By Josh Aldrich
Three Calgary Flames legends had words of advice for Red Deer College’s national championship-bound teams on Tuesday morning: Just win.
Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald, former captain Jim Peplinski and all-time tough guy Tim Hunter spent the morning talking hockey and life at RDC’s 11th annual Kings and Queens Athletic Scholarship Breakfast, sponsored by Scott Builders, at the Parkland Pavilion.
With a sold-out room of hockey fans, they raised approximately $160,000, according to director of community relations Janice Wing, to go towards the college’s athletics scholarship endowment program. And $100,000 of that money was a gift by Scott Builders, while the rest came through ticket sales, sponsorships and raffles.
Many of the RDC athletes in attendance are beneficiaries of the endowment program, which encourages what is now one of the top college athletic departments in the country.
In the next two weeks, the men’s and women’s volleyball teams and the men’s basketball team are all set to go to their respective Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Championships.
“Don’t miss this opportunity,” said McDonald.
“Those friendships when you win … they’re going to be there for a lifetime.
When you win a championship, it sets you up for life, whether it’s in sports or in business.”
He added the only way to be successful is by having everybody pulling in the same direction as one team, not individuals.
This, he says, is how the Flames won the National Hockey League’s 1989 Stanley Cup, beating the Montreal Canadiens in six games.
Golfer Melissa Koster and men’s volleyball player Tim Finnigan were also honoured as Scott Builders Student Athlete Leaders.
Finnigan has led the Kings to nationals in Moose Jaw this weekend while collecting a host of awards, including Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference player of the year.
Koster has gone to back-to-back national championships and is now set to embark on a professional career in August, after three years at RDC.
The two athletes spend much of their free time volunteering in the community, which made them stand out for this award.
Koster took what Hunter, in particular, had to say to heart. He spoke a lot about the need to work hard to succeed, not only in sports but in life.
“I liked what Tim said about ‘and then some,’ ” said Koster. “If you want to be great, you have to do that little extra more that normal athletes don’t do.”
Peplinski, like Hunter and McDonald, has had a successful career since his hockey-playing days ended, running a leasing business.
Many, but not all, of the lessons he learned from his life as an athlete have crossed over to his life outside of sports.
“Very few of us realize that when you’re on the ice or on the field or at work, at that moment, make it your best work,” he said. “You’ve got to execute. If you’re half baked, you become average.”
Through the 11 years of the RDC breakfast, almost $450,000 has been raised for athletic scholarships through the endowment program. The athletic department hands out approximately $80,000 a year in scholarships to its different sports teams, according to athletic director Keith Hansen.
Mornings like Tuesday have become essential to the success of the athletics department today and into the future.
“It’s becoming more and more important as funding in our sector gets more challenging,” said RDC president Joel Ward. “There’s always pressure on us, when it comes to budgets, to cut athletics … so with our leadership program — we’re well over $1 million (raised) now — we know we can sustain all of our student athletes on an ongoing basis, regardless of funding, regardless of budgets.”