Terry O’Flynn’s entry into Canada’s game was a minor hockey career that
climaxed with a campaign playing for Ken Hitchcock’s vaunted Chain Gang in
Grace O’Flynn first dipped her toe in the hockey pool by heeding the advice
of a neighbour in Beaumont, Alta., to enroll sons Taylor and Connor into
Terry and Grace, united in marital bliss for 26 years, have worn different
hats in hockey since those initial entry points. He: director for the
Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and coach in the Beaumont Amateur
Hockey Association (BAHA). She: director for the BAHA and a zone registrar
for Hockey Alberta.
On Dec. 10, 2019, Hockey Canada appointed the couple to their present key
role: co-chairs for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“It is such an honour because it recognizes work you have done in the
community, and it's a sign of trust that they know you have what it takes
to run a great event,” remarks Terry, who helped organize the 2010 Grey Cup
during his six-year stint on the board of directors of the Edmonton
Terry, also a past member of the Alpine Canada Board of Directors, says he
and Grace believe they have a core duty to serve their community.
“It is important to have pride in where you live. And if you want to have
pride in something, you have to contribute. You can’t just sit back and
enjoy the fruits of labour. You have to put in some labour.”
Riley Wiwchar, executive director of the 2021 World Juniors, was first
introduced to his collaborators through Bob Nicholson and Kevin Lowe of the
Edmonton Oilers. It became immediately apparent to Wiwchar why Nicholson –
the former president and CEO of Hockey Canada – and Lowe championed the
“I could see right off the bat what great people they were and what great
ambassadors they would be for the event. Both of them have been so
intrinsically involved in hockey and bringing sports events to Edmonton for
so long that it made them the perfect combination.”
The couple immediately lived up to their bona fides as they worked to
recruit 700 volunteers for the competition initially slated to be held
jointly in Edmonton and Red Deer. They were also poised to tap into their
vast network of contacts to organize community functions and initiatives to
add a unique lustre to the event.
However, the persisting of the COVID-19 pandemic halted those plans for
this year as Hockey Canada announced in late September that a single-venue,
no-spectator tournament was the only safe way to proceed.
The news was not all gloomy that day, though. It was also announced that
the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship would be hosted in Edmonton and Red
Deer, so the O’Flynns have another chance to put their vision into motion.
Grace and Terry are still playing a focal role in organizing the
unprecedented World Juniors bubble tournament by assisting with the online
50/50 lottery and offering support and insight during the
tournament-planning video conferences on Zoom. Grace says she marvels at
the work being done by Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey
Federation to ensure the cherished holiday tradition endures.
“They could have been doomed when COVID hit, but they have worked so
tirelessly and so well with Health Canada and Alberta Health Services to
make the experience safe for players and staff. And they are doing all this
work without a template. With other World Juniors, you might have something
to follow, but this is a wholly unique experience.”
Terry also admires how Hockey Canada is displaying resilience and “humble
pride” to see this tournament through in this unprecedented landscape. He
says he sees those same characteristics on display in Albertans whenever
they are tasked to organize an event.
“When we have run Grey Cups in Edmonton, one of the toughest things to do
is cut down the list of volunteers. And these volunteers don’t show up to
get a souvenir or a jacket. They show up to work. There is such an
excitement that drives organizers because you know you have many people who
want to help.
“A humble sense of pride is very core to Alberta. And sometimes the pride
is not so humble when you get to high-five each other when you are done
with a big event,” he says with a chuckle.
The couple looks forward to a virtual high-five with their Hockey Canada
colleagues once the medals are awarded on Jan. 5, and hopefully an
in-person celebration exactly one year later.