By JEFF BOMBEN
During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Canada won 14 gold medals but it was one golden goal that every Canadian remembers. For some people, hockey is not just a game, it is a part of their life.
One of these people is Paul Osborne, who is the definition of a passionate hockey fan who understands the game but always wants to learn more.
Osborne works as the executive director of marketing, corporate communications, athletics and alumni at Conestoga College and has lived through some of hockey’s greatest moments. His passion for hockey goes back to his glory days as a young child and is only continuing as his life rolls on.
Growing up in Oshawa, Osborne grew to love the sport as a player, thanks in part to his dad who coached him.
He played in the old Bowman Arena, which had slat boards that were really thin and the old chain-link around the end. “Hockey was a great thing you did with your friends,” he said.
Osborne and his parents attended the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals hockey games when he was growing up. “It was such a high level of hockey and at the same time, it was affordable,” he said.
His parents had season tickets before he was born and got to see one of the greatest defenceman ever to play the game — Bobby Orr — who played for the Generals. Osborne grew up watching Orr dominate the NHL in Boston, but he never got to see him play in Oshawa.
Osborne still has a wool jersey that was signed by Orr, and continues to collect different types of memorabilia. One of his most unique pieces is a piece of Orr’s old hockey shaft from his famous junior days as a General. The shaft has “Orr” and his famous No. 4 written on it.
Growing up so close to Toronto, Osborne became a passionate Toronto Maple Leaf fan and still finds a way to joke about their glory days.
One of his favourite players was Swedish defenceman Borje Salming, who came to the Leafs as one of the first Swedish players to join the National Hockey League. Osborne loved the courage Salming displayed as he battled through the legendary years of the Broad Street Bullies.
Osborne went to his first Toronto Maple Leafs game at Maple Leaf Gardens with his father to watch the hometown team play the New York Rangers. Despite losing, it was a great experience.
Maple Leaf Gardens means a lot to Osborne and his family. During the fifth last game before the Gardens closed, Osborne brought his son to a game. The Leafs faced off against the Boston Bruins and during that game, Osborne luckily knew one of the Maple Leaf photographers who was sitting at centre ice taking shots of the game. Osborne and his son were sitting in the red section of the rink and in the second period, they rose to cheer for the team and the photographer captured their excitement. The photo is near and dear to Osborne’s heart.
Beginning his career, Osborne starting working in the radio industry where one of his friends knew famous hockey player, Raymond Bourque. With the help of his friend, Osborne was able to experience one of hockey’s most unusual moments.
In the 1980s, the Edmonton Oilers faced off against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals. The game took place in Boston at the old Boston Gardens and during one of the games, all the lights went out. The game was cancelled and eventually moved back to Edmonton.
During that Stanley Cup Final, Osborne and his friend stayed with Bourque. Thanks to this amazing connection, during the final series, Osborne was able to get full access to the Boston Gardens and even played tabletop hockey with NHL Hall of Famer Cam Neely.
Only a few years later, Osborne was at one of the greatest hockey games ever played.
It was the 1987 Canada Cup in Hamilton, Ont., that saw Canada battle their bitter rivals the Soviet Union in the finals. Canada needed to win the final two games in order to win the series. The second last game of the series saw Canada win by a score of 6-5 in double overtime after Mario Lemieux collected the puck off a rebound to score the winning goal.
Osborne actually worked for a hockey team after leaving the radio industry. He worked for the Guelph Storm as the director of business operations. One of his biggest challenges during this time with the Storm was moving the team to a new rink.
The challenge was that the team had to share 40 per cent of the revenue with major sponsors including Sleeman Breweries Ltd.
Another important milestone in Osborne’s career was working as co-chair of the 2002 Memorial Cup, which is a 10-day tournament that displays the best teams in the Canadian Hockey League.
Since Osborne stopped working full-time with the Storm, Osborne has billeted five of the Storm players including Los Angeles Kings captain, Dustin Brown.
When Brown first came over as a 15-year-old from the United States, Osborne said it was a bit of a struggle for Brown to adjust but it was the right move to make for Brown’s hockey career, as he made the NHL only three years later.
Osborne keeps in touch with Brown and recently visited him with his family for five days and attended a few Kings games.
Osborne describes the relationship with the billets as a second family and said Brown jokes that he has not eaten rice since leaving the Osborne household because they ate it all the time for dinner.
Talking about the Guelph Storm this season, Osborne said they have a great amount of young talent and will be dangerous moving forward. He said to watch out for defenceman Matt Finn, predicting he will be the next great player out of the Storm organization.