Beaumont, Alberta, is located 15 minutes south east of Edmonton. Beaumont, which is French for beautiful hill, was given its name in 1895 as part of a petition to get a post office. Twenty-four years later, the historic and picturesque Catholic Church, St. Vital, was built at the top of the hill, and today the church is still their most prominent structure. Originally a French community, it has grown significantly over the past few decades and in the 2000s it was the fastest growing community in Alberta.
In 1973, when it incorporated as a village, Beaumont was home to around 500 residents. In 1980 Beaumont incorporated as a town with a population over 2,300, and on January 1st, 2019, Beaumont became a city with a population of 19,236 according to a 2019 municipal census .
Beaumont has seen massive growth the past few decades, and with it has come a direct connection to the National Hockey League. Its first connection occurred on June 15th at the Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal, Quebec, and 41 years later the NHL and Beaumont became intertwined like never before.
BEAUMONT AND THE NHL
Vince Magnan was born in 1958 and grew up in Beaumont. He played his minor hockey on outdoor rinks. Beaumont didn’t get a covered arena until 1978, when the BRAC (Beaumont Recreational Activity Centre) was completed. Fittingly, that same year Magnan was drafted in the sixth round, 88th overall, by the Washington Capitals, which was held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. He was 20 years old and had just finished his second season with the University of Denver Pioneers. He was the captain. Hockey Hall of Fame player Glenn Anderson was his teammate. Vince never played in the NHL, but he had four solid seasons in the American Hockey League, and was the first kid from Beaumont drafted to the NHL.
His younger brother Marc played on the same outdoor rink, just behind Bellevue elementary school, and that is where they honed their hockey skills. It is quite amazing to think two brothers from a community of less than 500 people were both drafted to the NHL.
Marc was born February 2nd, 1962, and 19 years later he was drafted in the 10th round by the Toronto Maple Leafs after his first season with the Lethbridge Broncos of the Western Hockey League. He was a rugged left winger, with skill and toughness. In his second season in Lethbridge, he scored 33-38-71 in 64 games and added 406 penalty minutes. In 1982/1983 he turned pro and debuted in the AHL with the St. Catharines Saints. He racked up 229 PIMs and scored 6-10-16 in 67 games. But in December he achieved his hockey dream and was recalled by the Maple Leafs.
On Tuesday, December 14th in Quebec City, he played his first NHL game. He dropped the mitts 5:39 in and fought Dave Pichette. The game ended in a 4-4 tie. “For me it was wild. A fantasy to play in the NHL,” said Magnan when we spoke on the phone last week.
He played at home the next night against the St. Louis Blues, and then three days later on Saturday, December 18th, on Hockey Night in Canada, Magnan picked up his first NHL point. He assisted on Miroslav Frycer’s powerplay goal. In the 1980s you could watch NHL Saturday night on CBC, or on the RDS, the French Channel. For his family to see him play was difficult.
It was the only NHL point of his career, but he is still one of only 6,155 players to score a point in the 100+ year history of the NHL. He played another five seasons in the AHL and the now defunct International Hockey League (IHL), before retiring.
Little did he know, but it would take almost 37 years for another kid from Beaumont to score a point in the NHL.
Darcy Werenka, born in 1973, was another hockey prodigy from Beaumont, who chased his NHL dream with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL. Werenka was an extremely skilled defenceman. I played Pee Wee with him. He was a year younger than me, but he was by far the best player on our team. A great skater, with excellent mobility and a cannon of a shot.
“Where I learned how to play hockey in Beaumont was at the outdoor rink behind Bellevue (school),” said Werenka over the phone from his home in Kelowna. “It was a huge part of having fun and my skating. I remember freezing my butt off out there, but wanting to go there every day. I haven’t been to Beaumont in a few years, but I saw they have twinned out the BRAC (now named the Ken Nichol Regional Recreation Center), and the original BRAC had so many great memories for me. The high boards in the corner and the perch in the corner where the dads would watch.”
His skills were noticed by NHL scouts and on June 22nd, 1991 at the NHL entry draft in Buffalo, the New York Rangers selected him in the second round (37th overall). He was in attendance and walked on stage. What a thrill. He produced 125 points in 124 games over the next two seasons in the WHL, and he won a gold medal for Canada at the 1993 U20 World Juniors Championships. He is the only player from Beaumont to represent his country at the WJC.
He turned pro in 1993/1994 with the Binghamton Rangers, the same season the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup. Werenka would go on to play 18 years of pro hockey.
He played two in the AHL, followed by two in the IHL. Then he went to Europe for two seasons, but gave the NHL one last shot and returned to the IHL in 1999/2000, producing 39 points in 82 games with the Utah Grizzlies. He never skated in the NHL, and returned to play another 11 seasons in Europe. He had a fantastic pro hockey career that began in Beaumont.
When Werenka was drafted in 1991, Beaumont had swelled to a population of 5,042, but while the town grew the NHL did not come calling again for another 14 years.
Defenceman Bretton Stamler ended the drought when he was selected in the 7th round by the Detroit Red Wings in 2005. Stamler spent five seasons in the WHL, then he went to the University of New Brunswick. He spent a year and a half in the ECHL, and then played 46 games in the AHL. He then played four seasons of pro hockey in Germany, Denmark and Italy.
Brett Ponich was selected in the second round, 48th overall, by the St. Louis Blues in 2009. The hulking defender, 6’7″, 220 pounds, was the captain of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks in 2010 and 2011 and he played five seasons of minor pro in the AHL and ECHL before retiring from pro hockey.
Five years later the Blues drafted another Beaumontonian, selecting Jaedon Descheneau in the fifth round in 2014. He was a prolific scorer in junior, scoring 78, 90 and 81 points in his 17-19 year old seasons with the Kootenay ice. He played one season in the Edmonton Oilers farm system with Bakersfield and Norfolk, before going to Switzerland for the 2017/2018 season. Last year he played in Germany and this year he is playing in Sweden.
In 2016 Noah Gregor was selected in the fourth round by the San Jose Sharks. He finished his junior career winning a WHL title with the Prince Albert Raiders last spring. He turned pro in September and played three games with the San Jose Barracudas in the American League before being recalled to the San Jose Sharks.
He made his debut on October 19th, 2019, against the Buffalo Sabres. Magnan played his last NHL game on December 29th, 1982 and Beaumont waited almost 37 years until Gregor skated with the Sharks. The village-turned-town and now city wouldn’t wait much longer before celebrating an NHL goal.
FIRST NHL GOAL…
On Friday, November 29th Gregor scored his first NHL goal in his 11th game. His dream became a reality, and for a small community it was a huge moment.
You'll always remember your first NHL goal, kid!
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) November 29, 2019
Many kids dream about playing in the NHL and scoring a goal, but only a select few see that dream become reality. The 21-year-old Gregor shared his feelings on his first NHL goal.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know it went it right away,” said Gregor. “It hit the post and I wasn’t quite sure and I skated around the net and I saw the crowd explode, that was pretty cool, and then I just put my hands up in the air. I was so pumped. Some of my buddies at home chirped me for not having a crazier celly. The guys came in (to celebrate) and everyone was pretty fired up that I scored my first one. I think when anyone scores their first goal the players get pretty excited because you only score your first one once. It was a pretty special feeling.”
During the second intermission, with the guys sitting in the room, future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton piped up Gregor explained. “He said, ‘Now you are in the Show, before you weren’t quite in the Show, but now you are.’ That is something I will remember forever.”
Playing in the NHL is an amazing accomplishment, but scoring a goal is on another level.
“My first game a lot of people reached out, but after the first goal there were many more. It is pretty special coming from a smaller town, where you know a lot people in the community, to accomplish something like that, and it was awesome to get all the different type of feedback. Many reached out to my parents and family. It made it more special.
“I heard they announced it at the Chiefs (Beaumont’s Junior B team) game later that night. (Chiefs home games are usually Friday evening). That just shows how proud the community is someone from Beaumont can make it. Hopefully I can inspire other players and be someone younger players can look up to. I will always want to help out at camps in the summer and plan to keep doing that. I’ve very proud of coming from Beaumont and thankful for all the support I’ve received from so many people,” continued Noah.
It has been a whirlwind 2019 for him. Winning the WHL title, then starting the season in the AHL and being recalled, sooner than he expected, to the NHL and then scoring a goal. But it isn’t just Gregor who is excited.
I was hosting my radio show on TSN 1260 that Friday afternoon, and during a commercial break I saw my nephew score. It was amazing, but I didn’t realize how much it meant to people in Beaumont until I spoke to his family and others with connections to the small community.
His older brother Liam was the only one in the family who watched it live. The Sharks were playing a matinee game at home on Friday as part of American Thanksgiving and Liam, who is in his final year of Business at MacEwan University, had finished his classes early.
“I got off school early that day so my friend Luc (Goudreau) and I came back and threw the game on,” explained Liam. “We got a little bit excited when Dillon flipped it up and saw Noah had a step on the guy. Once he scored we were obviously yelling, giggling and laughing. It was a pretty sweet goal. It was pretty exciting.
“Then Ava (younger sister) came running downstairs. We rewound it and watched it quite a few times, then Ava made a Snapchat story, and then so many people from Beaumont were posting snapchats and videos. I watched it many times. It was awesome.”
He then texted his parents, who were both at work. They didn’t say much over text, but talked about it a lot later. “Dad must have watched it a thousand times,” laughed Liam.
Did he ever think his brother would play in the NHL?
“You never really know. There are so many good players. He was always the best player on his team growing up, and usually those types of players progress to the next level. When he played against good players I always thought he was just as good as guys like Sam Steel and Tyler Benson. Those guys always got a lot of ink, but I felt he was right there with them.”
How is it watching your brother in the NHL?
“It isn’t that much different. It just makes you realize these athletes are just like Noah, they are really good hockey players. It is just like watching him in junior. I’m just watching my brother. It is fun,” said Liam.
What has the reaction been for you?
“It isn’t just exciting for our family, it is exciting for everyone who knows Noah. Kids who went to school with him, went out with him or met him. It is nice to see so many people in the community so excited for him.”
Younger sister Ava turned 18 in May and graduated from High School in June. Noah had to miss her graduation as he was at the Sharks development camp. She shared a funny story about the goal.
“I was upstairs and I honestly didn’t know Noah was playing. No one told me (laughs). It was Friday afternoon. He normally doesn’t play then. All of a sudden I hear Liam and Luke give a big shout and holler and I heard them high five each other. My first thought was why are these boys yelling and hollering over a video game. It is so stupid (laughs). I thought they were playing Fortnight and how can 23-year-olds get so revved up over a video game?
“Then Liam yelled that Noah scored. I ran downstairs and I saw the video. Watching the play back and watching it in slow motion. It was awesome. It is quite surreal. I went to Instagram and all my friends were sharing his goal. I was just so proud of him. I loved seeing his smile. His face made my week. I haven’t seen him for so long, it was nice to see he is really having a great time down there and that he loves playing hockey,” said Ava.
Most of us forget how the chase can impact a family and siblings. Has it been hard having your older brother gone for so long the past five years?
“It is still really hard some times. Everyone in Beaumont talks about him now, and it is almost like people around me know him as well as I do, because I haven’t seen him in so long. It is a bit upsetting at times, because I miss him, but at the same time I’m so proud of him. I like talking about him and bragging about how cool he is (laughs). It was so just great seeing how happy he was when he scored.”
Noah’s father Colin chased the NHL dream in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He played four seasons in the WHL, won a National Championship with Acadia in University Hockey and attended Oilers and Flames training camps before grinding it out in the minors for a few seasons.
He knew the sacrifices it would take to try and make the NHL, but his wife Elise didn’t come from a hockey background. Seeing her middle child leave home at 16 was very hard. “I knew Noah had to go away in the WHL, and I thought it would be good for him. Elise wasn’t happy about it, and I understand why. It is hard seeing your child move away so young,” explained Colin.
“It impacted our family,” explained Elise. “It was a touchy subject for me at first. He (Noah) had to miss a lot of birthdays, anniversaries, Ava’s grad in the spring. It was hard for us, but I’m sure it is hard for him as he has missed many big events. You can’t do it all, but seeing him fulfill his dream is very special.”
Colin and Elise were hosting Noah’s grandparents’, Randy and Marilyn Munz, 50th wedding anniversary the day after the goal, and Colin happened to be at Costco picking up groceries on his way home when he received Liam’s text about the goal.
Colin just stopped in the aisle. It was a surreal moment. “Usually I can get in and out of Costco in 45 minutes on a grocery run, but it took me 90 minutes that day. Between checking my phone and me having to stop every second aisle as I started to cry every time I thought about it. To see your children reach their goal is an amazing feeling. Almost overwhelming.
“To be honest, It didn’t really sink it for a couple of days. You kind of slap yourself and think, is this really happening? I never thought about him scoring in the NHL. When it actually happened it was such an emotional moment. Very few parents get to watch their kid play out their dream. It is so astronomically low that it is unbelievable. I’ve seen him score a lot of nice goals from a young age, but to see it in the NHL, and a nice goal like it…it is just unbelievable,” said Colin.
Where was Mom?
“Do you really want to know (laughs),” Elise replied. “I had a grade eight class in the library reading to a grade one class. I kept hiding behind the desk to go check my twitter account to see if there were any goals (laughs). It was an afternoon game so I couldn’t watch. At 3:15 I checked my phone as I was walking down the hallway and I saw all the messages and then saw the goal on twitter. It was very special. I wish I could have seen it live, but that is hockey life.
“The expression on his face was amazing. Then later when I watched it over and over I realized it was a really nice goal. I was impressed by his finesse on that goal. I reached out to my close friends and family and the billet moms right away. They lived with Noah through a lot of this, and it was a lot of shared excitement from a mom’s perspective. They can relate and the deepest connection I had about this was with them,” said Elise.
Noah lived with Gerry and Glenda Julian in Moose Jaw for three years. He spent five months with in Victoria with Don and Cherie Olson and last year he lived with Dean Friedt and Danielle Mohr in Prince Albert. The support and love from a billet family is hugely important for hockey players and their families.
It wasn’t just their family who watched with pride. Many in the community did including some of Noah’s minor hockey coaches.
Gord Godin coached him for more than five years.
“I was either a coach or an assistant going back to Tom Thumb,” said Godin. “One of my memories of Noah is that he was scoring too many goals in Tom Thumb. When kids are that young we’re trying to make it fair, so we put him in net, but then nobody could score a goal on him (laughs). His dad was watching and after the game he jokingly said to me, ‘Don’t get any ideas Gord.’
“Noah was always such a quiet and respectful kid. That is what was so great about coaching him. He was such a good guy. He was always nice to his teammates and just a really talented little hockey player. His first NHL goal, I’ve seen him do that many times when he was 10 years old. Noah has always had that burst of speed and he had a shot like nobody else. It was a pleasure to coach him and to watch him, and it still is today. I was thrilled for him.
What was his reaction when he saw the goal?
“It was joy. I felt so appreciative that the effort Noah has put in came to fruition. It was nice to see someone that young and dedicated, stick with it. It was gratitude that I got to watch him grow up and play hockey. It was joy that he has his first NHL goal and that huge smile on his face. It’s been fun. I texted him and sent him a screenshot of him beside Joe Thornton on the bench and I told him it’s not Thornton, but Gregor, who is my favourite NHLer.”
Terry O’Flynn also coached Noah for many years in Beaumont.
“We knew we were going to have fun watching this kid right from the start,” explained O’Flynn. “His skating was strong from day one and you could tell he just lived for the game. Listening to Elise talk about their basement (laughing), you knew he was destined, as there was no point putting up drywall. He and his brother were always shooting in the basement.
“I had many great memories watching and coaching him, but one memory that stands out is we went to a tournament in Salmon Arm for an Atom tournament. We made the final on Sunday, and we were trailing 5-1 after the second period. It was a newer rink with the dressing room connected to the bench. There was no flood, but we took a quick water break in the dressing room. When the players walked back to the bench, Martin Kent (head coach) and I, took Noah aside and said, ‘You are very unselfish, and you always pass, but sometimes it is okay to do it yourself.’ He just looked and said, ‘Okay coach,’ and off he went. He scored five goals and had an assist in the third period. We just stood there watching in amazement.”
What went through his mind when he saw the goal?
“I heard about it and went to find it on twitter. As soon as he went far side I thought, Oh yeah, I’ve seen that one before. He has such a good release. What a great first goal in the NHL. To see him snipe one like that, it was awesome. Anyone who knew him had a tear in their eye,” said an emotional O’Flynn.
Hockey culture has taken some shots lately as people have exposed the negative sides of the game. No doubt that side exists, but there are also many great aspects of hockey. Camaraderie, being a good teammate and caring about others, to name a few.
While compiling information for this article, I was taken a back by the sheer joy of many people who were happy another human being achieved their dream
I played men’s league hockey with Marc Magnan in the mid 1990s. We played one year together, and I wouldn’t say we are close friends, but we always got along and whenever we see each other we have a good laugh. I hadn’t spoken to Maggsy in 15 years before I called him out of the blue last week.
He answered the phone and I said, “Hi Marc, this is Jason Gregor.”
Before I could ask him how he was he responded with, “I saw your nephew scored a goal. That is beautiful. It is incredible.”
His excitement was palpable. Very genuine. He’s never met my brother or Noah, yet he was incredibly excited. It was so genuine.
“I thought it was very exciting. Some of my friends had told me you mentioned on air I was the last person from Beaumont to score a point in the NHL. When I saw Noah score I thought it was incredible. It was beautiful. I got a sniff (in NHL), and for anyone to have a chance to play in the NHL is a beautiful thing. But to score a goal. Wow. That is amazing. I’m very proud of their family. That is pretty cool stuff,” he said.
Magnan is married and has three kids aged 29, 26 and 22. He is extremely humble about his time in the NHL. He rarely mentions it, but he should be extremely proud, as to play in one game or a 1,000 is a big accomplishment. The game has changed a lot since he played. He didn’t have face masks in minor hockey or junior, and most of his minor hockey days in Beaumont were on the outdoor rink.
Magnan believes Gregor’s goal will be huge for young players in Beaumont.
“I think it will be great for kids from Beaumont, especially with the Gregor family still in the community and they can see Noah here and there. So much goes into making it to the NHL. You need a lot of support and having a community behind you is so helpful. I was lucky I had a lot of support, as did my brother, from family and the community. It is so cool that a kid from Beaumont has an NHL goal. It’s amazing,” said Magnan.
Darcy Werenka was a high NHL draft pick and played many NHL exhibition games. He was as close as you could get to the NHL without playing. We have remained friends since playing minor hockey together. I, like all his buddies, watched his career with pride and excitement and when I called to ask him about this article his reaction was very similar to Magnan’s.
He has my number in his phone and when I called he answered:
“Gregs, I saw your nephew’s goal. That was a sick shot. Quite the snipe.” Before I could even say hello he mentioned the goal. He and Magnan’s reactions came from the heart of two guys who know how difficult it is to try and make it to the NHL. It has been many years since they chased the dream, but their love of hockey was still evident through their words.
I asked Werenka what he thought it could mean for kids to see a player from Beaumont score a goal in the NHL.
“When you have, not necessarily role models, but a figure of someone who wore a Team Canada jersey, or played in the NHL or scored a goal in the NHL it is something that is more relatable because they came from the same place that you did. That will be there a little bit in the mind of kids. To see someone from your town in the NHL is huge. I’m grown up and I think it is pretty cool, so I can imagine how excited young kids would be,” he said.
It was almost 37 years between Magnan and Gregor stepping on the ice in the NHL, but I don’t think Beaumont will have to wait another 37 years for the next kid to come along. The community is still growing. Their hockey program has grown immensely and plans for a new recreation centre have been confirmed.
Beaumont resident Goaltender Carter Gylander was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings this past June. TSN draft analyst Craig Button released his top-21 players for the 2021 NHL draft and defenceman Corson Ceulemans was ranked fourth overall. He has left Beaumont to chase his dream and plays for Brooks in the AJHL and is already committed to Wisconsin in the NCAA.
Beaumont has some young good players coming, and seeing Noah Gregor play in the NHL and score a goal will make their dream seem more plausible.
It was a long time coming, but Beaumont is now among the other small communities who can say they are home to a player with an NHL goal.
MONTH OF GIVING…
Thanks to Luke for his awesome bid on the Brick TV package. We have raised an amazing $87,845 in 11 days. Let’s keep it going.
DAY 12: Dave Tippett Coaching Opportunity
- A group of four people will join Oilers heach coach Dave Tippett and his coaching staff in their coaching room one hour before practice. You can see how a practice is set up and ask questions etc.
- Then you stay and watch the Oilers practice.
- After practice your group will go four lunch with Tippett. He picks up the tab.
- You will receive a signed Oilers jersey of a player of your choice.
The date of the practice will be in 2020. It will be a noon practice so plan to arrive at Rogers around 10:45-11:00 am. This is a very cool behind-the-scenes opportunity and I want to thank Dave for coming up with the idea.
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 between 2-6 p.m. and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260. All the money raised will help out The Christmas Bureau.
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