On November 30, 2023 Pat Flick passed away at the North Bay Regional Health Centre. He was 84 years old. He was also the founder of Grandravine Special Hockey, the first team of its kind serving those with developmental disabilities. He also co-founded Special Hockey International. Pat, with the help of his wife Joan and son Pete, devote his time and energy to special hockey, growing it from two young boys in 1980 to a worldwide movement when he retired in 2005. His legacy lives on in the hearts of our many long-time members and will not be forgotten by the special needs hockey community.
In the 1980s Pat Flick was the director of hockey for Grandravine Athletic Association that ran out of Grandravine Arena. The idea of a league for the developmentally challenged came to him when he saw two boys with disabilities watching avidly through the glass as their older brothers played.
“The two kids used to come with their parents all the time because their older brothers were on the ice. They’d be in lobby of the rink and they’d be playing with the puck in the lobby. I figured I would I start a team for them, but I found out that I had the only team probably in the world because we couldn’t find nobody to play for about 14 years.”
That was true until a fateful meeting in 1994 with Tony Sansone who was trying do the same thing in St. Louis. With Pat’s help and encouragement, he did just that and the following year the Gateway Locomotives took to the ice and hosted the Grandravine Tornadoes in St. Louis for the first international tournament with just two teams.
“The thing was the kids got together and they wanted to party together, they want to play hockey and they had fun. Working as an athlete. They’re playing hockey and they’re having fun.”
In 1996 Special Hockey International is officially launched, with Pat Flick as Commissioner and Tony Sansone as President. They establish an annual tournament to be hosted by different teams each year. St. Louis hosted the first annual SHI tournament and then alternated between US and Canadian cities.
“I just wanted somebody else to play because they didn’t have anybody to play, but when we were down in St. Louis I said I’d like to see hockey in every city, every town, all over the world. When I started nobody believed that it would last. Because they said people start stuff and you do it for a couple of months and then they quit.”
Well it did last and it did grow. Today Special Hockey is played by hundreds of teams throughout North America and Europe, thanks to two boys and two man. Pat may have appeared a little gruff to some, and sometimes rubbed people the wrong, especially if they did anything that might harm the special hockey program, but he had a heart of gold that was as big as he was. The kids meant everything to him.
“If you do it for the right reason and you see what the kids do, there is no award I could ever receive that would take the place of the feeling I got after doing what I did.”