WINNIPEG—There are a handful of individuals who rise above the commonplace to attain the highest levels of accomplishment in their fields of endeavour, but even rarer are those special few who use their accomplishments in life to strive to make things better for those who follow on. On July 7, Reggie Leach was recognized as one of those most rare of human beings as he was elevated to the Order of Manitoba by Manitoba Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Janice C. Filmon.
“It was quite a surprise when I got that first call,” said Mr. Leach, who had just arrived home to Manitoulin for a few days of rest and recuperation before heading back out on the road.
Mr. Leach was recognized as the Riverton Rifle, a hockey player who played 13 seasons as a right wing in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Boston Bruins, California Golden Seals, Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, perhaps best known for winning a Stanley Cup with the Flyers in 1975, but it was his work after professional hockey that secured his nomination to the Order of Manitoba.
“I am very proud of what I have done after hockey,” he said. “Hockey really was a stepping stone for me.”
Mr. Leach has left his mark on thousands of young people in countless keynote speeches and through his ongoing work with his hockey school. “I learned a lot from my mistakes in life,” he said, referencing his younger self’s reputation. “We all learn from our mistakes, I don’t just talk about kids, adults still make mistakes, even old folks make bad decisions in life, but you learn from them and move on,” he said.
Mr. Leach is known for freely handing out his cell phone number to troubled youth, letting them know that they can call him if they find themselves needing someone with whom they can talk things through.
Mr. Leach was asked to give the toast to the premier during the dinner ceremony at which he was inducted into the Order of Manitoba. “It was a really good experience,” he said, adding that he was very proud and humbled to receive the award. “I looked around at the other recipients on the stage and there were cancer researchers and First Nations leaders.”
Mr. Leach is an Ojibwe, a member of Berens River First Nation in Manitoba, where he was born.
Among the mistakes Mr. Leach referenced was his addiction to alcohol, a challenge he met in 1985 by going into rehab. He has maintained his sobriety for more than 30 years and authored a book on his experiences and his philosophy in life. Mr. Leach and his two children, Jamie and Brandie, have all represented Canada on the international stage, Mr. Leach with Team Canada in 1976; Jamie in the World Juniors in 1989; and his daughter Brandie represented Canada in the world lacrosse championships in Scotland in 1991-92.
The civilian Order of Manitoba was established in 1999 “to recognize individuals who have demonstrated excellence and achievement in any field of endeavour benefiting in an outstanding manner the social, cultural or economic well-being of Manitoba and its residents.”
The Order is the highest honour of Manitoba and takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals confirmed by the Crown in right of Manitoba.
Anyone can nominate someone for the honour, but it is a committee made up of the Chief Justice of Manitoba (if unable to serve, Chief Justice of Queen’s Bench), the clerk of the Executive Council, the president of University of Manitoba, Brandon University or University of Winnipeg, each serving for two years on rotating basis in order listed and the president of Université de Saint-Boniface, University College of the North or Red River College, each serving for two years on a rotating basis in order listed.