Mike Downie holding the goalie mask to be auctioned by the Royals for the Downie-Wenjack Fund. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2017 – Victoria Sports News

Gord Downie’s brother, Mike, stood before the Victoria media Friday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to talk about the Gord Downie – Chanie Wenjack Fund. Composed, he still had a little fight with his emotions. How can you blame him?

The Fund is a project created to help bring awareness of Canada’s need to move forward with reconciliation, especially to non-indigenous Canadians.

“Victoria was a special place for Gord,” shared Downie. “The Tragically Hip started most of their tours right here in this building. What better venue to bring awareness of the Downie-Wenjack Fund than right here while Canadians are taking in their favourite pastime, enjoying a hockey game.”

The brothers grew up in Amherstview, Ont. There are five kids in total, with siblings Charlyn, Paula and Patrick.

Mike Downie is documentary filmmaker.

Gord Downie, the vocalist and lyricist for the iconic rock band, the Tragically Hip, is considered a great Canadian poet with a unique stage persona, like non-other. He also played quitar, drums and harmonica.

Like many Canadians, he grew up playing hockey. He was a goalie, which he illustrated in the song The Lonely End of the Rink. He wrote songs about the game or often referenced hockey in his lyrics that were rife with Canadiana. One of the most well–known songs is Fifty Mission Cap, about the Toronto Maple Leaf Player Bill Barilko who died while on a fishing trip.

After 30-plus-years as Canada’s rock-poet laureate, primarily with the Hip, Downie died from incurable brain cancer in 2017. The band’s final tour started in Victoria in the summer of 2016 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre and wrapped up in Kingston, Ontario, the hometown of the Hip. A documentary of the tour was made.

Downie’s words and persona graced Canadian culture with an indelible stroke.

The Fund was borne from the McLean’s Magazine article “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.”

Wenjack died on October 22, 1966, while walking the railroad tracks. He was escaping from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. Chanie’s home was 650-kilometres away, which he wasn’t aware of.

“We knew nothing about this,” shared Downie. “We were not taught this in school; not my generation.”

From that article, a 10-poem-cum-song set called the Secret Path was created. The story is illustrated in an animated film broadcast by the CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special.

The Secret Path is now a multi-media, interactive educational tool that has had a tremendous impact since the launch in October 2016.

Cameron Hope, President and General Manager of the Royals, personally knew Downie. When he heard of the fund, he reached out to the group to see how the Royals organization could help.

A goalie mask with the name Downie-Wenjack Fund painted on it will be auctioned. Mike Downie will take in the game against the Seattle Thunderbirds during the Downie – Wenjack Fund night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

“When I heard of the fund, I reached out to them to see what we can do or how we can help. We are pleased to host Mike Downie and help bring awareness to the Downie-Wenjack Fund,” shared Hope.

When asked about the reaction to his brother’s passing, Downie showed hints of emotion, but kept it under control. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The reaction was so big, he touched so many Canadians. He had an amazing effect on everyone.”

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 pm.

The Royals will play Seattle Friday and Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

To learn more about the Fund>>

Mike Downie speaks to media Friday:

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