Cowboys Hockey

Cowboy Daddy

In Two Words

“Oh well... I don’t know about me... I didn’t do anything... you’re the one...” Speaking in his familiar farmer’s drawl, Duncan May would look down uncomfortably, trying to deflect any praise that came his way. Dunc wasn’t very good at taking a complement - which was odd, because he had plenty of opportunity to practise.

This is not the first time I have publicly paid tribute to the “Cowboy Daddy”. That is what he was fondly dubbed by Richmond Cowboys Hockey Club and for good reason. He was, after all, the sire of 5 of the original team members, the uncle of a few other player, the grandpa of a few more and a father figure to all of us.

However, I can’t say he was entirely like a father to me. For instance, I don’t think my dad would ever pour vodka in my beer when I’m not looking. And my dad would certainly never invite the entire hockey team over to his home after the game, feed them a 20lb roast and let them party until the wee hours even after he had gone to bed. And this happened on a regular basis. He was generous and gracious and made you feel welcome anytime, even if you weren’t, I’m sure.

Duncan was more than a father figure, he was a role model - his demeanor and attitude was the example an entire team philosophy was built around. He was indeed the Cowboy Daddy and I had cause to praise him publicly and I did so as often as I could, whether he liked it or not. I’m certain he would not approve of what I’m about to do, but I do not do it on my own.

Once a year a group of Cowboys get together for a private dinner, the purpose of which is to select the annual recipient of the most honourable of all Cowboy awards - “The Cowboy of the Year”. It goes to the individual who, in the past season, best exemplified traits respectable to the Cowboy organization. These traits are engraved on the Cowboy of the Year plaque that is awarded each year. “Heart, strength and dedication. A leader, a competitor, a gentlemen.” These words attempt to describe some characteristics of the individuals whose names have appeared on this award since 1997, but really, they describe one man. It is no secret that this award, “Dedicated to the spirit of the Original Cowboys of 1979-1980", was created to honour those who displayed qualities not unlike that of Duncan May, the Cowboy Daddy.

His heart is the kind of heart a team is built on, where you give it your all, not for yourself, but for the success of the team.

Strength, not so much physical as in character.

He was dedicated to his family, to his work and to the Cowboys, where his support was more than evident.

A leader, yes. Not in a boisterous, aggressive manner, but in a quiet gallant manner that got everyone’s attention.

A competitor? I dare say so, but not in an obvious, "win at all cost way"... but I do know he liked it when his team won. However, even the most competitive don’t win all the time and the virtue of a true competitor is seen not in winning but in graciousness in the face of loss and knowing there will be another chance.

The final attribute and perhaps most descriptive of describes Duncan May is, in a word, a gentleman.

I have never met a greater gentleman than Duncan May. His character literally defines the word. Class, style, grace, manners, attitude, respect... you can’t even put it all in a word, but you can put it in two words: Cowboy Daddy.

In 2010, the Cowboy of the Year delegation choose a Cowboy of the Year for the 2009-2010 season and the decision was made with little difficulty. The winner is announced each year at the Richmond Cowboys Annual Golf Tournament, but we will no longer be presenting the Cowboy of the Year Award. From here on in, we will bestow the “Cowboy Daddy’s Award for Cowboy of the Year”

I am sad that Duncan May is not able to present the award himself. But really, that is a good thing. He never would have allowed it.

I will always remember the last time I saw Dunc. I took my uncle with me to watch his grandson, Jeffery May play against the Abbotsford Heat last fall. Dunc happened to have a seat not far from ours and I was pleased to be able to introduce my uncle to the man responsible for us being there. Dunc stood there tall and proud, and I think I might have been just as proud, not only to say I knew one of the players out there, but that I was a friend of his grandfather. It was just a brief introduction and chat, but my uncle was one of the fortunate to have had the chance to meet him. I’m sad that some of the newer members of the club never got a chance to meet him and there will be future players who will only know of him. But it is my hope that some of the characteristics that have influenced us will somehow rub off, that we can all aspire to reflect his attributes. As I look at my team and the community that surrounds it today, I see that it is true. We are all better for having known him.

I say farewell, not good-bye because I am of the belief that we will meet again in a very good place and I am certain that he will have a thing or two to say about what I write today, “I don’t know why you want to say all those things about me... I didn’t do anything...”

You did it all Dunc.

- Doug Collins