It’s hard to imagine that Rick Meagher could have possibly had a bigger impact off the ice than he did on it.
The Belleville native played in nearly 700 games in the National Hockey League after graduating from Boston University. He was an NHL team captain, won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward and scored 144 goals and 309 points in his 12-year career. That’s a pretty impressive resume by any standards.
But it was off the ice where Meagher made is biggest and most lasting contribution to his community. Meagher spearheaded the Rick Meagher Celebrity Classic, which later became the Medigas Celebrity Classic, and raised $3 million to help local children’s charities over the 30-year history of the tournament.
He started the tournament with his friend John Pepper to help Pepper’s daughter, who had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
“From Day One, all of my buddies were involved as volunteers,” Meagher said. “It was a lot of hard work but it paid off in the long run. We raised some money for the kids and had some fun. Every time I asked somebody to donate or to volunteer, they would line up to do it.”
On the ice, Rick started his NHL career as a free agent with the Montreal Canadiens in 1980. He spent parts of three seasons with the Hartford Whalers and then three seasons with the New Jersey Devils before moving to the St. Louis Blues in 1985.
Meagher had six seasons with the Blues and helped them make the playoffs every year he was there.
Rick is one of nine kids from the Al and Doreen Meagher household. His older brother Terry also played at Boston University and went on to coach 33 seasons at Bowdoin College in Maine. Younger brother Tony also graduated from the Belleville Jr. B Bobcats to play at BU.
The kids all grew up playing hockey together – either on the street in the warmer months or at the Memorial Arena in the winter.
“When I was growing up, it was about the people of Belleville for sure,” Meagher said. “They were so friendly. Everybody in my neighbourhood growing up on North Park Street, they all had rinks in the winter time. All the kids knew each other. The people were great.”
Meagher typically found his way back to Belleville in the off-season and after retiring from a pro scouting career, he still spends a lot of his time in Belleville.
“I just like the area,” said Meagher, who frequently played in the South Hastings Baseball League in the off-season.
“It’s a great place to come in the summer. It was a great place to grow up.”
Intelligencer photos courtesy Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County