The impact of the 1972 Summit Series is immeasurable; in the memory of
Kevin Lowe, it’s unforgettable.
The nation stood at a standstill for the eighth and deciding game of the
culturally-charged series between Canada and the Soviet Union. Schools
around the country forwent instruction that morning, and businesses had
televisions tuned in so staff and customers alike could keep tabs on the
all-important contest that would decide hockey supremacy.
A young Lowe watched on, engulfed in the moment along with all his
schoolmates in Lachute, Que., and an estimated 15 million other Canadians
as Paul Henderson scored arguably the most famous goal in the history of
the game with 34 seconds left.
“I was 13 years old,” Lowe says. “I remember being in high school and
classes were paused. They rolled the TV monitor in and the whole school
watched the game.”
Ever since, he’s been driven to help create more of those ‘Paul Henderson’
moments. He’s found more than he would’ve ever imagined, and helped produce
plenty more for Canadians everywhere.
“Just the way the series unfolded, it was a storybook finish. Seeing Canada
win and the pride that came from seeing the whole country watching, it
really planted the seed for me.”
Henderson’s goal still holds exalted status in Canadian hockey history
nearly a half century later, and proved to be a major catalyst for Lowe to
pursue a hockey career that would land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame as
one of the best defensive defencemen in the NHL with six Stanley Cups, a
King Clancy Memorial Trophy and 431 points in 1,254 games across 19 NHL
seasons as a member of Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.
A year after receiving his call to the Hall as a player in the Class of
2020, his immense contributions to the game as an executive on the
international stage will be celebrated with his naming to the Order of
Hockey in Canada alongside fellow 2021 Distinguished Honourees Bill Hay and
“The time I spent with Hockey Canada was an honour,” he says. “Thinking
more recently about the time committed and the memories made, I feel an
immense amount of pride.”
“Having said that, with the Hockey Hall of Fame, there was always a case
that I was on the cusp of it for a lot of years. Although it took two
decades, I was less surprised about that than I was about being named to
the Order of Hockey in Canada.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be [receiving it].”
Lowe recorded a goal and five assists in 16 international appearances for
Team Canada, winning bronze at the 1982 IIHF World Championship and winning
the 1984 Canada Cup to complement his storied NHL career.
When it came time to make the decision about life after retirement, Lowe
could’ve pursued a post-playing career in media but elected to stay on the
management side and return to Edmonton thanks to the influence of former
Oilers general manager Glen Sather.
“After 10 years or so I knew I wanted to stay in hockey, whether it was
directly involved with the team or indirectly on the media side,” Lowe
says. “I’d written an article for the Edmonton Sun and did sports
editorials on the radio in the mid ‘80s, so I had some inkling to do that.
But my preference was always to be on the hockey side.”
“Glen was always thinking about the big picture, and we never had a
conversation about [post-retirement] until it was time. I negotiated a
contract to come back from New York for a year to play and two years to
coach – a contract you couldn’t give today – and that was the seed that set
me into the next wave of my career.”
Lowe served as an assistant coach for the Oilers in 1998-99 and head coach
the following year before moving to the management side as general manager
and executive vice-president of hockey operations in 2000.
Regardless of role, Lowe carried with him his desire to follow the path
presented in front of him.
“I never aspired to be just a general manager,” he says. “I just aspired to
be in the game, and it would take me wherever my abilities and performance
did. It was others that invited me into those positions.”
Perhaps the biggest invite Lowe would receive was from a certain former
teammate to join the management staff for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
“We took the step and announced Wayne [Gretzky] as the executive director,
and the very first person he wanted to have on his staff, because he said
he thought like him and loved his leadership, was Kevin Lowe,” says Bob
Nicholson, the current Oilers CEO and vice-chair who served as president of
Hockey Canada from 1998 to 2014. “Kevin was a slam dunk from that side. The
two won all those Stanley Cups together and learned how to win together, so
I thought that was really important.”
To be held in such high regard by his peers for his personable demeanour
and leadership qualities was a powerful feeling to Lowe. “It was really
heartfelt,” he says. “It was really touching, because it wasn’t like I was
in on any conversations for this, and we hadn’t spoken in a long while. The
question came out, and I said, ‘Wow, absolutely I’ll do that.’
“The more I thought about it, the more I felt touched by the fact that he
thought enough of me that he would make that call.”
Canada ended a 50-year gold medal drought in Salt Lake City, and Lowe had a
direct hand in providing Canadians with another foundational ‘Summit
Series’ kind of victory – one that will be remembered for a lifetime.
“The Canadian fans singing the national anthem with a few minutes left in
the game is something I’ll never forget,” Lowe says.
“Then the stories surfaced after the gold medal game of things like flights
in Edmonton heading to Mexico, but the crew and passengers agreed to delay
the flight so they could watch the game.”
Salt Lake City was only the start for Lowe, who won the World Cup of Hockey
as assistant executive director two years later and joined Team Canada for
a second Olympic experience in 2006.
He was also part of Canada’s management team at the 2010 Olympic Winter
Games in Vancouver, handpicked by Steve Yzerman to help bring Canada a gold
medal on home ice.
“[Yzerman] wanted to have one person from the Olympic gold medal team in
2002, and he chose Kevin Lowe,” Nicholson says. “It just shows you the kind
of respect Kevin had, not just from Wayne, but from other players and great
leaders such as Steve.”
“He’s the first NHL executive to be involved in three gold-medal winning
Olympic teams, which is very unique in this country.”
With his extended experience as a player and a well-trusted acumen as an
executive for Hockey Canada, Lowe lived in the moments presented to him and
solidified himself as a worthy Order of Hockey in Canada honouree among the
“There’s too many people to thank, and the point is that’s one of the
luxuries of being in one of those positions; new relationships and other
hockey minds where you find the common bond is just trying to win a hockey
game for Canada,” he says.
“When you’re working that closely with people, you develop a relationship
that’s very strong.”