John K. Samson will deliver his petition to the Hockey Hall of Fame Feb. 23. (Jason Halstead)
Reggie Leach broke down a lot of barriers and made a massive positive impact on the game and on a lot of us kids watching him with breathless wonder and amazement.
—Joseph Boyden, author
On February 23, John K. Samson will walk up the steps of Canada's Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to deliver a 2,600-plus name petition urging the institution to include NHL hockey legend Reggie Leach.
"It is important to me that someone like Reggie Leach is recognized as a remarkable and inspirational person and athlete," said Samson, a Winnipeg singer-songwriter.
Samson had never met Leach when he wrote the unlikely titled song "www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle," a musical plea to get the Metis hockey player into the Hall of Fame. The hard copy of the actual petition is a word-for-word draft of Samson's original song.
"I hope this process helps to do that whether he gets into the Hall or not," said Samson, who admits he was a terrible hockey player as a youth and got out of it when it interfered with choir practice. But that hasn't stopped his love of the game.
Samson, along with musicians Michael Feuerstack, Doug Friesen and Brian Poirier, will perform the song at the corner of Yonge and Front streets in Toronto, in front of the Hockey Hall of Fame. They will then submit the petition along with several letters of support from members of the community, including Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden, author of Through Black Spruce.
"Reggie Leach broke down a lot of barriers and made a massive positive impact on the game and on a lot of us kids watching him with breathless wonder and amazement," Boyden wrote in his letter.
Ian Campeau, better known as DJ NDN from A Tribe Called Red, also lends his support to Leach's inclusion. "It's important for First Nations children to have role models and people with prestigious accolades to look up to," he wrote.
"I do understand he had some struggles during his career with alcoholism and that may be a factor into Mr. Leach not being inducted already," continued Campeau's letter. "This should actually be something he is admired for: he overcame his addiction and has devoted much of his time to speaking to First Nations children all over the continent about drug and alcohol abuse."
Leach, whose best season was with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976, has only met Samson once. Samson recalls it was during Hockey Day in Canada in 2010 in Whitehorse. "The organizers surprised me by bringing him up out of the audience when I was done playing the song," said Samson. "I had no idea he was there. I was so thrilled I don't even really remember what I said to him."
Leach by the Numbers
19 - The record for number of goals scored in a single playoff season (tied with Jari Kurri).
13 - The number of seasons he played in the NHL
5 - The number of goals scored in a single playoff game (tied with four other players).
1 - The number of Conn Smythe trophies he was awarded in 1976 as the Stanley Cup Playoff's MVP.
Inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1997
Honoured member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame
Inducted into the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame in 1992