The road leading to Cam Neely Arena is now called Jim Robson Way.
Hall of Fame hockey broadcaster Jim Robson was humble Saturday evening as he accepted a mock street sign bearing his name by Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read during a ceremony in the curling rink at Planet Ice, where one of the rinks is named after Neely, the NHL hall of famer and former Maple Ridge resident.
When it was his turn to speak, Robson thanked the crowd.
“I’ve never heard so many compliments,” he said.
Robson began by thanking Vancouver Canucks play-by-play commentator John Shorthouse, who was emceeing Saturday evening’s event.
“I heard him do the game in Winnipeg the other night and I sent him an email right away and I said boy you are really pumped for this one,” said Robson.
“It was coast to coast in Canada and I hope those guys in Toronto are listening,” he said, complimenting Shorthouse on being one of the finest hockey announcers in Canada.
Robson also thanked Mayor Read, who also spoke at the event before congratulating the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association on its 50th anniversary.
“When I was a boy living out here going to Alexander Robinson school and then Maple Ridge junior senior high school,” which, he noted, burned down the year after he left.
“I didn’t burn it down,” he added to laughter from the audience, gathered upstairs at the Golden Ears Winter Club.
“But when I was growing up here, there were no rinks in the area. The nearest one was Queens Park Arena, 20 miles away in New Westminster,” he said.
Robson said that when he was young the only place to skate in Maple Ridge was on some ponds that would freeze over for a few cold days during the winter time.
“The one we played on was out in the bush in a field at Berryland Farm and the ice was the pits,” said Robson.
“And I mean it because that’s were the Berryland cannery used to dump the pits from canning apricots, peaches and plums,” he joked.
He said he never dreamed there would be hockey played in Maple Ridge.
A video clip that was prepared as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Vancouver Canucks that spoke to Robson’s legacy was played for the crowd .
Following the clip were video greetings from Canucks alumni congratulating the former broadcaster, including Canucks president Trevor Linden.
“You’ve called some of the greatest moments in Canucks history and certainly he greatest moments of my career,” Linden said to Robson in the clip.
“And it is fitting that the way to the main arena in Maple Ridge, Cam Neely Arena at Planet Ice, will now be called Jim Robson Way. You are a terrific role model and ambassador in the community and I couldn’t be happier for you and your family,” Linden finished.
Shorthouse himself said Robson was the reason that he has been calling Canucks games for 20 years.
“I was like most kids growing up in the province, in the Lower Mainland. At first I wanted to be a Canuck and be a player,” explained Shorthouse.
“Unfortunately, my ascent through the Kerrisdale Minor Hockey ranks wasn’t quite as dramatic as I hoped it would be. And so I refocused and decided I wanted to be Jim,” he said.
Shorthouse said when he was growing up he would listen to the games on a transistor radio when he was supposed to be asleep. He said Jim was his conduit to the Canucks.
Later in life he was hesitant about meeting his mentor, “because they don’t live up to what you thought they would be.
“I can tell you from my heart that Jim was everything I hoped he would be and I am so proud of him and what’s happening here tonight,” said Shorthouse.
RMMHA celebrated its 50th anniversary throughout the day with activities at Planet Ice, including ceremonial pucks drops feature past and current board members and alumni, such as Brendan Morrison, the former Pitt Meadows resident and NHL player, who signed autographs at the rink on Saturday.
Canucks anthem signer Mark Donnolly also sang at the event in Maple Ridge.