‘River­ton Ri­fle’among new Or­der of Canada mem­bers

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Jor­dan PRESS

OT­TAWA — Ask Reg­gie Leach about hockey and you can hear the joy in his voice as he talks about win­ning the Stan­ley Cup in his own play­ing days, and don­ning a Team Canada jer­sey and watch­ing his chil­dren rep­re­sent the coun­try years later in hockey and lacrosse.

And then the man known as the “River­ton Ri­fle” stops to think about the thank-you the coun­try is giv­ing him this Canada Day for all he has done dur­ing and since his hockey ca­reer.

“Hockey to me was just a step­ping stone to my life cir­cle. I am more proud of what I did af­ter hockey than what I did dur­ing my hockey days,” says Leach, who is Ojibwa.

Leach is among 83 new ap­pointees to the Or­der of Canada, in a list that in­cludes sci­en­tists, health-care ad­vo­cates, ju­rists, ac­tors, ath­letes and pub­lic ser­vants. They join nearly 7,000 peo­ple on the hon­our roll – “the elites that Canada has to of­fer,” Leach says – since its in­tro­duc­tion more than five decades ago, in­clud­ing Leach’s rel­a­tive, ed­u­ca­tor Rev. Fred­eric Leach.

“To me, it’s one of the high­est hon­ours you can re­ceive as a Cana­dian,” the for­mer hockey star said. “It just hasn’t sunk in yet, but you think back on all the peo­ple who are in there and all of sud­den you have Reg­gie Leach in the Or­der of Canada. It’s hard to be­lieve. It’s some­thing that will sink in.”

Leach’s NHL ca­reer started in the fall of 1970, three years af­ter the Or­der of Canada was cre­ated in 1967 to mark Canada’s cen­te­nary.

It was around the same time that the women’s-rights move­ment was lay­ing the foun­da­tion for women like Moya Greene to make their way up the cor­po­rate lad­der.

Greene, orig­i­nally of St. John’s, N.L., rose through the pub­lic ser­vice and the pri­vate sec­tor to lead Canada Post in 2005.

‘She moved to the United King­dom to be­come the first head of the Royal Mail in 2010.

Al­though she re­ceived a dame­hood from the Queen last year, Greene says the Or­der of Canada car­ries a dif­fer­ent sig­nif­i­cance.

“This is the coun­try of my birth. This is where I grew up. These are the peo­ple who ed­u­cated me, these are the peo­ple who men­tored me, who gave me this bril­liant ca­reer,” Greene says in an in­ter­view from the U.K., where she still lives.

“This is very, very spe­cial for my coun­try – the coun­try that just gave me noth­ing but op­por­tu­nity, re­ally – to rec­og­nize me in this way.”

Leach looks on things the same way. He went from grow­ing up poor in River­ton, Man., to play­ing along­side fel­low Or­der of Canada mem­ber Bobby Clarke. The two hoisted the Stan­ley Cup in 1975.

The next year, Leach was named the most valu­able player in the NHL play­offs – one of a very few from a team that didn’t win the cham­pi­onship – and donned the Team Canada jer­sey.

Leach reg­u­larly speaks to Indigenous youth about his life, hop­ing they don’t re­peat his past mis­steps: “That’s what I live for to­day, is to help these kids out and get them in the right direc­tion.”

Sim­i­lar to Leach, it’s what Claude Ray­mond has done since his pro­fes­sional base­ball ca­reer that gives him a smile. The for­mer Mon­treal Expo runs an an­nual golf tour­na­ment to raise money for needy chil­dren, speaks with young peo­ple, and has his name tied to a base­ball tour­na­ment that at­tracts some of the best youth teams in Que­bec and On­tario.

“I’ve had many hon­ours through­out my ca­reer and my life, but this is it,” he said of the Or­der of Canada.

Oth­ers are be­ing pro­moted within the or­der, in­clud­ing some well-known faces from stages and screens: Singer Buffy Sainte-Marie and ac­tors Martin Short and Don­ald Suther­land.

One new ap­pointee, how­ever, works be­hind the cam­eras.

Since the late 1970s, Re­nee April has been a cos­tume de­signer for more than 50 Hol­ly­wood and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing The Red Vi­o­lin, Grey Owl, Night at the Mu­seum, Ar­rival, and “Blade Run­ner 2049. She, too, said she is hap­pi­est with her work with young de­sign­ers, pay­ing for­ward op­por­tu­ni­ties oth­ers af­forded her.

“That I am proud of – to give a chance and be­lieve in young peo­ple and fresh tal­ent,” she said.

Edna Elias has been teach­ing young peo­ple since she was a teacher’s as­sis­tant in the 1970s in what is now Nu­navut, which turns 20 this July. She is one of the ter­ri­tory’s for­mer com­mis­sion­ers – a role sim­i­lar to a lieu­tenant-gov­er­nor in prov­inces – and is be­ing rec­og­nized for her decades-long ef­forts to maintain and re­vi­tal­ize tra­di­tional Inuit lan­guages.

“There are a num­ber of great peo­ple who are try­ing to do the same thing as I am who are now putting in a lot of the ground­work and do­ing the re­vi­tal­iza­tion nec­es­sary,” Elias said.

“I hope that it (the Or­der of Canada) gives them incentive to carry on.”

Brewer John Slee­man is also on the list, as is Michael Smith, an Amer­i­can-born chef and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity who has lived and worked mainly in At­lantic Canada since the 1990s.

He runs the Inn at Bay For­tune on Prince Ed­ward Is­land with his wife Chastity and over­sees its renowned kitchen.

“To be a Cana­dian is so tied to who I am as a per­son, as a hu­man be­ing, as a fa­ther, as a hus­band, as a neigh­bour, as a busi­ness owner. My values are here,” said Smith, whose work has in­cluded pro­mot­ing eat-lo­cal ini­tia­tives.

“This hon­our is just a tremen­dous val­i­da­tion of 30 years of head-down hard work, do­ing it day af­ter day af­ter day be­cause it’s the right thing to do. It’s just so hard to get your head around.”


Philadel­phia Fly­ers play­ers Bobby Clarke and Reg­gie Leach hug sec­onds af­ter Leach scored the win­ning goal in over­time against the Bos­ton Bru­ins dur­ing the semi­fi­nals on April 30, 1976. Leach was one of 83 peo­ple named to the Or­der of Canada on Thurs­day.

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