Working at an Edmonton car dealership in 1979, Vernon’s Jim Chapman got invited to go out to the tiny hamlet of Calahoo, 21 kilometres northwest of the Alberta capital’s city limits, to play hockey.
He enjoyed it so much Chapman spent the winter playing hockey in Calahoo, and returned in the summer to play fastpitch softball.
One of the players Chapman played hockey against and with in Calahoo, was a then 14-year-old kid named Craig Berube, son of Roger Berube, one of the hockey players and one of five brothers who operated Calahoo Meats Ltd. which will celebrate 50 years of operation in 2023.
Chapman struck a friendship with the family that has remained to present day, so it was with extreme happiness and excitement Chapman accepted an invitation to join the Berubes for a day of celebration with the Stanley Cup at the Berube family farm in Calahoo.
Craig Berube, of course, is the current head coach of the St. Louis Blues, who defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games for the franchise’s first-ever NHL championship. Each member of the winning organization gets a day with sports’ most famous trophy.
“I really liked the guys,” said Chapman, 67, of his time in Calahoo. “I played hockey and softball, and I’ve kept in touch with Roger all these years. It was fantastic to go and catch up with Craig and Roger and all the buddies I played hockey with.”
Calahoo has a population of 85, according to Census figures. That total more than doubled for the party at the Berube farm, as close to 200 people were in attendance, including Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall, who helped the Blues to the Stanley Cup final in their first three years of existence in 1968, ‘69 and ‘70, only to be swept in the final all three years.
Also in attendance were Chapman’s guests, his son, Blair, and George Doncaster and his son,Vernon, both from Vernon.
“I told Vernon at the start of the playoffs that if St. Louis won (the Stanley Cup), I’d take him to Calahoo,” said Chapman, retired from the insurance business. “I made a call to the family and they said they’d give me a week’s notice as to when the party would be. I got a call saying it would be July 2 and I was able to add George and Vernon to the guest list.”
The day of celebration started with Craig taking the Cup to the local arena, where Chapman estimates 75-100 young hockey players, all wearing Calahoo jerseys, were invited to the front of the lineup to get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup.
The Cup was in the arena for approximately one hour, with Chapman estimating close to 2,700 people went through to see the prized trophy. A parade in celebration of the Cup and Craig was held before the party at the farm.
“Craig is such a great story of dedication and perseverance,” said Chapman. Craig was never drafted. He played in the Western Hockey League with the Kamloops Blazers, New Westminster Bruins and Medicine Hat Tigers before signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers. He played in more than 1,000 NHL games before turning to coaching.
Also at the farm party was former North Okanagan Knights Junior B coach, and now team consultant, John van Horlick, who coached Craig Berube and his cousin, Ken Berube, when all three were with the Williams Lake Mustangs of the now-defunct Peace Cariboo Junior Hockey League.