Hockey players are tough and they play a rough sport. Within that physical world there are players through the years that have played with elegance and class. Jean Beliveau and Jean Ratelle are two players that come to mind. Let me add another name. Pierre Turgeon. I had the pleasure of getting to know him as he ended his terrific career with the Colorado Avalanche. Even as his playing days came to a conclusion he played with sportsmanship as well as great skill. More importantly, he carried himself off the ice like a gentleman and with dignity that is now rare in our society.
Why do I bring this subject up? I had the privilege of being the emcee for a banquet preceding the JWHL U-19 AAA national playoffs being held in Littleton. The JWHL is the Junior Women Hockey League. The U-19 AAA’s are among the best women hockey players in North America. They are young women that are headed to college on hockey scholarships and some will play in the next winter Olympics.
At the banquet, the JWHL player of the year is given the Liz Turgeon Award. Liz Turgeon was an elite hockey player for the Colorado Select and played well enough to earn a hockey scholarship to the University of Minnesota. Liz Turgeon is the daughter of Pierre and Elizabeth Turgeon. On December 23, 2010 Liz was in a car accident that took her life. She was 18 years old.
My daughter, Kiara, plays for the Colorado Select U-12 AAA team. She sat next to me at the banquet. Also sitting at our table were Pierre, Elizabeth, Alexandra and Valerie Turgeon. Alexandra is the twin sister of Liz. Valerie is Liz’s 14 year old sister. I have no idea what it is like to be that family and deal with the tragedy of what they have gone through. I do, however, admire the way the family handled that evening.
There came a time during the course of the banquet that the Liz Turgeon Award was to be given to the worthy recipient. I had to stand in the room of 200 players and coaches and introduce the Turgeon family to come to the front and be there for the presentation of the award. I know I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes as I described Liz Turgeon as a player and as a person.
Through the night Pierre and his family talked with other people about hockey and about life. They never once looked perturbed or offended by the questions. They took an interest in other people’s lives and were inquisitive. Pierre has always had a reputation as one of the nicest guys in the game, and I saw plenty of evidence to know that it is true. That night was a reminder that no matter what obstacles and sadness life throws at us, it is better to react with kindness and love.
There is a way to play the game of hockey with elegance and class. More importantly, Pierre Turgeon has lived a life with elegance and class. We should all strive to do the same.