One of the maroon and white’s favourite sons will be coming back to tutor a new generation of athletes. NHL star Reggie Leach, two-time Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe Trophy winner and a Flin Flon Bomber from 1966-1970, will return to the North for the second edition of his Shoot to Score Hockey Camp in Flin Flon. The camp will take place at the Whitney Forum August 19-23.
In Flin Flon, the camp is run in part by a First Nations group, but Leach is adamant the camp is not just for Indigenous youth. “I know there were some rumours last year that spread around that it was only a First Nation camp,” Leach said.
“My idea is to try to get everybody to work together as one, not separate. Of course, you know, that’s the biggest thing right now.”
While it’s been a few years since Leach made his debut at the Whitney Forum – 53 years, to be exact – the team, the town and the rink all hold a special place in his heart to this day.
“I always say I came there as a young kid and I left there as a young man. It was the best time of my life, you know, growing up and learning what life’s all about,”he said.
“I always say that if I didn’t turn pro, I probably would have got my 50 year watch from Hudbay.”
Leach lives in Ontario now, but keeps in touch with people from up north online –including the kids of friends and acquaintances he knew in his playing days.
“There’s a lot of people that I knew who grew up in Flin Flon and now they have their families and usually I can put two and two together on who they belong to and where they came from. All the previous Bombers and people that were on the board when I was playing there, I have a lot of them and their kids as my friends on Facebook.”
When thinking back to his playing days, Leach remembered the early days of his career, including when he came to Flin Flon for the first time.
“I came up to Flin Flon early, in May, as a young person. I was in Riverton and said I wanted to be a hockey player and I was told, ‘You got to get out of Riverton,’” he said.
When Leach first came to Flin Flon to join the Bombers, he was a 16-year-old kid who came up to town on the bus.
Then-Bomber coach Tom Baird knew Leach was en route, but couldn’t come pick him up once his bus arrived.
“He knew I was coming in but he was working, so I just sat at the bus depot all day. Here I am, just turned 16 years old, I didn’t have very much money in my pocket. It happened that Mary and Jack Reid ran the bus depot at that time and they were Bomber fans and they were on the Bomber board, and I ended up staying there. They said, ‘Well, we’ll take you home until you find the place to go.’I ended up staying there for four years.”
Once he was settled and hit the ice, Leach got to play with the young wunderkind he’d heard so much about before heading north –Bobby Clarke. A fruitful partnership was born, one that would eventually lead to award after award for both Clarke and Leach.
“I heard so much about Bobby Clarke before I came up. I got to meet Bobby probably after maybe 30 or 40 days in Flin Flon,”Leach recalls.
“He always tells the story that the first time he got to see me, I was actually at the rink, shooting pucks at the net. I love to shoot it, all the time. That’s where we met then. We became instant friends right away and we’re still friends.”
Looking at the past isn’t always a fun thing for Leach. He struggled with alcoholism in his younger years, before kicking the habit in 1985. He has stayed teetotal ever since.
Leach uses the lessons he learned through his life and career to help steer kids toward a constructive path.
“I made many mistakes in my life, and you know, if you don’t learn from it, you’re not going to make yourself a better person. I’ve been very lucky with my life since 1985. What I do today and what awards I have received, it is stuff that I use. I love to do what I do, and I do everything from my heart. That’s very important to me,”he said.
“Learn one thing every day of your life and it will make you a better person.”
In addition to the camp, a charity golf outing is scheduled for August 21. Leach is already looking forward to seeing some of his old cronies in the flesh.
“That’s another thing that I’m looking forward to. Maybe I’ll be meeting a lot of people that I haven’t seen for years and years on the golf course. Come on out, enjoy the day with us and let’s just work together as one and have a good time.”