By Nolan Kowal, Sport Performance Specialist
June is National Indigenous History Month where we have the opportunity to appreciate and acknowledge contributions the Indigenous peoples have had in Canada. Today, we would like to bestow upon you the accomplishments of Reggie Leach.
An exceptional hockey player, Leach grew up in the small Manitoba community of Riverton. Here, he also played his minor league hockey, dominating it for years. It was during this time that he was given the moniker “The Riverton Rifle”. By the age of 16, Leach made the move to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, playing for the Flin Flon Bombers.
Eventually making his way to the NHL after getting drafted third overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1970 NHL Draft, Leach was traded away to the California Golden Seals after only one year. It was not until he was traded away again, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974, that he really left his mark on the league.
In the 1976 NHL playoffs, Leach was presented with the Conn Smythe trophy, which is usually awarded to the most valuable player on the winning team. In rare cases, it is given to the best player on the losing team, which happened here. Leach led the playoffs that year in scoring with 19 goals and 24 points.
To this date, Leach is the only non-goalie ever to win the Conn Smythe trophy while playing for the losing side in the Stanley Cup finals. He also scored a league high 61 goals during the regular season that year as well. Leach retired from the NHL in 1980 and scored 381 goals during his career.
After his retirement, Leach became an excellent role model and earned the Order of Canada, which is given to individuals who make extraordinary contributions to their country. Leach used his platform to promote the role of sport in developing healthy communities. He does presentations delivering messages to Indigenous youth about making positive life choices and overcoming challenges.