Ben Fitzgerald will never forget the day he joined minor hockey in Corner Brook in 1981, or the man whose kind gesture made it all possible: Cliff Greene, a longtime member of the hockey community of the region who died on May 25.
Fitzgerald was 11 then and spent a lot of time hanging out on the rink. He loved sports and enjoyed watching his friends play, but knew that joining hockey itself was beyond his family’s means.
“I didn’t have access to it,” he told CBC News in a recent interview. “The only way it was going to happen was through an extension of someone’s kindness.”
That kindness came from Greene.
Greene worked with the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association for over 40 years and helped hundreds of players fall in love with the sport.
“I believe it was Cliff’s first year on the job and he noticed this poor skinny kid who still hung around the rink everyday but never played minor hockey,” Fitzgerald said in a Facebook post after the incident. Greene’s death.
One day, Greene and well-known Corner Brook Royals senior hockey player Gilbert Longpre approached the youngster with a duffel bag. Longpre was retiring and Greene had convinced him to donate his equipment.
Finally, Fitzgerald could get on the ice. The gear was a bit too big but for Fitzgerald it was “shiny gold” with opportunity, he wrote in his Facebook post.
Since then, hockey has been a part of Fitzgerald’s life. Now 51, he continued to play minor hockey and moved up to the senior level. He also had a career as a coach and worked with everyone from kids skating for the first time to NHL retirees. Fitzgerald also runs his own private hockey training camps.
Describing Greene as a humble, quiet man who helped without ever being asked, Fitzgerald hopes he can give back a fraction of what Greene gave him.
“I’ve been everywhere I could dream because of the sport of hockey and one kind act,” he said in a text to CBC News.
Fitzgerald isn’t the only one feeling this.
In an organization in which the executive can change every two years, Greene was the mainstay. Current president Darren Harivieux said the ripple effect of Greene’s kindness to so many over his four decades with the group will last a very long time.
Greene worked with Corner Brook Minor Hockey until three weeks before his death. He was 67 years old.
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