O’Brien loved St. Catharines
Ellard (Obie) O’Brien had a long, successful and storied career as a professional hockey player.
The St. Catharines native played at the pro level from 1950 until 1962, including two games in the National Hockey League with the Boston Bruins. He was best known for his eight seasons with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League where he won back-to-back championships and was later inducted into their hall of fame.
But when his son, Ellard O’Brien, Jr., speaks Wednesday night at the St. Catharines Sports Wall of Fame induction ceremonies on behalf of his father, hockey won’t be the main message of his speech.
“I’m going to talk more about the man than his hockey career,” his son said. “I’m going to touch on some of the things he did for the city and the region.”
Ellard, Jr. said his father was very involved in sport following his playing days including being co-chair with Archie Katzman for the Fred Stanfield Golf Tournament in 1973. The tournament the morphed into the Molson’s Panasonic Invitational, before being re-named the Community Leaders Invitational.
The year he died (2011 at age 81), more than $5 million was raised for charity and Walker Family Cancer Centre, as well as other charities.
Ellard, Jr. said his father’s commitment to the community came from his belief St. Catharines was a great place to live and raise a family.
“He loved St. Catharines. He used to tell us this is where he was born and this is where he was going to stay and this is where I’m going to give back to the community.”
O’Brien’s hockey career ended following the 1961-62 season where he was a player-coach for the Philadelphia Ramblers of the Eastern Hockey League.
He hooked on with Molson’s and worked as a rep for more than a quarter-century before retiring.
“When he was with Molson’s, he turned down several promotions because he would have had to leave the city,” his son said. “It was his hometown. He just liked it here.”
O’Brien remained active in hockey as a coach beginning in 1963-64.
His son feels his father would be humbled by the award.
“We would be honoured to be up there,” he said.
Also being inducted into the hall are Bill Schenck, Tonya Verbeek, Wanita Dykstra-May and Ron (Swede) Burak.
The 2019 Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and following the induction ceremony, there will be a reception which will include hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.
BPSN’s coverage of the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame is brought to you by Peter Partridge of Partridge Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities (www.peterpartridge.com).
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