More than 1,000 mourners showed up at the Red and White Club at McMahon Stadium to remember Calgary sportscaster Billy Powers July 18. Wish I could have been there.
I feel blessed to have been touched by this gem of a man. Kind-hearted. Laugh-a-minute. One of a kind. Down-to-earth. Couldn’t do enough for charity or anyone needing a break.
“Billy would get asked to emcee a charity event and he’d say, ‘Sure, just give me a burger and a beer (Molson Canadian of course),’” said Jack Neumann, the longtime athletic director with the University of Calgary.
Neumann, who can reel off at least half of Powers’ 500 jokes, stopped by the office two weeks ago to give me a copy of Billy’s celebration of life leaflet.
“It’s a sad one Kev,” said Neumann. “Billy remembered you and always asked me to say hi when I’m in Vernon (visiting friends and buying fruit).”
Five hours on a golf cart with Powers at Predator Ridge in May (Mother’s Day) of 2003. It was like golfing with Jerry Seinfeld on Jolt Cola. The one-liners and zingers flew fast and they were usually directed at himself.
Powers, the voice of the Calgary Stampeders for many years, thought I was a good sport and we became instant friends during the media weekend. He showed up with Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun and Don Blair, Mark McLoughlin and Tony Martino of the Stamps.
At the Saturday dinner with about 20 of us, I figured the zany John McKeachie of BCTV or Vancouver radio guru Neil Macrae would carry the conversation. Neither man hardly said a word as Powers owned the table for a few priceless hours.
“He was probably the only sportscaster who had a fridge under his desk,” said retired Stamps star Herm Harrison, with a laugh, at the service. Harrison spent two decades working alongside Powers at CKXL radio.
“You think you had problems listening to his jokes all 18 holes on a golf course? Well … I had 18 years of that — I heard them all.”
Those quotes were used in a column by Francis on Powers’ service.
Powers e-mailed me two pages of jokes the following spring, adding: “Hey Mitch, it looks like we’re coming again this year…and I’m guessing Francis will come even though the bastard didn’t write one single line from last year.”
Billy, 71, and his wife, Donna Lee Powers, 64, were slain at their Braeside S.W. home early on July 4. Derek Puffer, Donna Lee’s adopted step-son, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the stabbing deaths.
Jones ruled the pro WHL
Had the pleasure of golfing with retired Portland Buckaroos hockey legend Art Jones out at Spallumcheen a few weeks back.
Jones played for the Buckaroos during their entire existence (1960-75) in the pro WHL, leading Portland to three Lester Patrick Cups. He was the WHL’s leading scorer six times, and won the league’s MVP, twice (in 1967–68 and 1970–71).
In 1970, he set the WHL scoring record for most points (127) in a season. Jones also played for the New Westminster Royals and Victoria Cougars of the WHL, and the Seattle Totems of the Central Hockey League.
Art, his nephew, Murray Fairweather and Murray’s father, Charlie, rounded out the foursome with Murray showing us all up with a scorching 74 from the white tees.
Jones can’t hear like he once did, but he’s sharp and quick with the one-liners.
I asked him if the Buckaroos used to get free tickets to the NBA Trail Blazers games.
“I used to go to a few games, but they put us so darn close I couldn’t see over the players. I’m not a big basketball fan. I’d rather watch two guys fish.”
Jones recorded 1,580 points in 1,180 games, second only to Guyle Fielder’s 1,771 points in 1,368 WHL games.
Art was inducted in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. He’s among a diverse group including Boston Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky, NFL hero Norm van Brocklin, Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker, high jump innovator Dick Fosbury and basketball coach Slats Gill.
Jones recently retired as the supervisor of pari mutuels at Portland Meadows horse race track.
Ferguson just missed ring
Just attended my mom’s McNeil Family 100-Year Reunion near Sylvan Lake, Alta.
These gatherings are always good for Hot Stove Leagues with third and fourth cousins, and of course I cornered Lawrence Ferguson, 82, once I figured out what he looked like these days.
Ferguson was wearing a worn-out Carolina Hurricanes hat and laughing about the Canes’ Stanley Cup run in 2006. His sons Sheldon, director of amateur scouting, and Ron, a scout, both of Red Deer, were working for the Canes then.
“I retired from scouting the year before so I missed out on a ring,” said Ferguson, who owned the AJHL Red Deer Rustlers and drove the team bus in the late 1970s.
We talked about the Rustlers’ solid team of 1976-77 with Darryl and Duane Sutter and Kelly Kisio, prompting Lawrence to fondly recall: “You know, we had all six Sutters play for us.”
Lawrence spent more than five decades working for NHL Central Scouting Bureau.