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Classy group joining Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame

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They came from all over Manitoba, and took their talents all over the world -- but at the heart of it all is hockey, and the way they shaped the sport right here at home.

Six players, seven builders, a referee and three teams will be inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame at a banquet in October, 17 contributors to the province's legacy in the sport. Among the names to be honoured are NHLers, league builders, and coaches who stayed just outside the spotlight, teaching kids how to play the game right.

Some of them have passed on. Some are still working at it every day: Tom Miller was the founding president of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League's St. James Canucks in 1978, and still puts in long hours at the rink most every week. And others, though retired, still revel in the memories they made.

"It's a great honour," said Al Tresoor, 79, at a press conference unveiling the 2013 inductees on Monday. "I coached a lot of kids in Elmwood... the kids were just great."

Tresoor spent 29 years guiding junior and minor teams, including East Elmwood, and helped lead the junior St. Boniface Saints to a Manitoba/Saskatchewan championship in the 1970-71 season. This year, his daughter and former protegés put together a letter-writing campaign to get him into the Hall of Fame.

"The problem wasn't that Al wasn't going to go into the Hall of Fame," Hall spokesman Ted Holland quipped. "The problem was wading through 49 pages of support sent in for him."

There were so many natural choices, of course. Poignantly, into the Hall this year will go late builder Wayne Chernecki, who played 263 games in the AHL before returning to Winnipeg to coach junior hockey, and Ed Hoekstra, a journeyman who played 965 games in cities and leagues across North America, and served a season with the Philadelphia Flyers. He died in 2011 in the wake of a tragic car accident.

Another posthumous recipient is Wayne Fleming, the acclaimed NHL assistant coach who died last month after a long battle with brain cancer. In February, Hall vice-president Don Kuryk travelled to Fleming's Calgary bedside to hold a special early induction ceremony. Many members of the Fleming family will be in attendance at the Oct. 5 banquet, telling Hall president Gary Cribbs how meaningful it will be to gather for the occasion.

At the banquet, they will get a chance to meet and reminisce with so many other veterans of Manitoba's hockey scene. Former Winnipeg Jet Mike Ford -- whose wicked slapshot made him a key cog on the Jets' Avco Cup-winning WHA teams -- will be inducted then. Retired NHLer Bill Mikkelsen, whose son is an Anaheim Ducks draftee and whose daughter, Meaghan, is a member of the Canadian national hockey team, will also go in the Hall.

Rounding out the player honourees are Gerry James, who played football with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in high school and played for the Toronto Maple Leafs during their 1960 run to the Stanley Cup final, former Team Canada Olympian (and current Montreal Canadiens scout) Vaughn Karpan, and retired Chicago Blackhawk Bill Watson.

Other builders include organizer and coach Don MacKenzie, coach Bruce Southern, and Ian Heather, who worked to develop Manitoba referees. Oak Lake's Bob Thompson, who refereed over 3,000 games in southern Manitoba during his 25-year career, will join the hall as an official. And three noted teams -- the 2003 Allan Cup-winning Ile des Chenes North Stars, the junior champion 1951 Winnipeg Monarchs, and the 1972-73 St. Malo Warriors -- will also be added.

"Manitoba is a good hotbed of hockey," Cribbs said. "By doing this, we hope we show a little history... it's just an amazing class of inductees. They're all so well-deserving. Every one of them has a history in the game, and we're very proud to have them in."

Tickets for the banquet are $120 per person, or a table of 10 for $1,100, and include a charitable tax receipt. They're available through the Hall's website at MBHockeyHallOfFame.ca, or by emailing cribbs@mts.net.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2013 D6

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