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Winnipeg’s hockey saviour is a Chipman off the old block

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One  of The Disappointed contacted me over the weekend with a story of how she, like thousands of others, tried and failed to get a season ticket for our Team To Be Named Later.

 Laura McMaster’s emailed story seemed even more heart-breaking than most, though.

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 She explained that her 80-year-old father had asked her to go online for him Saturday and buy two half-season tickets.

 "No problem," Laura recalled thinking. "Some of my fondest memories are of attending sports events with my dad."

 Her dad was on the phone with her at high noon when she actually got two season tickets. And then, before advancing to confirm the purchase, she pressed "back" because her dad hadn’t wanted a full-season package.

 She ended up with neither.

 Laura was inconsolable.

 "If I had paused, even for a second, to talk to my Dad, I am positive (in fact I’ve verified this with him) he would have said to go for it."

 What struck me about Laura’s story was how much she wanted to please her father. And how that parenting connection never gets old.

 And I think that’s really what’s at the heart of why the NHL is returning to Winnipeg and to Manitoba — the vastly improved economic landscape notwithstanding.

 Both Mark Chipman and David Thomson witnessed what it took for their fathers to succeed in business. The hard work and the ethic.

 Not coincidentally, on the day the True North partners announced the return of the NHL, both alluded to their father-son connection in interviews with Free Press reporter Geoff Kirbyson.

 "My father was a passionate hockey fan," David Thomson said. "I used to go to Maple Leafs games with him."

 Mark Chipman said this about his father, who was standing in the background when the announcement was made: "I can’t describe the feelings I have for my father. Role model doesn’t begin to describe what he has meant to my brothers, my sister and me.

 He’s one of the smartest and wisest human beings that I’ve ever met. He’s a kind, thoughtful and humble guy."

 Mark Chipman has been gracious in spreading praise around for all of the city’s grand-plan developments of late, including the Gail Asper-led Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

 But I can’t help seeing the obvious similarities, and the contrasts, between Izzy Asper and Bob Chipman, and how two of their sons turned out.

 Bob Chipman and the late Izzy Asper were business contemporaries and boosters and believers in Winnipeg.

 Izzy Asper approached Chipman to invest when he bought his first TV station, then went on to build an ego-driven media empire that imploded after his death. Bob Chipman built a car-sales and real estate enterprise whose parent company, Megill-Stephenson Company Ltd., had gross annual sales of $420 million by 2007 and still includes Canada’s largest vehicle leasing company.

 Both wanted to create companies that provided jobs for Winnipeggers and kept young people here. Both were visionaries and philanthropists.

 Izzy was loud and impulsive, Bob quiet and strategic. Izzy was the hare, and Bob the tortoise. The sons mirror their fathers’ opposing styles.

 Witness, for example, David Asper’s shortlived, much ballyhooed, but ultimately bogus bid to build and operate the new Bombers stadium.

 Compare it to Mark Chipman’s slow-and-steady 15-year dream of building an entertainment facility and resurrecting the NHL in Winnipeg.

 While saying little along the way. And not saying much more even after he accomplished what many thought would never happen.

 Quiet, humble, patient and persistent.

 But there’s more.

 Bob Chipman has 12 precepts he lives by each day, this being the first: "The winners in the world are those that give."

 In a speech five years ago during a tribute at his alma mater, St. Paul’s High School, Bob Chipman put that in a context that — now that we’ve experienced what his son has given us — we can all appreciate even if we never attend an NHL game at the MTS Centre.

 "This is our city — we want to be proud of it.

 We all need to contribute to making it an increasingly better community."

 That’s why Mark is a Chipman off the old block.

 In her attempt to help and please her father, McMaster must have intuitively understood what Bob Chipman has done for his children, while staying in the background and letting them shine. Because Laura added this at the end of her email: "The biggest lesson I have learned is one I suspect Mark Chipman already knows: when things get stressful and tough, pause, even for a second, and ask your dad what he thinks.

 "While you’ve got the chance."

 gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

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