16009 Steve Molaski: Much more than 210 points

xxxxxxxx

Caption: Unveiling of the #23 Steve Molaski Jersey and commandant, BGen Sean Friday presenting replica.

16009 Steve Molaski: Much more than 210 points

By: WJO

Steve Molaski was a pretty special hockey player at RMC from 1983-1988.

Besides his hockey prowess and high fitness level; he was a so/so cadet in two of the other three pillars (academics & second language).

It was the fourth pillar, his leadership potential that surpassed even his hockey skills.

Over his five college years the Belleville native and former Memorial Cup winner grew into what he was to become – an outstanding officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Whether it was because he was almost 21 when he entered RMC – most of the other ‘rooks’ at that time, were 18 and just out of high school. Perhaps, it was the fact that he left home at the age of 16 to pursue a professional hockey career?

We will never know. I bet Steve doesn’t know.

Interesting that at RMC when leadership is discussed about the ‘cream of the crop’ the focus by the staff is mainly on senior cadets who have four or five bars.

This writer was on staff during his graduation year; I don’t recall he ever had more than three bars.

Last Friday (4 Dec) when the college retired his old jersey number 23, the pre-game social centre was packed with a large number of people from many different backgrounds that in one way or another connected with the former OUAA 4 time All Star hockey player.

The diverse group consisted of – family (he is one of 11 children), friends, ‘buds’, military colleagues, former bosses, former subordinates, the current RMCC commandant, current principal, two former commandants and Doug Gilmour among others.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many of his inner group.

One thing that has come out loud and clear – he is a whole lot more than a special hockey player.

He is not only the consummate professional; he is a real genuine human being. You get the feeling that when he is interacting with his friends, their gripes are his gripes; their laughs are his laughs; their heartaches are his heartaches

I can’t think of having a better type of friend.

Steve has never outgrown his excitement about playing hockey or for that matter most things competitive. One gets the feeling that he has never big-shotted or high-hatted the people with whom he connects.

In other words, he never acts as if he is better than anyone else. The aim here is not to nominate him for Sainthood.

Back to leadership and the military college.

Full disclosure for those readers not aware – my background at RMC is in athletics.

Over the years, I’ve had many former varsity athletes tell me words to this effect:

‘The best leadership skills I learned as a cadet were a result of being a ‘committed’ varsity player. I will always look back on that as the best thing that ever happened to me at military college.”

Key word: ‘committed’.

Of course, the military colleges have produced cadets who have gone off to become great leaders – in the military and / or civilian ranks that never played varsity.

Hats off to the Commandant, BGen Sean Friday and his highly professional team that pulled off this special event with CLASS.

Special mention to Karl Michaud, Darren Cates and Guy Dube; this trio did most of the behind the scenes leg-work to make it a memorable night.

xxxxxxx

Caption: A few of the buds were in attendance along with Doug Gilmour a former Cornwall Royal teammate.

More photos from this event by: Melanie Hughes and ALOY OCdt Victoria Pierrot – Here

Post-game talk:

Two Ex Cadet who I know well were in a heated discussion.

First guy: “If Mo was playing for the Paladins he would be good for two points a game.”

Second guy: Two? He would be good for at least three a game.”

Both looking at me: “How many points do you think he would average over the 28 game OUA schedule?”

Me: “I say – a point a game”

Them in unison: “You have to be kidding – we’re talking about Mo Molaski.”

Me: “Guys, he is now 53 years old!”

Them: “You son-of-a-gun!”

 

Photo by: Steven McQuaid

What Steve Molaski, Claude Scilley & others had to say:

“I was simply overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for this very special occasion. I would like to thank my family, friends, team mates and coaches from yesteryear. I thought RMC played a fantastic game against McGill despite being down 3-0 early they came back like gangbusters to tie the game only to lose late in the game 4-3. In short, great to see the team never give up and play with character that captured the spirit of us all who played for RMC.”

Mo -#23

**

“I am so glad we could be a part of your special evening. You deserve everything you got and more. Now, let’s go golfing! I want my dollar back!!”

Danny Morrison

**

“It was a privilege to recognize Steve and his accomplishments in front of his friends and family. My personal highlight was hearing Steve speak to our current team after the game in the dressing room. A great night!”

Darren Cates

**

“This was a great way to honour and recognize the enormous contribution to hockey at RMC and the OUAA by Mo!”

15976 Bill Harris Jr. (class of 1987)

**

“This was a fitting tribute for a great athlete, highly professional officer, and fine leader both on and off the ice. A wonderful job by the RMC staff.”

Dale Batten – (Mo’s coach in Germany)

**

“Steve, sorry to have missed the celebration. I was with you (and Gordie Plue) in spirit! Would have loved to have seen you and the rest of the lads to share a few pops and memories. Congrats, Mo. You deserve it!”

15588 Jamie Williams, Class of 86

**

“I will say that it was a ‘night to remember’ for all who attended.‎ A big shout out to all who helped organize all aspects of the evening as it was very well done. I had a great sense that Steve and Cindy were very appreciative.”

14493 Paul Rutherford

**

Great event put on by RMC and Athletic Director Darren Cates, and a completely deserving honour for Mo. It hit me while Mo was speaking to all assembled; every story included an anecdote or a tale about someone else, and how they had been a part of his life and made it better. Family, friends from Belleville, RMC family, RMC hockey family, military personnel he served with and continues to serve with, his own family. Never about himself. On top of his great athletic skills and love of competition and winning, no surprise to any of us, Mo proved once again what a great guy and a great leader he is.

15950 BT Collict

**

I am glad my brother Bill gave me the heads up about the plans in honouring Steve on Friday; had a great time catching up with former teammates , ex-cadets , and the Molaski family

It’s been almost 30 years since I’ve seen most of you.

Thanks Karl and whoever else played a role in organizing this event.

RMC certainly picked the right man to honour on Friday night and it was great celebrating with a great group of people. I would also like to thank Andre and Laurie for hosting all of us after the game, as Mo alluded too during his speech, Andre and Laurie have been the glue that holds this special group together and they have been doing it since day 1 and for the last 30 years. I don’t know how many ex-hockey\cadets have crashed on their couches over the years but it must be some list !

Thanks again everyone.

Please keep me in the loop – still hoping to get Bill to fly over the pond for the West Point – RMC game in January.

It would be nice to reunite the “BLUE LINE” one more time with me centering Bill and Wis ” Mr. West Point ”

15975 Bob Harris

**

“On the 4th of Dec 2015, an eclectic mix of people gathered to celebrate the retirement of Stephen Molaski’s jersey, #23. Words are sometimes hard to find (there are so many wonderful things you could say) to describe what it’s like to watch people from all walks of life, some who have never met, some who haven’t seen each other for years, all gathered for one common goal. It is heartwarming and inspiring to say the least.

As Stephen respectfully took command of his stage and in celebratory fashion spoke from the heart describing the history of how this all came to be, it was evident on the faces of every person, regardless of their personal relationship with the Molaski family just how immensely proud they were to be in attendance of such an honourable event; myself included.

The stories, the laugher, the bantering, the lifelong friendships, family, mentors, coaches, and colleagues….bar down….celebration of #23 and his outstanding hockey experience marks a page in history as a true example of humanity at its finest.”

Cheryl McKinnon – family friend

***

Claude Scilley connects with Steve Molaski following the big night!…

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

On the night when Steve Molaski celebrated the pinnacle of his hockey career, he told the story of how it almost never happened at all.

At a reception before the most prodigious scorer ever to play hockey at Royal Military College had his uniform number retired Friday night, Molaski, now 53, recalled when he hurt his knee more than 30 years ago. He was a member of the Cornwall Royals at the time, 18 years old, fresh from a Memorial Cup victory, and the surgeon was delivering bad news: he would never play hockey again; by the age of 40, he’d be arthritic.

Just like that.

“I thought my hockey dreams were over,” Molaski recalled.

His physiotherapist offered hope. Not necessarily arthritic, she said, but you have to stay active. At about that time, a man named Floyd Crawford started pestering Molaski to get back in the game. Legendary as a hockey man in Belleville, Crawford was at the time coach of the junior B team there. Not only that, the Crawford and Molaski children, 20 in all, between the two families, were multiply intertwined. “I was like an eighth son to him,” Molaski explained.

At first, young Steve was having none of it. “I refused him more than once,” he said, but Crawford was smart enough to take matters to a higher court. “He went through my Mom,” Molaski said. “They’d known each other since childhood.

“She goes, ‘You just don’t seem like your old self; maybe you should go out and give it a try.’”

So he did, and his world began to open up again. The team made a deep run into the playoffs that year, and a buddy, by now at RMC, suggested Molaski join him at the college. It wasn’t long before Molaski was contacted by Redmen hockey coach Wayne Kirk. The son of a train engineer knew what the opportunity of a free university education would mean to a family of 11, it wasn’t really a tough sell.

Then fell the second bombshell of that year. Crawford, well connected in the game at many levels since his days with the world champion Belleville McFarlands, called a favour, pulled a string and came up with what he figured was just about the best thing he could have done for young Molaski: A tryout with the Baltimore Skipjacks of the American Hockey League, minimum 10 games, $1,000 a game. In 1982, that was an outstanding offer for a kid playing junior B hockey.

Molaski turned it down.

“That was hard,” he said. “The look in his eyes hurt.

“I knew he wouldn’t do that for everybody. I knew I was a special kid, but I’d given pro hockey a shot. When I was in Cornwall I had Bob Kilger as a coach and he said, ‘Steve go get yourself an education and if hockey can help, don’t hesitate to call.”

Molaski had already been accepted at RMC. It was April and he was to be sworn in June and begin basic training in July. The spanner in the works: Molaski was 20, and at the time, the college didn’t admit cadets who had reached the age of 21.

“I was right at a crossroads,” Molaski said, “and I decided I gave my word first to RMC and when I told him no, he just could not understand it. Floyd’s an interesting character. Hockey is the essence of his life. I’ve never seen hockey run through anybody’s veins like his. It means everything to him, and when I had to tell him no, it hurt. It hurt me a little bit and it really stung Floyd.”

Over the next few years, Molaski was often dismayed by that decision, believing it to be the correct one, yet realizing it had hurt Crawford deeply and probably had cost him a dear friend. Then one day Crawford called. By then he was coaching the Ontario under-17 team preparing for a national championship tournament. Would you, he asked Steve, come and talk to the boys.

There was no question.

“He’d done so much for me and I felt like I’d let him down. Now he was extending an olive branch to me. I said, ‘Floyd, I’m coming. Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do.’”

The hockey man had come to terms with his prodigal protégé’s decision. “He forgave me, or maybe it wasn’t as hard (for him) as I thought,” Molaski said. In any case, Crawford understood that hockey had still opened Molaski’s door—it was just a different one.

“That was part of the package he liked, what hockey has to offer,” Molaski said. “It wasn’t about playing in the AHL. It was other opportunities, too. All those kids at that age, playing for the under-17 Ontario team, they’re all expecting to get something out of hockey. They have expectations that hockey will provide a decent opportunity.”

Molaski was pleased to explain that pro hockey wasn’t the only one available to them.

On Friday, he delighted in sharing the story with a group that included minor hockey opponents and teammates, former coaches and commandants, military colleagues, family and friends, the story was remarkably inclusive, capturing many of those elements all at once.

That Molaski, author of 205 points in a five-year intercollegiate career—the sixth-best ever in Ontario intercollegiate annals when he graduated in 1988—while playing with a team that didn’t exactly surround him with a superlative supporting cast, would choose to tell that story after a military career that saw him serve as an artillery officer in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (twice) and rise to the rank of lieutenant-colonel seemed especially poignant.

“I didn’t want to keep it about RMC,” Molaski explained. “The college meant a lot to me, but this was about hockey. I had too many people to thank, from family, really close friends who I played minor hockey with, some kids I played against, they were very special.” To one, Kingston’s Doug Gilmour, a minor hockey nemesis with whom he later played junior in Cornwall, he paid special tribute. “That little pipsqueak,” he said. “They’d beat us 9-2 and he’d score seven goals.” “Yeah,” the pipsqueak, who later elicited similar sentiments from many a National Hockey League opponent, said from the back of the room, “but he always beat the crap out of me.”

The bond among hockey players remains fast. “Another door opened for me to go to RMC through those friends,” Molaski said. “Even after RMC, there were four of us from the college who went over to Europe to play over there. You build lifelong friends, you go through missions, and all these things, and the common thread through all of it was hockey.”

Sunday afternoon, at home in Ottawa, Molaski reflected on the weekend.

“It was a fantastic and eventful evening for me,” he said. “Those people, they didn’t all know each other, yet they were so close to knowing each other. By the end of the evening, a lot of people felt that the six degrees of separation was down to one degree, and hockey was the commonality.”

2 Comments

  • Tony Gilks

    December 6, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Mo a stand up guy all around. Always put others first a quality leader. As a former BSM it was a pleasure to have worked for and with you. Well deserved honor congratulations. Keep your stick on the ice.

  • Yvan Gagnon

    December 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Great memories; I wish I could have been there… But I did have another important commitment last Friday night.
    I am certainly glad that I could help in convincing you to study Political Science after your first year at RMC. You even admitted to me that you “liked that stuff” after your second year….
    But more to the point, it also gave me the pleasure of seeing you play for 4 more years and to reminisce on the fantastic years that I also had playing for the Redmen on the same ice that you played on.
    I had and average of just over 2.1 points per game at the time, but it was perhaps easier(!)then with a team that was first in the league with 9 wins, 2 ties and 2 losses; we only played 14 league games at the time. I also have so many great souvenirs of playing for RMC, like when we played the semi-final of the league Friday night at Constantine ( win 6-4), than West Point Saturday night (win 4-2) and back home at Constantine for the final Sunday after noon… But we lost that last one!( 7-5). That was the 1963-64 season.
    I am very happy that they retired your number…. and that you did so well.
    Congratulations,
    Yvan Gagnon, Ph D
    RMC # 6715
    Professor of Political Science, RMC’ 1972-2000