The Sunbowl Arena in Osoyoos was a second home for Jim Harrington. He lived across the street from it.
“He was so happy that Osoyoos had a team and there were many different versions of it,” said Patricia Pearson-Harrington, of her father Jim, a former Kootenay International Junior Hockey League executive member on the community having KIJHL teams. “As long as there was a team here, he was happy.”
Jim, 82, passed away suddenly last week and he cheered on the Rebels, Heat, Storm and presently, the Osoyoos Coyotes.
Harrington, who was born in Rossland and grew up in Fernie, first became involved in the KIJHL in the 1980s with the Columbia Valley Rockies and extended that through the end of the 2019/20 season, when he retired from his position as Deputy Commissioner for the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference.
Patricia said her father enjoyed working for the league and was “such a fan of kids getting this opportunity to play in the KIJHL.”
“He really thought it was a wonderful league for kids to be able to go and develop,” said Patricia. “He loved the meetings and having that camaraderie of people around him that all were focused on developing and growing the league.”
An honourable man, Patricia said her father dedicated a lot of time working on the disciplinary side for the league to make sure that he made the best decision all the time based on the rules. He was proud of his involvement with the KIJHL and loved seeing people that he admired. Jim often traveled with his wife June, who he was married to for 52 years, and they went to KIJHL hockey games and sometimes he would give out trophies and loved it.
Former KIJHL president Bill Ohlhausen was shocked by the news as they had stayed in touch. They had worked together for a long time as Harrington joined the KIJHL executive as Vice-President of the Okanagan-Shuswap Division in 2003.
Along with discipline, Harrington helped with rosters, game sheets and wherever he needed said Ohlhausen.
“He was a great person to lean on when we were short of people doing other jobs,” said Ohlhausen. “He was very thoughtful and structured in the way he answered questions. He was always helpful to teams and was just a great person, his personality was fantastic.”
Harrington was a key part of the KIJHL executive team that worked together to grow the league from 14 to 20 teams.
Phil Iddon, a former President of the Fernie Ghostriders and KIJHL VP, knew the family well, describing Harrington as a “a great family man.”
“I was very saddened to hear the news and I’m very sad for June and their family,” said Iddon. “I do miss Jim. Jim was a great local community guy, as well as what he did for the league and he was very well regarded in his own community.”
Iddon said Harrington’s contribution to the league was helping it grow over the years. Getting the league into large markets like Kelowna and making sure the organizations succeeded to serve a community need.
“He did what he could to make sure teams were viable. He really wanted to make sure kids had safe and good places to play hockey and the communities had good groups behind them that would run the franchises,” said Iddon, adding that Harrington was always upbeat and positive.
Patricia describes her father as a gentleman, who was kind and generous. The family has been going through his memory page on Facebook, just reading the comments from people. People have also left comments on the KIJHL social media about Harrington’s impact on them.
“There is such a common thread about him being part of the fabric of the Osoyoos community,” she said. “So many kids talked about how all they needed to do was call Mr. Harrington and he would open up the arena an hour or two hours before school so they could skate. Figure skaters were the same. If he had kids that wanted to go out on the ice in the morning before school, he was always willing to go over there and open it up.
“He always had time for everyone else and he had an abundance of time for his family, for my mom June and for my sister Susan and I,” Patricia added.
A funeral mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. October 29th at St. Anne Catholic Church, Osoyoos, B.C. with inurnment to follow at the Osoyoos Lakeview Cemetery Columbarium. A reception in the Osoyoos Sun Bowl Arena mezzanine will follow the inurnment.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks to please consider donating to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.