The deaths of former mayor Stan Montgomery and retired hockey great Clark Gillies have rattled current Mayor Clive Tolley, who was filled with emotion as he spoke about knowing both personally.
Montgomery was mayor of Moose Jaw from 1988 to 1991, which was when Tolley served as an alderman and sat to the mayor’s left, he recalled during the Jan. 24 regular council meeting.
“He was a true gentleman and one of the true pillars of our community,” Tolley said as his voice wavered. “And of course, well-known for coaching thousands of children as a volunteer coach in both baseball and curling (and being a champion curler himself).”
Meanwhile, Moose Jaw-born Gillies played in the National Hockey League from 1974 to 1988 and won four Stanley Cups in the 1980s with the New York Islanders. His career totals included 958 games played, 319 goals scored and 697 points accumulated. He eventually landed in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Gillies was a childhood friend and “certainly, one of the best,” the mayor said, his voice thick with emotion. He noted that city hall was flying its flags at half-mast to honour both men as a symbol of mourning.
During a media scrum afterward, Tolley spoke more about both men’s effect on Moose Jaw.
“I was a bit brief in my comments about them because I thought I was going to break down. They meant a lot to me,” he said.
The mayor remarked that Montgomery coached Tolley’s younger brothers to a championship in Little League while he helped his son Rod — the current fire chief — to a school boys’ national championship. Meanwhile, sitting beside Montgomery at council allowed Tolley to see what a “true gentleman” he was and how he served “with all his heart.”
“And he’s got significant family connections in Moose Jaw. He’s the patriarch of a huge family of Montgomerys throughout our community and a very important family for our community,” he added.
Meanwhile, Gillies grew up nearly two blocks away from Tolley. While the future hockey star was three years younger, they still hung out and played plenty of hockey together with other kids on the Hillcrest Outdoor Rink, which they dubbed the Ross Rink since it was close to that school.
Some of their friends married each other’s sisters, with one marriage producing future Moose Jaw Warriors’ tough guy Robbie Tremblay, Tolley continued. Tremblay said recently that Gillies was his hero and mentor.
“So it’s a really tough thing to lose somebody as important to the community as Stan, and then to lose somebody as young — and maybe one of the top athletes out of the City of Moose Jaw — Clark Gillies,” the mayor added. “It’s just difficult to deal with and I’ve personally had a tough time dealing with it.”
The next regular council meeting is Monday, Feb. 14.