HUNTSVILLE - Autograph seekers swamped Roy MacGregor last Monday evening.
Roy MacGregor (left), a former Huntsville resident, is presented with his Hockey Hall of Fame plaque by hall member Eric Duhatschek during the induction ceremony on Nov. 12 in Toronto.
Just hours after he was admitted in the Hockey Hall of Fame, hockey fans stopped the former Huntsville resident, author and renowned national sports columnist just before he entered his Toronto hotel.
“They were getting me to sign pucks and pieces of paper, books and all that,” he said in an interview from his Kanata home.
But he said his wife Ellen eventually pointed out to him the comical reality of the situation. “We were about 20 steps up the stairs and she turned to me and said, “I bet they are trying to figure out who you are.”
“I thought that was a pretty funny line because it was true.”
Monday’s ceremonies concluded months of anticipation for MacGregor. The Professional Hockey Writers Association announced on June 8 that he had won the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for excellence in hockey journalism.
Winning the award automatically placed McGregor into the journalist’s section of the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with Rick Jeanneret of Buffalo, who went in as the broadcast media inductee.
Joining them in the hall on this night were players Mats Sundin, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Pavel Bure.
MacGregor and Jeanneret were officially inducted into the hall during a media luncheon that afternoon, leaving the spotlight that evening for the four aforementioned players.
“It was great … I made a joke that this was not how I planned to go in, I was just unfortunate to play at the same time that Bobby Orr was playing over in Parry Sound. I don’t pretend to believe that part of the media is the same as being part of the players, but at the same it is nice to be honoured by the same organization.”
MacGregor was born in Whitney, but moved with his family to Huntsville in 1950, where he attended primary and secondary school.
Along with playing minor hockey for the town, he was also a lacrosse standout, winning an Ontario title as a member of the local peewee team.
He lived here for more than 20 years, met and married his wife Ellen (Griffith). The family still has a cottage in the area at Camp Lake at the end of Limberlost Road in Lake of Bays.
MacGregor said that he enjoyed the jovial mood on Monday night, despite the dark cloud the NHL lockout has created over the game.
“Everyone got together on a feel-good night, which there has been exactly one this hockey season. Every kind of barrier came down, and it was very congenial and friendly and lots of happiness.”
He laughed about one instance of mistaken identity that same evening after he had received his hall of fame jacket.
“One man came up to me and wanted to take a picture of me with his daughter. Then he said to her this was one of the guys who played in ’72 (Canada-Russia series) and I told them I wasn’t one of the players.
“That was the end of that photograph,” he said with a chuckle.
All kidding aside, MacGregor said the night was a wonderful experience, and it brought up different emotions than the ones he felt when he found out last summer that he was going into the hall in November.
“First, there was great delight and excitement, but on the day you go in, when the surprise is gone, then there is a feeling of satisfaction. Still, the feeling was blunted with the underlying current of dissatisfaction that there wasn’t NHL play going on. Other than that it was fine night.”
He said he got enjoyment out of speaking with Oates, who was also known for his outstanding lacrosse prowess in his younger days.
“We got talking about playing lacrosse, and he was a sensation in lacrosse and knew all about Huntsville and how good the players from there were,” he said.
MacGregor related a touching story about Sakic, who he said did a personal favour for one of MacGregor’s relatives that still strikes a cord with the author to this day.
“Joe is extremely special. One time, my sister-in-law, who is a nurse in Bradford, had an extremely sick boy on her hands and asked if I could get in touch with Joe. I thought he would send an autographed picture, which he did. That was all I ever asked for. The next thing I know, my sister-in-law called me to tell me that Joe had phoned the kid twice to check up and see how he was feeling and to pick his spirits up. No one asked him to do that but that is the kind of person he is,” he said.
Currently a featured hockey columnist at the Globe and Mail, MacGregor’s career also had stops at the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, the Toronto Star and Maclean’s magazine.
He has authored several hockey books, perhaps none more famous than The Game, a book he co-authored with Ken Dryden that is regarded as the greatest Canadian sports publication of all time.
Closer to home, MacGregor also wrote the massively popular children’s series, The Screech Owls hockey novels, which is loosely based on his time growing up in Huntsville.