Ken Bracko Sportsman of the Year Address

Co-chairmanships Angela and Grant

Youth of Calgary

Honored Guests

My sincere appreciation to the Calgary Booster Club, for their outstanding efforts as an organization for the past 61years.The continuation of the recognition of outstanding leaderships and achievements as a reward is very much appreciated.  Thank you.

Congratulations to the 3 Top Athletes of the Year on their achievements and the 7 Outstanding Athletic Leaders for their dedication in their field of endeavourment.

In order for myself to achieve such a prestigious award I have been fortunate to have an outstanding partner, my wife Evelyn guided and directed me, and was always at my side. I love you and thank you. 

On February 13, 1947 as a youngster at the age of 6 I had the opportunity of living within ¼ of a mile of the historic Leduc No. 1, a crude oil discovery that provided the geological key to Alberta’s most prolific conventional oil reserves. This is the industry that now fuels the Canadian economy and provides us with the highest standard of living in the world. The oil and gas industry is the most safety conscious industry in the world and their concerns and opportunities for the youth of Alberta is second to none. I am very honoured to have been a part of this industry since this historical date.

As a youth, I was a paper boy, then  I joined the workforce as a young labourer for $.80 cents per hour which included the carrying shingle bundles (90 lbs.ea.) up a ladder to the roof. I worked for John May whose grandsons Dennis and Doug played for the Calgary Canucks and both of which received scholarships to Michigan. What a small world.

I received my business training and knowledge firstly in the Edmonton Construction Industry where I had the opportunity of working with one of the greatest goalies of all time. Hall of Famer, Glen Hall. Glen was one of the most sensible and caring people I have come across: I have looked up to him all my life.

After Edmonton I moved up North to earn a living in the Grande Prairie Construction Industry where, I was fortunate to become the President of the Grande Prairie Construction Association. Here I had the opportunity of working with Alan Olsen (of Stuart Olsen) whom I went to school with and who was hired to finish the Calgary Saddledome. Together we introduced the bid depository system to the Alberta Construction Industry. I was President of the (Young Man’s Self Betterment) Grande Prairie Jaycees and was honoured to be given Canadian Jaycee Senatorship No. 11986.

While living in Grande Prairie I had the priviledge of having lunch with the late Premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed, at this time, he was in the process of building the Conservative Party with only six conservatives in the house.

Based on this luncheon I ran for alderman in Grande Prairie and Thank God I was defeated.

In 1970 I moved my family to Calgary to work alongside my late uncle Bob Bracko, my mentor and best friend.

While living in Calgary it has been  a privilege and a education to be part of the Forest Heights Community, North East Athletic Association, now the Calgary Northstars Hockey Association. a Founding Member of the SAMM League, the Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament and Alberta Major Midget AAA League and became involved in Calgary East Little League start up, a mentor in Calgary Junior Achievements, as well as being a Heart and Stroke Fund Raising Participant. And last but not least, I became President of the Calgary Canucks Junior “A” Hockey Organization, including over 1000 alumni, providing over 500 educational scholarships, and financial aid rewards thru what would equate to 10,000 years of volunteerism.

31 years ago I received a phone call from the coach of the Calgary Canucks, Gary Braun, he asked me to put together a group of investors to take the Canucks out of bankruptcy. We were unsuccessful in attaining any investors so we turned to the Northeast Athletic Association for help. They agreed to a 3 year trial period, with a great group of workers we succeeded. Our Business plan was to run the team by volunteers and raise the essential expense money needed to exist which today is $300,000.00 for bus, equipment, league fees, medical expenses, meals & travel accommodations. We have never had enough money to pay our coaches we are forced to count heavily on the parents to step up and help us out. Every year $300,000.00 remains to be raised. Just to give some perspective we play in a League that have budgets of $1,500,000.00 Fort McMurray, Brooks $900,000.00.

Over our 44 years of operation we have raised $12,000.000.00 (12 million) in cash and our volunteers have donated 12,000,000.00 (12 million) in services, we were the 1995 Canadian Champions, have had more than 30 players drafted to the NHL, 40 played in the NHL, are the AJHL Winningest Team and have had over 150 US College Scholarships, given to our players along with 210 Players in Canadian Universities and Colleges.

This business format which provides the youth of Calgary the opportunity to play at home in front of their family and friends is duplicated by our cross town rivals the Calgary Mustangs. The Calgary Mustangs and the Calgary Canucks are great organizations and essential for the continued development of the youth of Calgary. I ask you to help support either one of these organizations that have nurtured some of Calgary’s finest hockey and business minded people.

As a parent of 2 boys who played 6 years and coached for 2 more and part of a family which has donated 100 plus years of volunteerism to the non-profit Canucks and having the opportunity to personally know and follow the careers of Craig Adams (2 Stanley Cup Rings and hopefully 3 this year), Mark Astley, Dany Heatley, Doug Houda , Ben Scrivens, Jason Smith, Dana Murzyn, Scott Nichol, Geoff Snider(lacrosse), Ken Sutton, Mike Vernon, Craig Weller, plus many more of the 1000 plus alumni and their families and friends, their achievements, have been and will continue to be the most meaningful part of of my life.

Calgary has provided my family with unlimited opportunities…

My son Barry, Canuck Alumni, 2 time Alberta Junior Hockey Scoring Champion, 2nd alltime scorer leader with the U of C, U of C Graduate, former McKnight Community Executive and his wife Marie, U of C Graduate, and their sons Jacen & Kyle who live and play baseball and hockey in Switzerland.

My son Carey, Owner of the Bracko Brothers Furniture Store, Canuck Alumni, 3 time Major Midget AAA Canadian Championship coach (2 with Calgary Northstars and 1 with Calgary Royals), 2 time Major Midget AAA Canadian Championship winning coach (Calgary Northstars), former Calgary Canuck Coach, former Calgary Hitmen General Manager and my adviser and Canuck financial supporter for the past 30 years and his wife Caroline, U of A Law Graduate and Daughter Lindsay, a member of 2013 Esso Minor Hockey Week Atom 10 Springbank Novice Champions, Soccer Participant, Dancer and Amateur Golfer & Son Riley, a member of 2014 Springbank Esso Minor Hockey Week Novice Division 1 Champions, and Springbank Division 1 Novice Champions, with Carey as Coach with a record of 38-3-4, also a Lacrosse Participant, Amateur Golfer, and a Impressive Youthful Mentor.

My Daughter Lori, Provincial Fiqure Skating Champion, U of C Graduate and Husband Tim Kollman, Canuck Alumni and NCAA Scholarship Recipient, both tireless workers in the Community of Parkland, their daughters Courtney, 1st year Calgary Rangers Girls Bantam AAA Hockey Team Leading Scorer, 2014 Winter Games participant and Foothill Tier One Soccer Player that continues to uphold honours with distinction & Katie, Foothills Soccer player and
my Figure Skating Sweetheart

And this past year I was pleased to be awarded Queen Elizabeth II 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee medal in recognition of my contribution to Canada.

My wife Evelyn and I are very thankful and appreciate all of the people that contributed to our family’s growth as individuals.

In order for myself to achieve such a prestigious award as the Sportman of the Year I have been fortunate to have an outstanding and dedicated supporting cast: THANK YOU

Ryan Barrett Canuck Alumni, Coach and GM of the Calgary Canucks, Hon Dave Carter Former Speaker of the Alberta Government, Bob Clarke Canuck Director, Melody Davidson Former Calgary Canuck Coach and 2 time Coach of the Olympic Gold Medal Canadian Womens Hockey Teams and One of our Outstanding Leaders. Doug Fraser past president of Calgary Buffalo Hockey Association and designer of the world famous Mac’s Cup, Eric Francis Sports Columnist and Announcer, and Tireless Canuck Supporters and Workers, John Belanger, Bob Ennis, Doreen Erskine, Lil & Gary Greggain, Lionel Hamilton, John Hazelton, Corey Kinghorn, Dennis Mack, Lyle Moench, Brian McDougall, Tony Sharples, Lorraine-Ken Weller, your many years of criticism, direction, help, and understanding were always welcome and appreciated.

The 2 people that have raised the most money to keep the Canucks afloat is Darryl Moldenhauer and Judy Pennoyer. I would like to thank you personally for your unbelievable contribution to the youth of Calgary.

My belated thanks goes to the late Bob Bracko and Stan Roszell business partners and advisors, Doug Eastcott and Tom Walls as Canuck Founders. And the late Jim Kerr, Ed Melville, Glen Patrick as advisors, all were exceptional common sense role models.

And last but not least Calgary Booster Club President, Alberta Hall of Fame Inductee and former Calgary Canuck Coach Don Phelps. You have no idea the positive effect, THAT YOUR direction and dedication HAS HAD on the youth of Calgary and what it has meant to all of us.

Success is the aim of everyone in our competitive society.

Lets us use our leadership to mentor and develop the youth.

Let common sense prevail in our decisions to help the youth of today

Looking back…I feel that we must learn from our past… My dad (being a teacher) thought I was the smartest kid in the world, and without giving it much thought he advanced me in school. This however reduced my opportunity for an athletic career as I was smaller, weaker, and more immature than my teammates. Competing against older and stronger boys resulted in injury (I threw my arm out), which forced me to retire at a young age. Since the injury I have been unable to throw a baseball and unable to play a competitive game of ball. To the parents of today, give some serious thought to the decision to advance your children in sports. I have seen 1st hand many skilled athletes, of all ages, ruin their careers by doing so. Let your children succeed at the appropriate age level. Due to the drastic change in sports and the competitive nature of the game, we in the large centres should consider grouping our athletes by single age groups up to 18 years of age.

We as leaders have also sat back and let our amateur youth sports opportunities become unaffordable and a great effort by all is required to bring back affordable cost for all.

Coming from a family of 11 children with limited financial resources, we counted heavily on the public system for our sporting activities. Programs offered by communities and the YMCA were available to all families. They did an outstanding job for which I am thankful.

The youth of Calgary is our greatest asset, that for which we should be very thankful, and every youth’s dream for their future, should be available to them for their earning at the lowest possible cost.

The “provincial-“ization” of sports has caused skyrocketed costs, reducing and limiting big city youth participation, and we are at fault for not giving our sport executives the direction to use common sense and keep sport affordable for ALL youth. 

As told to me by Mr. Jack Gregory of Tuxedo Source for Sports, a major Calgary sport supporter the largest single cost to sports is travel expenses. It is time to…bring this in check.

I also feel that the specialization of one sport by the youth of today has had a adverse effect on the development of our young athletes… It is time to bring back the well rounded athlete.

In closing, I would like to inform our Prime Minister, Calgary MP’s, Calgary MLA’s and  Calgary Counsellors, that the City of Calgary is lacking in sport facilities that our youth deserve which would enable them to develop equally with the youth in other Alberta locals such as Airdrie, Brooks, Camrose, Grande Prairie, Okotoks, Penhold, Sherwood Park, Red Deer, St. Albert. CALGARY CITY YOUTHS , are suffering and losing the opportunity to compete. Maybe it is time you took a drive to see for yourself, recognize and react to the problems facing our sporting youth of today in Calgary.

Calgary is great, lets all work harder to make it greater.

Thanking you    

Ken Bracko