McKenzie: Chynoweth was one of a kind

Bob McKenzie
4/23/2008 11:57:13 AM
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They don't make them any more like Ed Chynoweth.

The long-time junior hockey executive, who was for so long synonymous with the Western Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League for that matter, passed away on Tuesday after battling cancer and understand this about the man – he was one of a kind.

Chynoweth is being lauded, and rightfully so, for his business acumen and vision for helping to make major junior hockey a thriving, multi-million dollar business. He was a sharp cookie and he was passionate and he was to his very core a hockey man.

And yet for all those attributes, for those of us who were fortunate enough to share a little time with him along the way, he was, above and beyond all else, a helluva good time.

Eddie liked a good time. He loved nothing more than to sit around and have a few cold ones and swap hockey stories and barbs with hockey people.

Whether it was at a Memorial Cup and the gathering of the junior hockey clans or a World Junior Championship or the NHL draft, Ed could give and take with the best of them. His tongue was as sharp as his mind. He could color the air blue, tell a joke to beat the band and let out that big hearty laugh and booming voice.

And he was not without an edge. He didn't suffer fools and you never knew when he was going to go off on someone.

I will always remember being in a hospitality suite at the Sheraton Hotel in Hamilton during the 1986 World Junior Championship. John Herbert, who at that time was the dean of junior hockey reporters with the London Free Press, was holding court with me and a bunch of others, including Eddie. The cocktails were flowing and so was the B.S. and Herbie, a witty wiseguy and wisecracker said something – I don't even recall what it was – that Eddie didn't like it and he got a little wound up.

It was loud and mostly verbal until Ed, who towered over Herbie, decided to escalate things a little. No serious damage was done but Eddie had to be separated from Herbie, who if memory serves was a little disheveled and might have even had a rip or two in one of his somewhat colorful sports jackets.

As someone steered Ed away, I still laugh at the memory of Herbie standing there, trying to put himself back together, "Geez, what's up with him? What, is there a boxing glove in every drink?"

I hope no one thinks badly of me for telling that story about Eddie. Somehow, I don't think he'd mind and if he did, he would boom it out, "McKenzie, you $#@^%* dumbass, what the hell are you talking about that for?" And five minutes later he'd be there with you, roaring with laughter and sharing a good time.

Eddie was just a fiery guy who wore his heart on his sleeve. You knew when he was happy; you knew when he was mad. And he could zing you like few others.

My colleague Gord Miller, who along with me spent a lot of time with Eddie back in the day when we used to do CHL broadcasts on TSN in the early 1990s, was on a flight with Ed and they were discussing the ins and outs of the ongoing NHL strike at the time. Gord is not afraid to express an opinion and went on a rather lengthy discourse about the labor stoppage. Eddie took it all in and when Gord was finished what he saying, a rather agitated Ed curtly said to him: "Well, Gord, I guess you wrote the @#$%^& book on labor relations, didn't you?" If memory serves, he just stopped talking to Gord for the rest of the flight.

That barb had a lasting impression on me and Gord. To this day, if we hear someone going on at length with an expert opinion, Gord will say to me or I will say to him, while trying to imitate Eddie's unique delivery, "Well, I guess (fill in the name) wrote the  ^%$#*& book on (fill in the subject), didn't he?"

And we crack up.

I used to love to go to the NHL draft in the 1980s and just hang with the junior hockey guys from across Canada. Eddie used to call me over, tell me to pull up a chair and then he'd start with the show.

"Bobby, you cover the NHL now, you know what's going on," he would start, playing to his junior hockey associates. "Can you tell me something? Can you explain to me what these #$%$%^$ guys who run the NHL are trying to do, because I'll be honest with you, I haven't got a #$#%^^ clue what they're doing and I don't think they do either." And then he'd roar and so would all the other junior guys because they shared the camaraderie of a group that truly believed it was far more in tune with the game of hockey than the #@#%$% guys who ran the NHL at the time. And he was probably right.

As much as Eddie was a lot of fun to be around, as smart and successful as he was at his job, he was first and foremost a proud parent. Dean had a great junior career and went on to play in the NHL and now, of course, is the GM and head coach of the Swift Current Broncos. His other son, Jeff, is the highly successful junior executive, a chip off the old block who worked alongside his Dad with the Kootenay Ice franchise after Ed stepped down as president of the WHL.

When I was at The Hockey News as Editor in Chief, we did a story on some indiscretion that Dean committed in a Memorial Cup game and THN Associate Editor Steve Dryden wrote something to the effect of how ironic it was that the son of the WHL president would commit this particular infraction. It was just one line, but it set off Eddie. I'll never forget getting the call. The phone wasn't necessary. I am sure I could have heard Eddie all the way from Calgary to Toronto.

I did my best to reason with him but once I realized he wanted to vent, I passed him over to Dryden to let Steve get assailed for awhile. After Eddie verbally bludgeoned Steve for a bit – Ed didn't understand the need to link father and son for something that happened in a game -- Steve conceded that perhaps it was a gratuitous line and maybe he shouldn't have written it.

That was enough for Ed to call it a day but not before he told me that "Dryden is an idiot and so are you."

Truth is, Ed was just looking out for his kid and you couldn't fault him for that.

I am sure there are all sorts of other stories about Ed to be told, but to be honest, I can hear him now:

"Well, Bob, I guess you wrote the #%#$^$ book on Ed Chynoweth stories, didn't you?"

Not really, but know this: Ed Chynoweth was a larger than life hockey man, a sharp cookie with a sharp tongue, a hearty laugh, a bad temper and a great sense of humor and while our paths didn't have the occasion to cross much in recent years, I am going to miss him and the time we did get to spend together.

So long, Eddie.

Bob McKenzie


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