It’s mid-summer, a strange time to be discussing hockey. Inside Bill Reason Sr.’s Kingston, Ont. home, the temperature and humidex are locked in competition for the discomfort-zone championship.
Reason is well known in local pro-life circles. “I’ll be there,” is the usual response to alerts on such activities as Life Chain and March for Life.
Today, he’s reminiscing with The Interim about the passing of NHL coaching great, Roger Neilson.
The man the media dubbed Captain Video for pioneering the use of television as a coaching tool succumbed to cancer in June at the age of 69. A who’s who of the hockey establishment attended a memorial service at Peterborough’s Northview Pentecostal Church.
Roger Neilson, Reason declares, was “very, very tuned into God.” Reason and Neilson shared a common relationship with the game, something that went back 40 years, beginning with minor hockey. Often on a Montreal trip for an exhibition series, Neilson’s squad would stop in Kingston for a match-up with Reason’s team. Both men were later hired by the Montreal Canadiens as scouts. Neilson would make a career of the game. Reason, with a wife and three children at home, chose not to “get too deep into the hockey business.” However, it was on those long drives and sitting in cold arenas that Reason intuitively knew his friend was “a cut above others,” something that would prove itself “a hundred fold” over the years. “He had a lot of really fine qualities.”
Neilson, who guided eight NHL clubs over a 25-year career, was guest speaker at a clergy lunch organized by Campaign Life Coalition’s national lobby office last October. CLC public affairs director, Karen Murawsky, on hearing of his pro-life stand, stated, “I wasn’t surprised, I was grateful.” She described his speech on life, faith and hockey, and how that faith sustained him, “very inspiring.”
Back in Kingston, Reason received a handwritten letter from his old friend shortly before he died. “Life is short,” it began. The commonality both men shared in Canada’s national sport is clearly reflected on the spiritual level. “It’s a loss. It affects me because I believe the same things he did and that he was a great ambassador for God and we’ve lost him.” The letter concludes, “Your friend, Roger.”
The summer’s heat will all too soon give way to biting raw northerly winds, the sounds of young voices, coupled with the slap of wooden sticks and the scrape of skates on frozen ponds. For Reason, Neilson’s passing won’t be forgotten.