Refusing to Get Caught Up In Royal Wedding Fever but Instead An Examination of the Obituary, Part I

I am loath to admit that I am sort of starting to get caught up in this Royal Wedding stuff, breaking down and watching a PBS program. So now I know her name: Meghan and now know that it is the Wedding of the Decade. There will be severe competition offered by the Poo-McTwit nuptials but they are ‘under wrap’ at the moment. The book revealing the ‘ups and downs’ of that union now has a title, one gleaned at VPL’s Writer’s Resource. And here it comes with much fanfare and drum rolls:Did Jesus Tell You To Block Me on Instagram?. My blog of November 1, 2017 made mention of this incident. Weaving fact and fantasy can sometimes be difficult but I guess I am up for it.

But at the moment we are going to go in the other direction and examine the obituary. It will be done by taking a chapter from the Uncle Dave book. At some point in time I begin to get competitive with my esteemed uncle – the chapter is entitled Feet of Clay.



(Not an all together a successful undertaking)

The discovery period began with the “find” of Dave Dryburgh, then led to tracking down and the reading his words. During this period his writing regarded at a worshipful distance, in awe, marveling at his vocabulary, his acumen, and his knowledge of the sports he covers for the newspaper. But in the back of my mind, some issues begin to nag at me. All of his writing (save Regina: A Prairie Oasis published in the 1948 Canadian Home Journal focus on sports. Was he fluent in another genre? Perhaps not. His writing style is well suited to sports, bold and sassy. But was he a one trick pony?

By complete accident I find this gem, a piece written outside his regular realm. Wes Champ passed away in August 1943, Dave Dryburgh wrote an obituary for the Regina Leader Post entitled “’The Little Man’ Wes Champ”. Out of necessity the article is included in its entirety.

The little man is dead, but his name will forever be linked with the most sparkling hockey the prairies have ever seen.

Wes Champ was content to be a fan until a fall day in 1921 when Gordon “The Duke” Keats dropped into his hotel [the Champlain]. The Duke was bent on forming a professional league, had tried to interest Dick Irvin and Al Ritchie, and was enroute home to Edmonton with a discouraging report from Regina when a lucky chat with Wes in the hotel lobby changed the picture. The fan who never missed an amateur game decided in a jiffy that he would have a whirl as manager of a professional club.

Thus the star-studded Western league was born and for four years Wes Champ rode to fame and public acclaim with his Caps. He signed puck wizards like Gordie Hay and Dick Irvin to contracts; he imported colourful personalities like Amby Moran and Rabbit McVeigh and Spunk Sparrow to cause a stampede at the box office; he snared the cream of the local crop and sent out athletes like Bill Laird, Puss Traub, and Laudus Dutkowski to bring about a hockey boom.

To the day he died, Wes spoke with pride of these puckists, the boys who won at title for him the first year and those who came later. Among his possessions is the first contract Eddie “Mr. Hockey” Shore ever signed. He [Shore] jumped from the Melville Millionaires to the Caps and played for Champ for $1,500 – a respectable figure in those times.

But soon came the day that the all-star circus outgrew the cities on the prairies. There was bigger money elsewhere for the Keats, the Ganes, the Simpsons, the Winklers, the McCuskers, the Hays, and the Irvins. The writing was on the wall, and Champ sold everything to the Portland Rosebuds for a reported $25,000. Imagine what Hay or Irvin alone would be worth on the market today!

The original Caps later became the Chicago Black Hawks.

… [Champ] was the president of the title-winning Regina Vics in 1929. He was there to watch Johnny Clark pile up that never-equaled shut-out record in the Vic nets. Came another lull, but an inveterate hockey booster, Champ was back with a club named the Caps that introduced players like Butch MacDonald, Lloyd Ailsby, Luke Waring, and Tony Desmarais to senior company and started them on the road to stardom.

In recent years, Champ, content to be a fan, possibly saw every player who ever drew on a pair of skates in the National league or any of the senior circuits. He was as a good judge of ice talent as the next one.

He witnessed his last game of his favorite sport in California last spring. Dick Irvin’s Canadiens were performing and Dick remarks: “There was Wes sitting in back of the players’ bench just as he had done 23 years before and I’ll swear he was as keen and excited as he was the first time I met him.”

Wes loved his hockey. The athletes who pulled on Cap and Vic uniforms for him never regretted meeting up with the Little Man, and Irvin declares, “He was one of the best losers I ever saw.”

What finer tribute can be paid to any man?”

Could you have paid a finer tribute to this man? What about this piece of writing, this tribute? How does this rank as an obituary? Can Uncle Dave transcend sports writing?

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of this analysis. The newspaper of the time shows Uncle Dave and work and a poignant piece called: It Won’t Be The Same

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *