A Kamloops Blazers founder, who was at the helm for the franchise’s highest highs as well as its lowest low, has died.
Colin Day, 70, passed away Friday in Royal Inland Hospital following a period of declining health. A celebration of his life is set for Friday, 3 p.m., at TRU’s Grand Hall.
The city businessman was one of a handful of community leaders who established major junior hockey here, and kept it here in the early 1980s. He also was instrumental in pushing the City to build Riverside Coliseum downtown.
Day served as Kamloops Blazers president for 17 years, including the period when the Blazers became Canada’s premier major junior hockey franchise — when the city was dubbed Little Montreal — winning three Memorial Cups, first in 1991-92 and then back-to-back in 1993-94 and 1994-95.
“He put the town on the map of this country,” said Gary Cooper, a veteran Kamloops businessman who, along with Day and a handful of others, brought the Blazers here in dealings with Edmonton business and hockey mogul Peter Pocklington.
“He made Kamloops known wherever junior hockey was played. He rode high on three Memorial Cups.”
Day served as president of the club from 1987 until 2003. His involvement began with collecting $1,000 memberships to gather capital to purchase a share, and eventually outright ownership, from Pocklington.
Associates contacted Monday said Day was not originally driven by a mad love for the game when he became involved in business discussions in the early ‘80s to return competitive hockey to Kamloops.
The son of former mayor Cyril Day, Colin grew up around Kamloops Bottling Works, a Pepsi bottler. He was raised, along with his brother, Bert, in an apartment above a commercial building in the 300 block of West Victoria Street.
In his book The Seventh Man, a history of the franchise, author Glen Cowley said Day grew up around hockey. Cyril Day was involved in financially supporting the Senior A Elks and Chiefs of the ‘40s and ‘50s.
“Colin saw and knew the stars who graced Memorial Arena and battled for the Allan Cup,” Cowley wrote. “He eventually brought his business sense and love of hockey to the new Blazers and became its longstanding president.”
The family’s ownership of the thriving business made Day an important figure in the city’s business community.
“The Day name was so well known, beginning with his father and Kamloops Bottling Works,” said Cooper, who knew Colin and his family from his ownership of Cooper’s Foods at the time.
“He had a profile but it jumped when he got involved with the Junior Oilers and Blazers.”
Day wielded influence in the city from his post as a WHL governor and president of the most successful major junior hockey team of the 1990s, all the while bragging he took no income from the job.
His outside business interest was operation of a fast-food outlet at Aberdeen Mall as well as running a food vendor in Riverside Coliseum for a short time when it first opened.
But Day’s life was the city’s hockey team.
“He worked for nothing and he built the organization around himself,” Cooper said.
Day’s status as the unassailable head of hockey in a hockey-mad city came to a close in a scandal that would stain him and the organization for years to come.
Office manager Maxine Patrick embezzled nearly $1 million from the organization before she was fired in 2003 and eventually convicted of fraud.
Soon after, Day would be forced out by the scandal.
"I trusted her very dearly," said Day in 2003. "You always have to trust your employees along the way.”
Lawyer and friend Dennis Coates, another key figure in bringing junior hockey here, said Day could not escape the financial wrongdoing.
“If it happens on your watch, you get blamed for what goes on,” Coates said. “Hockey and the Blazers was his place on the planet. It really affected him.”
Friends said Day suffered declining health in recent years. He disappeared from public view after resigning from the Blazers.
The theft of funds and financial mismanagement wasn’t the only misstep in Day’s 17 years as club president. He forced out general manager Bob Brown, who brought the three Memorial Cups in a four-year span, in a power struggle that shook the junior hockey world.
“A bad decision,” said Cooper, who served as president — with Day as vice-president — both before 1987 and again following Day’s resignation.
The club has not won a WHL championship since.
While Day became synonymous with hockey in Kamloops, friends said his first passion was community leadership. Hockey became the vehicle.
Qualities that allowed him to succeed included his tireless energy in building and maintaining the club, people skills and ability to communicate.
“It was community first and hockey grew out of that,” said Coates, who visited the ailing Day in hospital several times in the past few weeks of his life.
“I give him the most credit for getting the arena (Interior Savings Centre) going.”
Cooper drifted apart from Day decades ago.
“He loved what he was doing with the Blazers and was willing to put everything into it,” Cooper said. “He was a very sociable guy. He could talk to one to two people, up to 200 people very easily.”
In addition to hockey, Day was also active in a number of city organizations, including as president of the B.C. Wildlife Park for 25 years.
He is survived by his wife, Bev, and children Sheri-Lyn and Craig.