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Original Vancouver Canuck selects UGM as charity of choice when honoured for years of service

Vancouver, BC—In the wake of hockey fever and gold medal delirium, Union Gospel Mission is proud to announce a special recent donation from one of the city’s very first Vancouver Canucks. At the end of 2013, Ernie Dougherty, 89, was hounoured by the BC Hockey Benevolent Association for his decades of service to the Canucks’ Alumni Association. Among the gifts presented, he was honoured with the opportunity to designate $5,000 to the charity of his choice. The Vancouver-born and raised hockey star said he knew instantly where the funds should go.

“I remember when UGM was on Powell Street.” he says. “I’d see people, clearly in need of help, waiting in the line-ups for a meal. I remember thinking how difficult it must for them. So every year I’ve sent a check at Christmas time, to help support the work.  I’m thrilled to be able to do so much more this time.”

Ernie’s hockey career started with a pair of skates he got for Christmas at age 10. Before there were special leagues, special camps, special equipment and even hockey stardom to dream of, there were hard-working boys who simply loved to play the game. Ernie was one of those boys.

“I never paid to skate,” says Ernie. “I lived a few blocks from the Forum Ice Arena on the PNE fairgrounds where my friend’s brother worked as an ice man. Every Saturday he’d bring us in the side door and we’d skate in the morning and afternoon.”

Ernie and his friend quickly became “rink rats,” predecessors of the Zamboni. These boys would clean the ice in exchange for free ice time when the rink was closed to the public.

Ernie soon played in the newly formed pewees league and went on to play junior hockey at age 18.  In those days there was no illusion of hockey being a means to earn an income. Boys played solely for the love of the game. Ernie thus becoming apt at running the rink’s concession stand.  In 1945, when he was scouted by the Chicago Blackhawks who proposed sending him to their farm team, his boss and mentor Nat Bailey counseled him against the foreseeable dead-end.  Agreeably, Ernie turned it down.

Much to Ernie’s delight, later that year, the Western Hockey League was formed and the Vancouver Canucks were born. Ernie was invited to try out and he made the team as the “extra player” which meant he had to be skilled in various positions, though he typically played forward.

“It worked well for me because I could work concession and play,” explained Ernie, who was concurrently learning business savvy from his well-known mentor. He practiced with the Canucks, played with them when needed, and worked his job for the next four years. He then played hockey in New York, Milwaukee and Europe until 1956 when he retired from the sport.

Since then, Ernie has not only run the concession at the PNE, he has operated a taxi business and a Dairy Queen and been part of the hotel industry and for many years. Hockey, however, is still very close to his heart, which is why he’s been so active in the Canucks’ Alumni Association within which he served as a director and treasurer for many years. He rarely misses a Canucks home game.

Ernie is one of only two founding team members who are still alive, Andy Colvechok being the second who now lives in Kamloops.

“We are humbled and truly thankful to Ernie for selecting Union Gospel Mission,” says UGM President Bill Mollard. “He has played an important role in establishing a solid foundation in both sport and business in our city and we applaud his leadership in choosing to continually help improve issues affecting his hometown.”

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 7 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counselling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery to those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To find out more, visit www.ugm.ca.

 

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