It was a sad day for Calgary, Alberta, and Canada. Our nation lost a true Roman, if you will.
We say this because Harley dedicated his life towards improving his adopted land of Alberta. A Man by all measures, Harley worked tirelessly in a variety of causes, never seeking glory or acknowledgement for his actions, actions that acknowledgement and glory were necessarily attached to.
To begin, the man is a Hero. He enlisted and served in World War Two. Anybody who fought the Nazi’s is Golden, in our view. He served in the Merchant Marines, which meant he had to brave the sea wolves that were the Nazi submarines. Harley was a brave man.
After the war Harley would go on to be educated, earning a degree in science. But a sheepskin is simply that if one does not use it. And Harley used his to great effect. Going out into the world, Harley would begin empire building himself, overseeing very successful ventures in a variety of industries, primarily oil and gas, but also in the consulting world, and even real estate.
Of course, this success would aid him in hobby of making Alberta a great, first world, top of the class place to live. His success in the business world allowed him and the other original owners of the Calgary Flames to get together and buy the Atlanta Flames and move them to Calgary. Anybody who knows the stories of the Seamans knows that this was done for a variety of reasons. One, so that the people of Harley adopted province could feel proud about themselves because they were now ‘big league’, but also because they (the original owners) viewed the purchase of the team as a way to promote the sport in Canada, and as a way to fight what they saw as the ‘Sovietization’ of hockey at that time. If you fight the Nazi’s and the Reds, you are Golden-Gilded-in-Gold.
And if course, Harley and the original owners remain the only Flames administration to have ever won the Stanley Cup, something which the City and it’s citizens will always cherish.
When bequeathing gifts on Alberta, and Calgary, Harley did not stop with the acquisition of a professional hockey team. Harley cared about the region, and spent a lot of time promoting various causes within it. He was a very kind hearted philanthropist, getting behind numerous initiatives in Alberta and Calgary. He would be instrumental in a variety of fund raising endeavours, with a large amount of them geared toward the hospitals in Calgary. For instance, between 1994 and 1997, he would go on to raise $50 million dollars for the health system in Calgary. This money be used to purchase state of the art medical equipment that Calgary area hospitals did not have. More than this, though, by providing the hospitals with state of the art tools, he would attract the top of the class doctors, as these doctors wanted to use these tools. Harley is very much part of the reason we have world class hospitals in Calgary (and therefore Alberta) today.
As much as we, the general community and the sports fan, will praise Harley for his hockey endeavors today, it is his work with the hospitals and within health care that he should get the most praise for. Put simply, Harley saved peoples lives by providing the money the hospitals needed to upgrade their facilities. Saving even one life is obviously a greater accomplishment than anything he did as it relates to hockey.
Harley was a Man, as we have said, and Men are trustworthy. Harley served on numerous boards in the both Canada and the US in his working career. He was viewed as someone with integrity, and so boards eagerly sought his presence. He served either as chairman or board member for organizations both related to sport, health, geology, development, and even tourism. An intelligent and creative man, he was never over his head or out of his element. For instance, he would play a key role in the preparation of the Calgary Olympics.
In fact, for his various work, he would earn the not only the Alberta Order of Excellence, but also be made a companion of the Order of Canada, back when that award was not as tainted as it has become today. Of course, for his work in hockey, he would also be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Murray Edwards, in many ways, walks in the shoes of Harley. Both view the ownership of the team as a sort of gift to the people of Calgary and Alberta. These men could have invested that money in other endeavors with greater return, so it should rightly be viewed as the gift that it is. Both men spearhead a lot of charity in this region, but also around the world, and both men earned the trust of the business community in which they worked. And for whatever reason, both men stubbornly refuse(d) to fire Ken King.
The Flames didn’t lose a former owner; The City of Calgary, the Province of Alberta, the Country of Canada, lost a Hero, and a Man. We should all aspire to reach a small fraction of the people, and do a small fraction of the good, that Harley did for this world.
Requiescat in pace.