A captain of community

Health, Wellness & Recreation

Legacy of Jets’ Captain Ab McDonald supports the community he loved.

Ab McDonald’s remarkable hockey career resulted in four Stanley Cups. While he played for multiple NHL teams and lived in many cities, he chose to end his career and raise his family in his hometown of Winnipeg. As the first Captain of the Winnipeg Jets, Ab set the tone for our beloved team. His legacy through The Winnipeg Foundation will continue to support the community he loved.

The McDonald family, two weeks before Ab’s passing. “We all love this photo,” says Lori Koke. “As sick as he was, my dad got up with a smile, shaved, put on nice clothes and came out to spend the morning with us – we had all gone to church this morning with my mom… It was a special day for all of us.” Patricia and Ab McDonald, with their children (left to right) Steven McDonald, Cindy East, Kristina Gottfried, Lori Koke and David McDonald. Photos courtesy of the McDonald family.

Ab – short for Alvin Brian – McDonald grew up in the Weston area of Winnipeg, where he attended Cecil Rhodes Elementary School and Daniel McIntyre Collegiate.

He met the love of his life Patricia Stogan, at a family friend’s wedding in Winnipeg. While she knew he was a hockey player, Patricia didn’t see him play until she happened to attend a hockey game with her dad while in Toronto; Ab was playing for the St. Catharine Teepees, an OHL team.

“I’m sitting there watching the game and I said, ‘Oh I know that guy, he’s from Winnipeg,” Mrs. McDonald says.

After the game, Patricia waited to say hello.

“My dad was furious, ‘Girls don’t do that. They don’t chase boys.’ But he had to go work, so he had no alternative but to leave me. I waited after the game for probably half an hour. He was one of the last to come out, and he looked me and said, ‘So what are you doing here? I said, ‘Well I stayed to say hello.’ And he said, ‘Oh well the bus is waiting. I’ve got to go,’” Pat says with a big laugh.

They met again soon after and were married June 1958. They enjoyed 60 years of marriage and had five children: Cindy, David, Lori, Steven, and Kristina.

During his hockey career, Ab played for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues, and was the first Captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the family travelled to and lived in many cities, they always came home to Winnipeg.

“Lots of people talk about having to move around – and that was probably one of the best experiences we had!” says daughter Lori Koke. “Being in the car with my dad was wonderful. He always packed us into the station wagon and away we went. And we always stopped at wherever he had [played]. We kept in touch with old friends. We had this sense of family and community and friends.”

Patricia and Lori fondly remember throwing big parties in their St. James home for the team, and they always included family, friends and neighbours. That sense of community-mindedness is what made Ab a great leader, Captain, and community champion.

“He did a lot of mentoring, he believed in that,” says Ms. Koke. “He believed in community clubs. Anywhere he could help out, he did. He raised a lot of money for Special Olympics. He just thought it was important to give back – if you can give your name and your time and raise money, then do it.”

I think he was very proud that even while he was gone, he could still give back to the community.

Lori Koke
Ab McDonald’s daughter

Ab was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. He was also awarded the Order of the Buffalo Hunt. Before his passing, the family asked Ab what he wanted to be remembered for.

“My dad will tell you he had a lot of help from a lot of people. So that sense of helping others is what he wanted to have carried forward,” Ms. Koke says.

The family started the Ab McDonald Foundation, which supports youth in the Weston community. When Ab passed away in September 2018, the family directed memorial gifts to the fund. The first grant was issued to the Weston Memorial Community Centre in January 2019.

“I think he was very proud that even while he was gone, he could still give back to the community,” Ms. Koke says. “The Weston community was where he was brought up where he spent his entire childhood. They’d sit outside, they had those fire barrels and they’d warm their hands. They’d go door to door and get phone books to use as shin pads. You did what you needed to do, and that was that sense of community.”

Fund: Ab McDonald Foundation
Cause: Health, Wellness and Recreation
Supports: Activities that empower youth and adults in the Weston community to achieve

To learn more about Causes, visit Find your BeCause

This story is featured in the Spring 2019 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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