Gord Renwick, the Cambridge man responsible for organizing the ’72 Summit Series, dies at 85

·3 min read

Cambridge native Gordon "Gord" Ralph Renwick, an influential advocate for Canadian hockey on the national and international scene, died on Jan. 6. He was 85.

Renwick is survived by his second wife, five children, 16 grandchildren, two great grandchildren and his sister.

Calls poured in to pay respects and express admiration for Renwick, both as a businessman and hockey luminary, said his daughter Brenda Renwick.

“He was well loved and very respected.”

Gord, a life patron of Hockey Canada and among the first class inducted into the Order of Hockey in Canada, in company with Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe, died peacefully at Sterling Heights Long Term Care in Cambridge with his daughter Brenda by his side.

She will miss taking his phone calls at 10 a.m., asking “Where we were going for lunch?” which they did “all the time,” she said

Born in the city on Feb. 13, 1935, Gord, the eldest of three children, began his career as a businessman with Renwick Construction, a Cambridge company started by his father. Gord took over the company, which built homes and industrial businesses in the city, in 1963, after his father suddenly passed away. He soon found that his business acumen worked out very well in influencing the international administration of hockey.

Renwick soon launched the old Galt Hornets amateur senior hockey team and served as president from 1966 to 1973, during which time the team won two Allan Cup championships, in 1968 and 1971.

This was followed by Renwick helping create the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, which in 1994 merged with Hockey Canada, and served on the board of directors. Murray Costello, the first president of CAHA, said Renwick introduced business practices that weren’t in effect in the amateur game.

“He brought more of a corporate model of governance, rather than just a kitchen table operation,” he said.

Renwick also served on the IIHF for 20 years on behalf of Canada, first as a council member and for over a decade as vice president. He introduced an audit system where they dealt with external auditors.

“They never had any of their books audited up until that time,” Costello said.

Although she described him as a “quiet, quiet man,” his daughter Brenda noted his most cherished accomplishment he mentioned in private was getting the Soviet team to play in Canada in 1972 for four games of the remarkable Summit Series, where Canada won the eight-game competition during the final seconds in Moscow.

“He instigated all of that,” she said.

As a "spokesperson" on the international side for Canadian hockey at that time "anything they arrived at for Canada had to be validated by Renwick,” Costello explained.

“Whatever was negotiated with the Russians for the ‘72 series, Gordon had to approve it and take it forward to the IIHF for approval, and he did that very, very effectively.”

Renwick also negotiated for the NHL to join the Olympic Games in Japan, which happened for the first time in 1998.

Renwick enjoyed sailing, and after retiring from the hockey world in the 90s, visiting his cottage in Muskoka with family and friends and watching his favourite sport: baseball.

“He loved hockey, but he loved his Blue Jays more,” Brenda said with a laugh.

Another portion of Renwick's legacy will be left with Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation, where in 2019, the hospital unveiled the Renwick family bridge, a glass bridge connecting the legacy hospital building to Wing A.

A memorial for Renwick is planned on a future date, his family said. Instead of flowers, they are asking for the public for donations to a charity of their choice.

Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times