, a man renowned for treating everybody the same regardless of their status in life, would have had it no other way. (Except, of course, as many admirers noted, for having his service held in such a high-profile venue.)
Those in attendance to celebrate Baizley's life included former Winnipeg Jets Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson, Bobby Hull, Ab McDonald, Thomas Steen, Teppo Numminen, Randy Gilhen and Teemu Selanne, current Jet Tobias Enstrom and Stanley Cup winners such as Jari Kurri, Theo Fleury and Mike Keane.
Selanne, who flew in from Finland for the service, said he considered Baizley his "Canadian dad."
"He was always there when I needed support. He cared about stuff other than business. I used to go to his summer place. It was more than a working relationship," Selanne said.
"I want to remember all of the good things. When I close my eyes, I can see his smile. He was always thinking positive and he was a very good role model for everybody. The greatest thing about Don is you can't find one person who will say something bad about him."
Nilsson, accompanied by his eldest son, Mikael, said one of the most important lessons Baizley taught him is to never judge people and try to understand where others are coming from.
"He was always good to look for a win-win situation. I think that's why he was so well-respected and why so many people have shown up (Wednesday)," he said.
Nilsson and his longtime linemate, Hedberg, said they appreciated how Baizley not only acted on their behalf but made them feel at home in Winnipeg.
"It was the perfect situation. My best decision in my whole life was to come to Winnipeg. Some of my best friends are here and two of my kids were born here," Nilsson said.
Said Hedberg: "Don embraced not only us, but the other Swedes and Finns that came that year (1974). He and (wife) Lesley allowed us to be part of their social circle. We arrived as foreigners, as Swedes and Finns, and we left as adopted Winnipeggers. That was because of Don and his social network."
Throughout much of the service, there was laughter. A video was shown of a mock TSN panel highlighting the scoops its hockey insiders had been given by Baizley -- none.
And longtime friend, Justice Alan MacInnes, told the gathering Baizley got a new car every 12 years "whether he needed it or not."
He also poked fun at his fashion sense.
"I don't think Don gave to the thrift shop, I think he bought there," he said.
Hedberg, who visited "Baiz" a number of times in the past few months, said he considered him his big brother, a mentor and an adviser, but not his agent.
"He always said, 'You love people and you use things. Don't ever get that backwards,' " Hedberg said.