Kevin Crusher Conway just loved life.
“He just welcomed everybody,” said Noreen Conway of her father, a member of the 1955 world champion Penticton V’s, who died on May 8 at age 83. “Always invited people over for dinner.”
Conway’s specialty was barbecued roasts. Noreen’s friends would ask about her father, then the question of his barbecue roasts came up.
He was grateful for everything and family was important to him because his mother died when he was young. Conway ended up being separated from his siblings and lived with his aunt. As his daughter said, Conway never forgot about the family bond.
Noreen, one of four children Conway and wife Deena have, said the biggest thing was that their dad always welcomed their friends.
“Mom and dad’s home was where we could hang,” she said.
They rented a house on Lakeshore Drive and the kids played on the tennis court, played volleyball, listened to music and made ice rinks on the tennis court. He celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, something he cherished and had big barbecues.
What Noreen will miss is his sense of humour and positive outlook.
“He always said the Canucks will never win a Stanley Cup with the Sedin brothers on their team,” she laughed. “The night before he died, was the night the Canucks got beat out. I told him they lost. His last words were they were never going to win anyway because of the Sedins. He hated the Sedins.”
Prior to joining the V’s, Conway played for the Montreal Junior Canadiens, who he won the 1949 Memorial Cup with. According to Noreen, after her father won the world championship, he was the only person to have won a Memorial Cup, Allan Cup and world championship.
Conway earned the nickname Crusher in 1950 following a game against Halifax’s St. Mary’s team with the Charlottetown Islanders. Conway fought (Peanuts) McLaughlin. Because of this fight, and the Islanders win, a young CBC radio announcer named Danny Gallivan went to the dressing room to interview the player who fought Peanuts. When Danny asked to speak to Kevin Conway, all his teammates shouted out: “His name’s not Kevin, it’s The Crusher.” Gallivan then referred to Kevin on air as Crusher from that day forward.
Conway moved to Penticton to play for the V’s and met his wife during a coffee outing with his other teammates.
Conway asked if she was interested in going to a movie, but Deena apologized, saying she had night classes. It was in the winter so Conway offered to pick her up.
“Needless to say, that night class didn’t last that long,” said Deena, laughing.
They dated for three years. Deena recalls the first time seeing her husband during a V’s game, and it was during the player announcements.
“I turned to my dad and said that little short-ass thing is going to save our hockey team?” said Deena, adding that her father got upset with her.
Conway’s teammate Ivan McLelland recalls his favourite memory of the defenceman.
“I think his finest moment, which would have affected me, was in the 102nd hockey game of 1954 against Sudbury for the national championship,” said McLelland. “Kevin had played a lot of hockey. The last five minutes of that game, was probably his finest. He didn’t go off the ice. Wouldn’t go off actually. Blocked shots and hung in there with me. They were all over us and had us on our last legs.”
McLelland said Conway loved to reminisce about the old days. The two would go for drives in Penticton and enjoy a coffee parked along Lakeshore Drive while talking about the world championship.
“He would say, “You know, you got a lot of credit for that, but you didn’t really deserve it. It was me that did it,” laughed McLelland.
The goalie would fire back saying he played every minute of the 102 games while Conway took breaks.
“He loves to laugh about it,” joked McLelland, who admired Conway’s larger-than-life personality. “We didn’t always agree. He was very outgoing.”
McLelland described Conway as a tough, hard-nosed stay-at-home player.
“He wasn’t a particularly good skater. He made up for that in other ways,” said McLelland, who is sad and relieved by his friends death. “Very, very dedicated. Just the kind of player that every team wants to have.”
While Conway was known for his hockey accomplishments, he was also a successful businessman.
He operated a Chevron on the corner of Carmi and Main and opened the first self-serve gas stations. He also owned Dairy Queen.
While only having a Grade 9 education, Deena said her husband was taught a strong work ethic by his uncle, especially how to behave. Noreen describes it as having an old-fashioned work ethic.
“He was a very strong working man,” said Noreen. “No-nonsense kind of guy. A lot of fun. Gave praise where praise was needed.”
Noreen said Conway was known by people for the Dairy Queen he owned and shared a story of him trying to learn to curl the tip of an ice cream cone.
“You could not open your shop until you mastered that,” said Noreen. “He just couldn’t get the hang of it. This little kid comes up to the window you slide things through, and is tapping his coin at the wicket. ‘Mister, I’d like a cone. He is just sweating bullets trying to get this cone made. Finally he did it. He went over to the window and the little boy slid the money over and dad slipped the coin back. He told the kid this is for you. He never forgot that little boy’s face. Never forgot the pressure he faced from a little kid tapping his coin.”
Deena laughed as the Conway was always between ice cream and gasoline. He worked with Chevron for 35 years.
On Saturday will be the memorial service for Conway at St. Ann’s Catholic Church at 11 a.m. That will be followed by a celebration in the reception hall.
“We’re celebrating his life, we’re not mourning,” said Noreen. “He had health issues the last seven years. If it wasn’t for the great care of the local doctors and ER here, Dr. David Kincade and Dr. Jack Kooy, we would have lost dad a long time ago. Very grateful to them. They treated dad with such great humour and respect. Nurses were fantastic. The hospital was awesome.”