Saying farewell to a legend

[attach]5709[/attach]Herbert H. Carnegie could have been remembered as the first black hockey player in the National Hockey League, but instead he dedicated his life to inspiring and providing opportunities to students across the province.

On the evening of Mar. 16, family, friends and well-wishers gathered at Earl Haig Secondary School to remember the life of the former hockey player, businessman and philanthropist who passed away on Mar. 9.

“My father made his life happen,” said Bernice Carnegie, one of his daughters. “He didn’t depend on other people to open doors of opportunity.”

In fact, Carnegie, born in Toronto in 1919 to Jamaican immigrants, found the doors of professional hockey locked when he came knocking. Despite winning three most valuable player awards in Quebec’s provincial hockey league, Carnegie was never given the chance to touch the ice on hockey’s biggest stage.

Instead, he touched the hearts and minds of thousands of students across the province.

Following his retirement from hockey in the 1950s, he began the Future Aces hockey school, the first hockey school in Canada, and also wrote the Future Aces creed. That creed, which emphasizes co-operation, education and sportsmanship, continues to be taught in schools across Ontario. Future Aces awards are given to Ontario elementary school students who display the characteristics set out in the creed.

In 1987, Carnegie and his daughter Bernice began the Future Aces Foundation, which to date has handed out more than $500,000 in scholarships for high school grads to continue their education.

[attach]5710[/attach]“I’m sure that my father would like to be remembered for helping young people to find themselves,” Carnegie said. “He loved the fact that the Future Aces philosophy was the guiding light that made a difference in so many lives.”

Several former Future Aces and scholarship recipients were in attendance at the memorial where they got to see photos and watch videos of Carnegie through the years.

The event was celebratory rather than solemn. Several speakers shared humorous and touching anecdotes of their experiences with the man.

Attendees heard about his early years as a hockey player and some the prejudices he had to face; They heard how the Future Aces Creed he penned turned into a program that is now instituted in more than 200 schools in Ontario; They heard how Carnegie and the Future Aces hockey school were featured in two editions of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book; They heard how, although he never became the first black NHL player, he did achieve other firsts.

In 1964, he began working with Investor’s Group as their first black financial advisor. He reached millionaire status with the company in his first year and for the next 22 years after that. A former colleague of Carnegie’s, Chuck Ealey, said though it was unfortunate Carnegie never made it to the NHL, he was meant for bigger things.

“If he had played the sport, it would have been a wonderful thing for him, a wonderful thing for Canada,” Ealey said. “But because he didn’t, he had an experience to share with others that is a legacy that will last a lifetime.”

It seems as if Carnegie himself realized this too. When speaking on stage, Carnegie’s son Dale recalled what his father once told him when recounting his experiences as a hockey player.

“If in advance I had known what was going to happen, I would not change it for one minute.”