Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - One on One with Ed Chynoweth
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One on One with Ed Chynoweth

5 JUNE 2012
In June 1973, Ed Chynoweth was named president of the Western Hockey League.
In June 1973, Ed Chynoweth was named president of the Western Hockey League. (James Kelly/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Western Hockey League was born in 1972, and it was one man who nurtured and helped grow the league to its powerhouse status — Ed Chynoweth.

The WHL itself was formed in 1972 by Bill Hunter,owner of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Scott Munro, who owned the Calgary Centennials, and Ben Hatskin, who owned the Winnipeg Jr. Jets. Recognizing the need for further assistance, they approached a 31-year-old man working with the Saskatoon Blades to join the league's head office.

Born December 14, 1941 in the village of Dodsland, Saskatchewan, Ed Chynowethhad spent a year working at Saskatoon's Sheraton Cavalier Hotel before he joined the Saskatoon Blades as the team's assistant general manager under Jackie McLeod, a former New York Ranger who had turned to international hockey both as a player and then coach after his NHL career stalled. Chynoweth was hired as assistant to WHL executive secretary, Thomas K. Fisher. "In 1972, when I started, Hunter and Munro were definitely the kingpins and then they brought Benny Hatskin onside. Munro would manufacture the bullets, Hunter wouldfire them and when they needed money, they'd go to Benny," Ed chuckled.

Ed Chynoweth served as president of the Canadian Hockey League from 1975 until 1995.
Ed Chynoweth served as president of the
Canadian Hockey League from 1975 until 1995.
(James Kelly/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Within a year, Chynoweth was named president at the Western Hockey League's annual meeting in Saskatoon in June 1973. "I think I resigned three times in the first two years, and it was because of the way they tested you," he admitted. "And yet, at the end of it, it was the greatest training I've ever had."

Thus began one of the greatest careers in junior hockey history.

"Scotty (Munro) used to tell me that the best government is a dictatorship, if you can find a fair dictator," Ed recalled. "I inherited that."

Chynoweth pioneered a number of innovations for the WHL, but arguably the most important was its education policy. He understood that the WHL's greatest resource was its players, and knowing that a relatively small percentage would ever reach the NHL, the introduction of a scholarship plan became the league's greatest recruiting tool in competing for players with U.S. college teams and other junior leagues.

There is no doubt that Chynoweth's greatest contribution to hockey was serving as the innovator who created the Canadian Hockey League by uniting the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. "He was the architect of the Canadian Hockey League as we know it today," stated David Branch, the commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League and Chynoweth's successor as president of the CHL. "Our country was going through some challenges in terms of views and attitudes politically and Ed was able to bring three leagues together. There was always a sense of fairness and a passion for the game."

It was no secret that Chynoweth dreamed of being hired as general manager by an NHL franchise, but that opportunity never materialized. Ed served as the WHL's first full-time president from 1972 until 1995, except for the 1979-80 season when he served as the general manager of the Calgary Wranglers. He also served as the CHL president from 1975 until 1995.

In 1995, Ed Chynoweth left his post with the Western Hockey League to take over operation of the Edmonton Ice, an expansion franchise.
In 1995, Ed Chynoweth left his post with the Western Hockey League to take over operation of the Edmonton Ice, an expansion franchise. (Chynoweth Family)
In 1995, he left his posts to take over operation of the Edmonton Ice, an expansion franchise. "I don't believe anyone is irreplaceable, but in my opinion, we'll never get another Ed Chynoweth," shrugged Brian Shaw, who operatedthe Portland Winter Hawks. "We might get an adequate replacement, but never another Ed Chynoweth."

The franchise moved to Kootenay, and Chynoweth remained the team's president and governor, as well as the WHL's chairman of the board, until his death on April 22, 2008.

"The WHL and the entire Canadian hockey community have lost a great leader today in Ed Chynoweth," stated WHL commissioner Ron Robison. "The success the WHL and our member clubs are experiencing is a direct result of the vision and leadership Ed Chynoweth provided to this League over the past 37 years."

Ed Chynoweth received the CHL's Distinguished Service Award in 1977 and 1983. He was elected to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. In 1996, the CHL introduced the Ed Chynoweth Trophy to be presented annually to the top scorer in the Memorial Cup tournament. In 2007, the WHL Board of Governors renamed its championship trophy the Ed Chynoweth Cup in his honour. This outstanding leader and pioneering executive was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders' Category in 2008.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.