Historic Game and Overlooked Award
From now until a winner of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded a few months from now, millions of words will be written and millions more will be spoken about this annual award to the NHL player who best personifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to his game. Those words have special meaning for those who recall the sorrowful event that led to introduction of this award.
In Alberta, we’re guaranteed to hear and read that Connor McDavid of the Oilers deserves the honour because of his incredible effort in overcoming what might have been a career-ending knee injury. And that Calgary Flames captain Mike Giordano should win because he has overcome injury and does incredible things on the ice and in the community for the benefit of his team and his community.
The list of 31 candidates, all nominated by local media, was released on Tuesday and includes as many as a dozen who might have legitimate claims for the selection. Edmonton product Jay Bouwmeester, now 37, is the St. Louis Blues nominee and will get much support for his long and dignified career and the memory that quick use of a defibrillator was required to save him after he collapsed on the bench during a game last February.
Probably, the early leader is Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators, who reached the NHL in 2005 as a second-overall choice by the Anaheim Ducks after surviving for years in a miserable and dangerous family situation. Another crisis was faced and defeated when he signed himself in as an alcoholic in dire need of aid, then came back to collect three goals in his first game after an absence of 104 days.
For those who see Masterton’s name only on this award, it is – and certainly should be – essential to realize he is the only NHL player to lose his life as the direct result of an incident during a game. He was a Minnesota North Stars rookie in 1968 when he attempted to split a pair of Oakland Seals (remember them?) defenders. Both defenders hit him at the same time. Masterton never regained consciousness and died in hospital 30 hours later.
No penalty was called and no serious investigation was launched. Masterton’s family understood that, in the words of one, “it could have happened to anybody.”
His too-brief career ended with four goals and eight assists. His first goal came in the opening game of the season and was the first in history for the expansion North Stars, where he signed after three brilliant years at the University of Denver.
A personal note: my job as an editor on the night shift at Canadian Press in Toronto prompted me to handle the story as it broke. From every imaginable area, there was an outbreak of sympathy. Also, there was an outbreak of calls for the mandatory use of helmets. Most players responded that they couldn’t possibly play well wearing helmets. League officials spoke almost in unison, saying the use of helmets would reduce fan interest; those who were thrilled to watch Guy Lafleur’s hair streaming behind him, for example, should not be forced to surrender such joy.
Eventually, good sense reigned. Helmets became the order of the day – but not until 1979. Any new player that season wore head protection but “grandfather” clauses were written for the comfort and convenience of those whose careers began without the headgear.
The last active player to function without a helmet was Craig MacTavish, whose consistent career – much of it with the Oilers – ended in 1997. MacT always insisted the game was safer before helmets were adopted. Bill Masterton did not get to vote on the question.
History of Red Deer’s Second Courthouse
It has been witness to a great many events and stories in the 90 years it has stood on the corner of Ross Street and 49th Avenue in Red Deer.
As the solidly constructed anchor for both provincial and the Court of Queens Bench for 52 years, this sturdy structure has also been a sanctuary for artists, the setting for movie productions and most recently home to numerous professional offices. It also was the backdrop for the last murder trial in Alberta which saw the defendant sentenced and hanged under capital punishment in the province.
This readily recognizable icon celebrated the anniversary of its official opening earlier this month and is showing no signs of retiring any time soon.
This was the second courthouse for the steadily expanding central Alberta city. The earlier one had opened in 1916 after having been converted from a coverall factory. Talk about being adaptive and creative!
Construction of the “new” courthouse was significant for many reasons. The Great Depression was in full swing so this project provided a much-needed injection of both money and jobs into the community along with a sense of pride that such a fine building would bring to the region.
This would be the last courthouse built in the province until the 1950s, the final version of a series of Alberta courthouses built in the classical revival style. Both Wetaskiwin and Medicine Hat received similar structures during this era.
Testament to the quality of the design and materials used in construction of the building is the fact that it remains steadfast after more than 8 decades of use.
Constructed using hot riveted steel beams, brick and mortar, then graced with pillars shaped from the legendary Lyndall Limestone from Manitoba, this grand historical resource will stand for a great many more years to come.
In the spirit of the type of practicality and resourcefulness often seen during the depression, heating for the building would be provided by a boiler built in 1912 and repurposed from a ship!
It was converted from coal burning to natural gas in 1949 and has since been replaced by modern, efficient boilers yet it still remains in the building as evidence of a different era.
Every building of a certain vintage usually carries a story or two about otherworldly spirits or energies. Why not the old Courthouse? It was thought that the ghost of Robert Raymond Cook inhabited the building.
On one particular evening, the caretaker for the courthouse was heading into the boiler room to grab some tools. When he flicked on the lights, they popped briefly and went dark. Despite this, the caretaker walked alongside the boiler in the direction of his tools when suddenly he was slapped in the face by an unexpected soft force! Was it the apparition of the hanged murderer?
When he had regained his composure a time later, the caretaker investigated the boiler room once more to discover the source of the slap in the dark. A frightened pigeon had flown up in his face when startled in the boiler room!
This magnificent building was the home of the judicial branch of the province for the Red Deer region from 1931 to 1983 when its replacement was constructed just down Ross Street to the east.
The courthouse was the venue for a great many legal tales over the years but probably none more famous than the 1959 murder trial for 21 year old Robert Raymond Cook of Stettler, AB who was accused of murdering all 7 members of his family in a most violent manner.
His trial began on November 30th, 1959 and Cook was found guilty and sentenced to hang for his crimes. His defense appealed the conviction and a second trial was held in Edmonton but his conviction was upheld on June 20th, 1960.
On November 14, 1960, Robert Raymond Cook was hanged. His death sentence was the last ever carried out in the province of Alberta.
Numerous books were written about this trial as the murders captivated and horrified the population who followed the course of the investigation and trials.
Even a dramatic play was created, called “The End of the Rope”, reenacting this historic trial which was developed and was even staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago.
In 1983, the building was sold to the city of Red Deer for a dollar and turned into the Old Courthouse Community Arts Centre. The grand structure housed painters and potters among numerous artistic pursuits for 18 years
The old courthouse has seen real life dramas and reenactments of legal dramas including being the location for filming scenes from the TV Movie, “While Justice Sleeps” starring Cybil Shepherd in 1994.
Even a dramatic one-man play was created by Aaron Coates called “The End of the Rope” in 2003, re-enacting this historic trial. It was developed and staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago. Cook’s lawyer, David MacNaughton even answered questions from the crowd after the performance.
The old courthouse made its most recent transformation in 2001 when it was purchased by Jim Dixon and Dick McDonell.
The new owners invested close to a quarter of a million dollars in upgrading the building including installation of new boilers, restored doors, energy efficient windows and new flooring throughout. 1930s era lighting was sourced to replace fluorescent fixtures, giving the rejuvenated structure a proper historical feel.
Today this 90-year-old icon of downtown Red Deer proudly carries on as the home to numerous professional organizations from lawyers to architects and with its new owners and numerous upgrades, this beautiful structure should be proudly welcoming people to downtown for a great many more years to come.
Red Deer’s old courthouse sits as the centrepiece of Red Deer’s historic downtown and is celebrating its 90th birthday. Come spend some time downtown. Visit the city’s unique Ghost Collection, many of which are within a few blocks of the Old Courthouse. For more information on leasing opportunities in this beautiful building, please email Davin Kemshead or phone 403-318-6479.
How the Railroads Shaped Red Deer
Rivers, creeks and streams have shaped the land for eons, slowly carving away earth to reveal the terrain we know today. Much of the same can be said for the impact and influence that railways had in shaping the size and shape and even the very location of what is now the City of Red Deer.
Prior to the construction of the Calgary and Edmonton railway, which started heading north from Calgary in 1890, what we now recognize as the bustling city of Red Deer was unbroken and forested land. The nearest significant settlement was the crossing for the C&E Trail of the Red Deer River, very close to where the historic Fort Normandeau replica stands today.
Navigating how to handle crossing the Red Deer River would be a significant challenge for construction of the railway route. Initially, the route was planned to take the tried-and-true path that had served animals, first nations people and fur traders for centuries, past the Red Deer River settlement. Yet just as the mighty river powerfully shaped the contours and dimensions of the land, the future site of Red Deer would be singlehandedly determined by Reverend Leonard Gaetz.
Rev. Gaetz offered James Ross, President of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway company, land from his personal farmlands for the river crossing and the townsite for Red Deer. Ross accepted and history was forever shaped by the decision, as what is now home to more than 100,000 people grew steadily outward starting at the C&E Railway train station.
The rails finally reached the Red Deer area in November of 1890 and trains soon began running south to Calgary. By 1891, the Calgary and Edmonton railway was completed north to Strathcona. Alberta gained one of its most vital transportation corridors and the province would thrive from this ribbon of steel rails.
Over time, the C&E railyards grew and expanded to accommodate the demand for moving more and more commodities like grain, coal, lumber and business and household items along with passengers. Those passengers were the pioneer settlers who would make Red Deer the commercial hub that it remains to this day.
For nearly 100 years, the downtown was intimately connected with the railway in the form of hotels built to welcome travelers, grain elevators, warehouses, factories and the facilities required to service the locomotives and equipment that operated the trains. Tracks and spurs dominated the downtown area, especially after the advent of the Alberta Central Railway and the arrival of the Canadian Northern Western Railway (later absorbed into Canadian National railways).
By the 1980s, the ever-present tracks and downtown railyard were seen as an industrial blight in the heart of the city that the railway created so funding was sought and plans were made to relocate the now Canadian Pacific rails from their historical home to a new modern yard northwest of the city.
This was actually the second relocation of tracks from downtown as the Canadian National railway tracks were removed in 1960 which permitted the development along 47th Avenue south of the Red Deer River.
This massive project opened up the Riverlands district downtown to new developments which included condominiums, grocery stores, restaurants and professional buildings. Taylor Drive was built following the old rail line corridor and removal of the tracks in Lower Fairview meant residents wouldn’t hear the rumble of trains in their community anymore.
Just as the waters gradually shaped the places we know now, the railways definitely forged Red Deer into the vibrant economic hub of central Alberta that it remains today.
We hope you enjoyed this story about our local history. Click here to read more history stories on Todayville.
Visit the City of Red Deer Archives to browse through the written, photographic and audio history of Red Deer. Read about the city and surrounding community and learn about the people who make Red Deer special.
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