Clarence (Shorty) Brown, a long-time Yellowknife hockey player, coach and sports patron who received the Order of Canada for his efforts to organize minor hockey in the city and give skates to children in remote northern communities, died Friday. He was 77.
Brown died of congenital heart failure at Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital, with his family and friends at his side.
Thefive-foot one-inchsemi-professional hockey player moved to Yellowknife from Alberta in 1951 to play for the Yellowknife Indians in the city's mining company hockey league.Over the years, the entrepreneur becamepart ofthe history of hockey in the North.
"He actually personifies Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories, as it went through sort of an era from when he first came over and played hockey and did mining," said former Yellowknife mayor Pat McMahon, a longtime friend of Brown.
"He loved people, and he loved the North, and he loved his family. And they all loved him back."
Brown played an instrumental role in organizing minor hockey in Yellowknife. He also started the "Skates for the North" program, which collected more than 8,000 pairs of skates, 10 tonnes of hockey equipment and 1,000 jerseys and delivered them to remote aboriginal communities across the Northwest Territories and what is now Nunavut.
"I worked in the mining and oil exploration servicing, and I'd been around the Arctic quite a bit. And I'd go to some of these communities and they didn't have skates, they didn't have hockey equipment, nothing. It was just sad to see, you know," Brown recalled in a 2001 CBC-TV interview for Hockey Day in Canada.
"We thought we would try and organize and see if we could get enough skates for all the communities in the [Northwest] Territories," he said. "Forty communities in the Arctic, 1,300,000 square miles, communities scattered all over — and I didn't even know where half of them were — and we got to get them skates."
Brown said he has watched children lace up their new skates for the first time. He also received cards from children across the territory, thanking him for his efforts.
"The end result is when a little kid writes you a letter like that: 'Dear Shorty, in my skates, thank you kindly,'" he said. "I'm really happy to see that little bit that I did helped, that now they've come a long way.
"A couple of those kids coming out of the Arctic might get a chance in the NHL. And that's only the beginning."
Brown singled out Tootoo before he hit NHL
Brownnoted the potential ofa young Nunavut hockey player in a 1999 interview with CBC Radio.
"A young fellow by the name of Tootoo from Rankin Inlet, I hear that he's got a lot of possibilities," he said — referring to Jordin Tootoo, who in 2003 became the first Inuk player in the NHL.
"That would really be something, to see a young kid like that, in this short of period, not having any hockey or nothing up in that country, all of a sudden going to the NHL. I think it would be unbelievable."
In 2004, Brown was named a member of the Order of Canada by then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In receiving the honour, he was recognized as a longtime "enthusiastic promoter of physical activity."
Later that year, Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. named an ice pad in Yellowknife's new multiplex after Brown.