An Indigenous hockey legend skated through the South Okanagan Wednesday, and says this won’t be his last visit to the region.
Reggie Leach, who holds various records and firsts in his career in the NHL, stopped by the Osoyoos Indian Band for an event honouring some of the old “rez teams” and the hockey players that skated for them.
OIB Chief Clarence Louie arranged to get the Stanley Cup to the event, along with Leach, who said Louie did a great job in organizing the event.
“I got to meet a lot of wonderful people there,” Leach said. “They were honouring the old-time hockey players that played in this area from different teams, and they were wearing their old sweaters, their old jerseys, and that was really neat to see.”
The event brought a packed house, according to Leach, who said he was happy to see everyone got a chance to see the Stanley Cup in person, which he said is an emotional thing to see in real life for a lot of people.
“It’s exciting to be around and touch, and I get all my excitement out of watching other people, how they react around the cup,” he said. “It’s amazing how some of these older generations at my age and a little bit older, how they react around the cup.”
Leach added while there were older hockey players at the event, he also got a chance to address some of the younger players and fans who attended.
“Just give out a positive message out for the kids and stuff like that, a lot about life choices and being responsible for their actions,” Leach said. “In my book, I have a quote that says ‘whatever choice you make, you own that choice — good or bad.’”
He noted a tendency among people, including youth, to “take credit for their good choices, but never take responsibility for their bad choices.”
That lesson, he said, comes in part from his time following his NHL career, which he said included some of his most proud moments.
“To me (the NHL) was a stepping stone to who I am today. I learned a lot; I’m more proud, myself, for what I did, what I accomplished after hockey than what I did during hockey,” Leach said. “I’m more proud of what I do today with talking to youth and trying to get them on the right track, and using my experience to keep all the young people on the straight and narrow.”
Leach struggled in his past with alcoholism, but has reportedly been sober since 1985.
That followed flourishing NHL career, in which Leach took home one Stanley Cup in the 1974-75 season and broke a few records, including a five-goal game record he shares with a few others.
Leach mostly played for the Philadelphia Flyers, after he was a first-pick draft for the Boston Bruins in 1970.