Legendary Bearcat Murray to headline charity dinner

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An ordinary man doing extraordinary things.

It’s a statement that sums up famed Calgary Flames athletic trainer Bearcat Murray, who will be honoured for his ongoing legacy at a charity dinner next month.

“He’s what I call the perfect citizen … not only for his contributions with the Flames, but most importantly for his contributions to the community,” said event spearhead Dan Kroffat, local celebrity philanthropist and retired professional wrestler.

The Bearcat Murray Tribute will be held at the RancheHouse on April 27 at 6 p.m. All funds raised will go toward the Big Hill Haven women’s shelter that the Cochrane community is fundraising to build.

While there is no cost to attend, registration to confirm attendance is required by calling or texting Kroffat at 403-850-1001. Walk-ins will not be allowed.

There will be several guest speakers on the itinerary, including Conservative MP Blake Richards, Mayor Jeff Genung, Mayor Michael Muzychka of Olds and Margaret Van Tighem of Big Hill Haven.

“Everybody knows Bearcat,” said Genung, who is also sitting on the organizing committee. “I love Dan’s idea of honouring someone so that they can celebrate with us … I’m also happy to support the women’s shelter. It’s something we are missing in our community and a need that should be fulfilled.”

Van Tighem said to date the shelter has fundraised around $90,000 – much of which was raised through a successful ticketed dinner and auction last fall.

With the feasibility study reveal on the horizon later this spring – nailing down the exact needs of the community and building requirements – Van Tighem said the next step will be to hire an outreach worker to work corroboratively out of Cochrane Family and Community Support Services.

“I would like to thank Dan for making us the charity of choice … I’ve worked with Bearcat before and he is just amazing in all that he does in every community he goes to. He does a lot more than people realize.”

Kroffat reaffirmed Murray was the right choice when the 85-year-old Hockey Hall of Famer declined any offers of a plaque or trophy, expressing his wishes that all funds raised go to the women’s shelter.

The feast will be a “simple dinner” of pulled pork and salads, as per the request of the honoree.

On top of Murray’s legacy as longtime Flames trainer, he is well-known for devoting his last 22 years post-retirement to the club as a community ambassador and is known for his reach far beyond his home of Okotoks, where the Murray Arena is named after him.

He is the first person in the history of the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society to be unanimously voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Kroffat kicked off his premiere event in the fall of 2016 – after years of feeling society has it backwards by typically acknowledging their greats post-mortem. In 2016, Kroffat rallied the community together to honour retired Cochrane Eagle publisher Jack Tennant.

Tennant was recognized not only for his contributions to the newspaper business as a former Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald columnist and publisher of several community papers, but also his contributions to community efforts such as women’s shelters and children’s charities.

“It will be great fun honouring the little ‘potlicker’ from Okotoks,” said Tennant, referring to Murray’s nickname bestowed upon him by his father, apparently for licking the pot clean when his mother would bake cakes.

“The affair gives the community the opportunity to thank someone like Bearcat and at the same time, raise money for such great causes as the women’s shelter. It was an honour for me to be the first Dan Kroffat honoree last year and I hope it becomes an annual event.”

The event honouring Tennant raised more than $1,100 to kickstart the Big Hill Haven fundraising efforts. Kroffat is hopeful to exceed that amount this year through donations, as well as live auction items – to be raffled off by well-known area auctioneer John Copithorne.

There will also be a signed Jon Cornish Calgary Stampeders jersey up for grabs as a door prize.

“We welcome anyone who would like to donate any items to the auction,” said Kroffat, tipping his hat to the two individuals who have stepped up to make sure the event has no ticket price – Gary Sartorio, owner of Shaganappi GM, for donating the dinner and Cochrane realtor Shelly Kramer of Royal LePage Integrity for paying for the room.

For those unable to attend the Murray tribute but looking to celebrate a Saturday night to the benefit of Big Hill Haven women’s shelter, the Women of the Wild West are hosting a fundraising dinner and dance at the Cochrane Legion on April 28, beginning at 5 p.m.

Two Bad Apples will be the band of the evening, which is being flagged as a “boot-stompin’ good time.”

Tickets are $75 and available at bighillhaven.com or at Cochrane Floors and More.

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Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing. She has a knack for getting the scoop on stories and is a strong interviewer. The U of C and MRU English/Journalism graduate is committed to telling every story through a new lens, from a fresh perspective. Currently, her focus is on news and politics reporting, including town hall. She has a passion for providing a platform for underdogs, grassroots movements and those who have the courage to put themselves out there. She bases the strength of her stories on the depth of her connection with her interviewee, which is best done over too much coffee.