Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Grant Moffatt, the "rock" of the under-18 Southwest Cougars hockey program for nearly 30 years, died on Monday.
He was 71.
Dennis McNish coached the Cougars for the last six seasons and the two became close.
"Grant was the constant," McNish said. "Players come and go, coaches come and go, parents come and go, managers, but Grant was there through it all. Grant was the rock that brought stability to the program."
Moffatt first became involved with the Cougars in 1991 after the club had previous stints in Deloraine and Pierson.
Braeden Lewis of Virden served as Cougars captain last season and appreciated what Moffatt brought to the rink.
"He was an unbelievable person," Lewis said. "Honestly, there’s nothing bad you could say about him. He was always happy and brought joy to the people who were around him. He loved the organization that he was part of for so many years and he was honestly the heart and soul of everything that got put into that organization."
Moffatt was officially the president and general manager of the Southwest club, but his duties extended beyond just being a forceful advocate for his team at the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League board level.
"Honestly, it’s not a question of what he did do, it’s a question of what he didn’t do for the organization," Lewis said. "He was everywhere. He came to our games, he was our biggest fan, when stuff needed to be done he was the guy who took care of it. There’s nothing I can think of that he didn’t do for the team and the organization."
Former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Zach Wytinck of Glenboro played parts of three seasons with Southwest from 2014 to 2017. Wytinck first met Moffatt when the Cougars held their AAA bantam tryouts in Souris.
He got to know him well after he moved to the U18 club.
"He did everything behind the scenes," Wytinck said. "He made sure that for all of us kids from different small towns who came there that he introduced himself and made everybody feel welcome when they first got there for tryouts, and that continued throughout the season. He did every little thing as far as organizing the bus trips and all that stuff, and making it easy on us guys, and organizing different kinds of fundraisers, which was challenging at times. He did everything. He was just a great guy who worked so hard for us. We noticed and it was really appreciated."
Wytinck said it was a role that seemed to come easily to Moffatt.
"He was just a great personality," Wytinck said. "He made everybody feel welcome and made people feel at home there. He was just a really personable guy. He made relationships with everyone he talked to. When you walked into the rink, you could hear his voice throughout Souris rink. He was talking to everybody."
The longtime salesman at Murray Chev Olds in Brandon, who was named Hockey Manitoba’s volunteer of the year in 2002, lived on a farm near Souris.
His volunteering passions lay beyond minor hockey as well, which he first became involved with in 1979. He was also active in the 4-H community, while also serving on the boards of the Western Canadian Agribition, Royal Manitoba Winter Fair and the Canadian Maine Anjou Association.
Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson said Moffatt kept track of what former Cougars were up to, and would happily share updates on their careers when he was visiting with people in the community.
Jackson called Moffatt a "committed fellow" will be missed.
"He’ll be tough to replace," Jackson said. "Someone or maybe it will be more than one person to pick up the slack that will be left by losing him. He’s just one of those guys that time meant nothing to them. If something had to be done, he would finish it off until the end. There’s definitely a hole in our community, particularly as far as hockey goes, but in the greater community of southwest Manitoba and even into southeast Saskatchewan.
"There’s a loss there for sure."
Greg Thompson’s friendship with Moffatt goes back a long ways. He first got to know Moffatt at Murray’s, but his son played for the Cougars as well.
"He’s a real community guy and he liked to be involved in things," Thompson said. "He’s a people person. I don’t why he took over but he basically singlehandedly kept that team competitive and going for years."
Thompson said people don’t realize how much time Moffatt put into the team. He added that Moffat’s commitment to the Cougars was a product of who he was as a person.
"He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back," Thompson said. "He had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody. That’s basically what I found from him. The things he was very passionate about, like the Cougars, he would do whatever he could to promote the Cougars of course, but he would just do anything for anybody."
Moffatt also looked after the senior Souris Elks for many years and served as president of the South West Hockey League, but there’s no denying Southwest came first. Wytinck said the players seemed to mean as much to Moffatt as he did to the teenagers.
"He was such a great guy," Wytinck said. "He loved hockey and he loved the Cougars. I remember him saying one time that watching midget hockey was his favourite thing to do. He loved it more than any other kind of hockey to watch. That tells you how invested he was into the AAA program in Southwest. You could just tell he loved it: He loved being around everyone."
Thompson, who served as Cougars coach and also as the league commissioner — he is currently a vice president — noted it will be hard to walk into the Souris Glenwood Memorial Complex or Murray Arena and not have Moffatt there to greet him.
"He was larger than life," Thompson said. "You would go into the Souris rink or to Murray’s and he was always guy there. It will seem strange to walk in there and he’s not front and centre talking to everybody. That’s what I’ll miss. It will be hard not to see him there."
McNish doesn’t have a formal role with the team anymore after resigning as head coach following last season, but plans to stay involved in whatever capacity he can. He noted there are a lot of good people involved with the team, and the club will move forward.
McNish said organizing the team in the same way that Moffatt guided the club in the past would be the greatest way the organization can honour him.
"You’ll never replace Grant, and I don’t think we should try to do that," McNish said. "We’re going to carry the team on and honour Grant with how it’s run. There’s no replacing people like that, but the team will go on and it will continue to thrive with the lessons that Grant taught us all."
McNish cherishes the friendship and mentoring provided by Moffatt, who is survived by wife Connie, son Todd and daughter Pam.
"He was an extremely special person," McNish said. "People who volunteer to run minor hockey teams for three decades aren’t anything but the nicest people on earth. The saddest thing that comes to my mind of how good Grant and Connie were to my family, how good they were to my wife and to my kids were born and how happy they were when we added to it. He was always one of the first people to get ahold of you and was happy for you.
"He was just a great person: He treated everyone liked that. I wasn’t special. That’s just how he treated people."
Lewis, who is 17, agreed.
"It was an uplifting feeling when you hear him walking into the rink and saw him walking into the dressing room, whether it was to talk to Dennis or just to see how everyone was," Lewis said. "He’s an amazing person. He will be missed."
» Twitter: @PerryBergson
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