George Kingston (BPE ’60, Bed ’63, MPE ’68, PhD ’78) has become the second Golden Bears hockey alumnus to receive the Hockey Canada Order of Hockey Canada Award.
Kingston, who competed on the Golden Bears hockey team for five seasons (1958-63), and won three Canada West championships, was awarded the honour, along with Ken Hitchcock and Jayna Hefford at a June gala held in Edmonton.
He joins Clare Drake as one of two Golden Bears hockey alumni who have been awarded the prestigious Hockey Canada Award, which is fitting as Coach Drake played a massive role in shaping Kingston’s future, along with UAlberta Sports Wall of Fame member Murray Smith. Kingston himself was inducted into the UAlberta Sports Wall of Fame in 1997.
“It was a six-year run with two of the great people and coaches,” said Kingston to Postmedia following the gala. “For me to follow in the footsteps of Clare is very, very special. As a result of those two men, [Clare Drake and Murray Smith] who cared a not just coaching but developing people, I ended up in a very satisfying and important career in coaching.”
“My earliest background in life was that to give was much better than receive and in hockey it was to give back, pay back and do things to make things better in our game was something that I think was sorely needed.”
“That’s what people like Clare convinced other coaches when it came to sharing information. They were basically saying ‘Don’t worry about yourself in this formula. You’re going to get so much more back from giving to make hockey a better place to be.’ Hitch and I were so fortunate because we had so many sharing coaches."
Born in Saskatchewan, Kingston grew up in Edmonton but his unique career in sport has made him a true citizen of the world. Following high school at Strathcona Composite he earned his BPE in 1960 – the first of four degrees he earned at the U of A. He played junior varsity basketball in his first year and was a valued member of the Golden Bears hockey team. He had already begun his coaching career in community hockey when he became a teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School. He was to mentor young people in no fewer than 10 different sports in high school competition.
He was appointment to the Faculty of Physical Education at the University of Calgary in 1967, which led to a 22-year academic career in which he rose to the rank of Professor, and earned terms as Associate Dean (Academic), and Acting Dean. He also coached the Dinos hockey team for 15 seasons, taking them to five Canada West titles and five CIAU championship tournaments.
His exceptional analysis of the game was widely used for several decades in Europe as the basis for teaching, and he played a significant role in the development of the Canadian Hockey Coaching Certification Program. He served as an assistant coach of Team Canada at the 1983 World Championships (bronze), at the 1984 Winter Olympics, and as the head coach at the 1988 Spengler Cup where Canada won gold. From 1989 to 1991 he was the national coach and Director of Hockey for Norway, but he then came home as Hockey Canada’s Director of Operations in 1994 and as head coach, where he led Canada to the first World Championship gold medal in 33 years. He was Canadian mentor coach and general manager at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994 (silver). He also served as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Calgary Flames from 1980-82, the Minnesota North Stars from 1988-89, and was the first head coach of the San Jose Sharks in organization history, serving from 1991-93. He returned to Europe in 1994 as the German National coach, where he guided the program to a number of successes, including participating in the final round of the World Cup of Hockey in 1996. In 1999, Kingston was hired by another NHL expansion team, this time becoming an assistant coach for the Atlanta Thrashers. After two years in Atlanta, he joined the Florida Panthers as an assistant in 2001, coaching there until 2007.
He next coached Norway's National Women's Team, and assisted the Men's National Team in qualifying for the Vancouver Olympics, as well as being a special consultant to the Norwegian Ice Hockey Federation and the Norwegian Olympic Program. He was assistant coach of Norway Men's Sledgehockey Team, a Bronze Medal winner at the Vancouver Paralympics in Vancouver.
"As players and coaches, this group of honourees has proudly represented Canada on some of the biggest stages in the game," said Tom Renney, CEO of Hockey Canada. "To be recognized as a Distinguished Honouree of the Order of Hockey in Canada is one of the most prestigious accomplishments one can receive, and this year's honourees are certainly well-deserving."
“George is certainly one of those individuals that has touched all of us,” added Renney, in an interview with Postmedia. “What he’s done with respect to the education of his athletes as a coach, is indeed remarkable and deserving of this honour.”