Ottawa Citizen

Mur­ray Costello makes sports hall of fame,

Costello en­ters Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

- MARTIN CLEARY Martin Cleary’s High Achiev­ers col­umn ap­pears bi-weekly on Wed­nes­days in the Cit­i­zen. If you know an ath­lete, coach, team or builder you con­sider a high achiever, con­tact Martin at mar­t­in­cleary51@gmail.com.

If there was a crossword puz­zle as­so­ci­ated with Mur­ray Costello’s up­com­ing gala evening, the first clue would go like this:

Across, 1 — This is his pas­sion. It’s a six-let­ter word. Didn’t Costello emerge from the north­ern On­tario min­ing com­mu­nity of Por­cu­pine, play ju­nior hockey at St. Michael’s Col­lege in Toronto and spend four years in the Na­tional Hockey League in the mid-1950s? Wasn’t he the first paid head of Hockey Canada for two decades fol­low­ing a 15-year ca­reer as an ex­ec­u­tive in the de­funct Western Hockey League? Seems he also was a high­pro­file fig­ure in the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion and ex­ited af­ter serv­ing as its vice-pres­i­dent.

Time to fill in the boxes: ho-c-k-e-y.

From the time Costello was a young boy play­ing out­door hockey un­til he re­signed as In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion vice-pres­i­dent at age 78, hockey was the durable thread that wove through his life, which in­cluded a wed­ding to Denise Marie Lan­cop, six chil­dren and be­com­ing a lawyer at age 45, but only prac­tis­ing for four months. Blame that on hockey.

Whether he was wear­ing the equip­ment, which in the 1950s didn’t in­clude a hel­met, and car­ry­ing straight-bladed wooden sticks, or his best suits for for­mal on-ice IIHF pre­sen­ta­tions, Costello, 79, has ex­pe­ri­enced most as­pects of hockey as player, ex­ec­u­tive, scout, ar­bi­tra­tor, ad­min­is­tra­tor and vi­sion­ary.

“I of­ten say, maybe it’s self­serv­ing, that I feel among the mod­est few who have taken a childhood pas­sion, turned it into a life­long liveli­hood and in the end been re­warded for it,” he says near the end of a two-hour in­ter­view at a West­boro bagel shop.

Eight years af­ter be­ing in­ducted as the 93rd builder into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Costello’s con­tri­bu­tion to Canada’s na­tional win­ter sport will re­ceive a far greater recog­ni­tion on Oct. 16, when he will re­ceive the coun­try’s great­est sports hon­our by be­ing in­ducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

He’ll be joined for the cer­e­mony in Toronto by one other builder — Dr. Jean-Guy Ouellet, vol­ley­ball/na­tional sports and nine ath­letes: Russ Howard, curl­ing; Joe Sa­kic, hockey; Ali­son Sy­dor, cy­cling; Kirsten Barnes, Brenda Tay­lor, Jes­sica Mon­roe-Gonin, Kay Wor­thing­ton and Jen­nifer Walinga, all row­ing.

Costello is a re­luc­tant hall of famer, though. That’s why, when­ever he has re­ceived hon­ours such as the Wayne Gret­zky In­ter­na­tional Award from the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 for con­tri­bu­tions to the growth and ad­vance­ment of hockey, he al­ways gives sig­nif­i­cant men­tion to the thou­sands of vol­un­teers who have worked with him.

“It’s nice be­ing rec­og­nized, but I had a mix­ture of feel­ings,” the some­what em­bar­rassed Costello says about his most re­cent hon­our. “This is a team game. One should not be sin­gled out.”

How­ever, Costello’s all-en­com­pass­ing ré­sumé had hall of famer writ­ten all over it as a builder.

As a for­ward, he skated in three cham­pi­onship fi­nals: On­tario Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion with St. Michael’s in 1953, Amer­i­can Hockey League with the Her­shey Bears in 1954 and NHL with the Detroit Red Wings in 1956. He never got to touch the tro­phy, though. He played in the NHL for Chicago, Bos­ton and Detroit, skat­ing in 162 games over four sea­sons and pro­duc­ing 13 goals and 319 as­sists.

Costello says he had the skills to play in the NHL, but not “the mind­set to be an NHL player, the way they sac­ri­ficed their bod­ies. They were so ded­i­cated to suc­ceed at it. I didn’t have that drive. There must have been a bet­ter way to make a liv­ing.”

There cer­tainly was for him, and Costello fol­lowed his pas­sion for an ed­u­ca­tion to As­sump­tion Univer­sity (now Univer­sity of Wind­sor), where he earned a bach­e­lor of arts de­gree. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, he trav­elled west to join the WHL’s Seat­tle Totems for a year (which co­in­cided with his hon­ey­moon) and he stayed 15 years, serv­ing in many key roles and win­ning league cham­pi­onships in 1967 and 1968.

‘The law de­gree was re­ally key. It gave me the con­fi­dence to do some­thing.’

MUR­RAY COSTELLO

Sports Hall of Fame in­ductee

In 1973, he brought his fam­ily to Ottawa, where he not only re­ceived his law de­gree at the Univer­sity of Ottawa at age 45, but also earned a salary as a scout in the World Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion. Af­ter be­com­ing a lawyer, he worked for four months with the Cana­dian Ra­diotele­vi­sion and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion.

The Cana­dian Am­a­teur Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion (now Hockey Canada) cut short his le­gal ca­reer when it de­cided to make the pres­i­dency a full­time, paid job. Costello, who had worked for the CAHA for six months on its first na­tional cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship deal be­fore en­ter­ing U of O, was asked to ap­ply for the job, which he won and held un­til 1998.

“The law de­gree was re­ally key,” he says. “It gave me the con­fi­dence to do some­thing. There wasn’t a day that would go by that I didn’t use my law de­gree. It re­ally, re­ally helped.”

It also was valu­able in 1994, when Costello and Hay ham­mered out a deal to merge their re­spec­tive CAHA and Hockey Canada op­er­a­tions into to­day’s Hockey Canada, form­ing one group for the de­vel­op­ment of the game.

Costello also ne­go­ti­ated with ma­jor-ju­nior hockey head Ed Chynoweth to change how Canada was rep­re­sented in the world ju­nior cham­pi­onship, which it hadn’t yet won since the event be­gan in 1977 and in which it hadn’t won a medal at all in 1979 through 1981. They spear­headed the na­tional ju­nior team pro­gram that re­placed send­ing the pre­vi­ous year’s Me­mo­rial Cup cham­pi­ons, and, in its next at­tempt in 1982, Canada won the first of 10 gold medals over 16 years.

A huge pro­po­nent of hockey equal­ity, Costello also over­saw the first world women’s hockey cham­pi­onship in Ottawa in 1990, but he says he never for­got the peo­ple he worked with, in­clud­ing Ottawa’s Frank Lib­era, who “worked night and day to make it hap­pen; he had no ego.”

As pres­i­dent of the CAHA, Costello started rep­re­sent­ing Canada at IIHF meet­ings. He also worked on var­i­ous com­mit­tees, spent 12 years on the IIHF coun­cil and fin­ished with four years as vi­cepres­i­dent. No pres­i­dency, through.

“My job was busy and ful­fill­ing. The IIHF is very much a Euro­pean or­ga­ni­za­tion. I don’t think they would give it (pres­i­dency) to a North Amer­i­can or Rus­sian. It would give Canada too much power. That’s my read on it.”

He would have been a good one, though, us­ing his le­gal back­ground in a unique way.

 ?? JAMES PARK/OTTAWA CIT­I­ZEN ?? Mur­ray Costello never won the Stan­ley Cup as a player, but he’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame and, as of next Wed­nes­day, will be in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, earn­ing this coun­try’s great­est sports hon­our for his role as a hockey builder.
JAMES PARK/OTTAWA CIT­I­ZEN Mur­ray Costello never won the Stan­ley Cup as a player, but he’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame and, as of next Wed­nes­day, will be in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, earn­ing this coun­try’s great­est sports hon­our for his role as a hockey builder.
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