I haven’t personally played hockey since I was in my teens. It’s the one sport I never managed to master in my youth. Those that play well, play throughout their lives. Those who don’t play well, become fans in the stands. I fall under the latter.
I love watching the game, and I love the feel of an arena, the sounds of the crowd and the loud snap of a puck hitting the boards. I also love how the hockey community is a family in itself. They can be rivals on the ice for sixty minutes, and then go out for dinner together afterwards.
One of the first people I met when I moved to Airdrie in 1994, was a gentleman by the name of Murray Buchanan. He was a big man, with a loud voice that echoed throughout the arena as he ran drills with the players on the ice. It was months after meeting him that I learned he also served as an Alderman for the City of Airdrie. He had an uncanny ability to separate his responsibilities to his community. Never did one overlap with the other. When he was in an arena, his entire energy and focus were on the kids.
In 2006, a small group of us entered the City of Airdrie in a television program called ‘Hockeyville’. We all had different ideas on how to raise our profile and what we would do on the show. With so many ideas and points of view, we needed someone to organize us. Murray filled the role perfectly. We relied on his life experience, vast hockey knowledge and leadership skills to guide us all the way through to the final episode.
We dubbed ourselves the “Prairie Pond Posse.” While Peter (now Mayor Peter Brown) and myself were the faces of Airdrie on television, it was Rob Ing working his video magic, Michelle Callaway and Murray keeping Airdrie engaged and keeping Airdrie Minor Hockey atop everyone’s minds. Rob, Michelle and Murray did the hard work, and no one worked harder than Murray.
I won’t go into long detail, but Airdrie made it through the final episode in June of 2006. When Peter and I got home from filming in Toronto, no one had a bigger grin than Murray. You would have thought we’d just won the Stanley Cup.
For years after, he continued on City Council (he served 21 years total) and continued to be involved with Airdrie Minor Hockey. The Ron Ebbesen Arena was where he spent a lot of his spare time; sometimes coaching on the ice, sometimes cheering from outside the boards and often involved with organizing tournaments and the managing of Airdrie’s Hockey Association as a whole.
This community lost Murray in late December of 2015. I hear his name often within the walls of City Hall and, although it’s been awhile, his name still constantly comes up in conversation within the walls of Airdrie’s hockey arenas. I swear, there are times I’ll be watching a game, and I can still feel his presence around the rink boards. So, it seems only fitting that our community would recognize him by acknowledging his second home as just that…. Murray’s.
This Saturday, December 9th, the Gold Ice Surface at the Ron Ebbesen Arena will be renamed “The Murray Buchanan Ice.” He spent a lot of time there, and many a kid grew up under his coaching and guidance, so I can’t think of a more fitting tribute. Anyone who has ever played for, played alongside of, or worked with Murray is invited to a dedication ceremony and puck drop at 11:30 am. Come early, as I suspect the crowd will be large. For those of us leaning on the boards, I’m sure we’ll all feel him standing next to us… with a big grin on his face as if we’d just won the Stanley Cup.