Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The George Pelawa Tragedy; A Personal Look Back

By: Timothy Oshie
Publisher

When I think back to my collegiate days and my journey back to Minnesota in 1986, I'm reminded each day how precious life is.

I was a Bemidji State University basketball junior college recruit coming via Everett Community College in Washington. It was in late August of '86, that I had the distinct opportunity to meet a gentleman by the name of George Pelawa.

We played golf together in an Native American Tournament near Bemidji. I can vividly remember his massive frame yet a very soft spoken young man. We had a chance to catch up on life and he told me he was excited to attend and play hockey for the University of North Dakota in a couple weeks.

That vision and opportunity never happened. George Pelawa was tragically killed in an automobile accident on Labor Day Weekend of 1986.

I can remember the Cass Lake / Bemidji communities mourning this special young man. I remember how the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and it's members were so devastated by the loss of this incredible young man. It was a very sad day for Native America as one its fine young members with lofty dreams and such a great heart was taken from Mother Earth.

Here are some of the google searches I found on George Pelawa this morning:

Almost 21 years ago (Labor Day Weekend), the Flames lost 1st rounder George Pelawa in a car accident. He was a day or two away from starting his freshman year at UND. He was 6'3" 240 lbs, 3 sport athlete; was named Mr. Hockey among all MN high school players his draft year.

The Flames still have a scholarship in his name at Bemidji High School.

A Song Dedicated To George Pelawa written by his father:

Tom Cochrane and Red Rider: This one still gives me chills. In 1986, the Calgary Flames drafted George Pelawa 16th overall. He was a prospect that had size to go with a scoring prowess. He was playing in the U.S. collegiate circles and was killed in a highway collision. The story is told from the fathers point of view. No hockey Dad can distance themselves from the lyric "My boy's gonna play in the big league/ my boy's gonna knock 'em dead" without feeling it's sting. It is a true Canadian tale that ends when "Ice meets metal/In the wrong lane to the big league".

Cochrane's broken hearted "Aaaah aha" wail makes one's neck hair stand on end. The truest of Canadian classics.

From SiouxSports.com Archives:

Big George Pelawa was a team mate of mine at Bemidji High School in football, he was a 3 sport athletic star. George played linebacker in football and could affect a game by himself.

George could have been a Division 1 athlete in Football, Baseball and Hockey. He was that gifted.
I would have loved to seen him in a Fighting Sioux uniform. Unforunately returning from a gathering in his hometown late one night before his freshman season, he was killed in a car crash. What an awesome guy. It still makes me sad to this day to think about it...

George Pelawa was a NHL 1st Round Draft Choice of the Calgary Flames (16th overall) in the summer of 1986 and was entering his Freshman season at the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

11 comments:

Goon said...

Tim,
Nice blog article about a guy that I had a great admiration for.

Oshie-Blogs said...

Goon:

Thanks for the comment this morning.

George Pelawa was a very impressive young man. I will never forget the (2) days I spent with him at that Indian Golf Tourney.

How ironic is the story that almost (20) years later my son, T.J., would also commit and play hockey for the UND Fighting Sioux Hockey team.

From one blogger to another .. good day my friend.

Scott B. Johnson said...

I remember watching George Pelawa in the state tournament, and recall the presence that he had on the ice. I remember Labor Day weekend 1986 playing volleyball at my in-laws' cabin on Spirit Lake in Aitkin County and hearing on a Brainerd radio station that George was killed in an auto accident. It was a sad day. I am glad that the Calgary Flames keeps his memory alive via a scholarship to Bemidji high school athletes.

Scott B. Johnson said...

I remember watching George Pelawa in the state tournament, and recall the presence that he had on the ice. I remember Labor Day weekend 1986 playing volleyball at my in-laws' cabin on Spirit Lake in Aitkin County and hearing on a Brainerd radio station that George was killed in an auto accident. It was a sad day. I am glad that the Calgary Flames keeps his memory alive via a scholarship to Bemidji high school athletes.

World of Hockey said...

Great blog...I am from PA and saw your son play at the MN HS tourney a couple years back. My first trip to MN.
My friend Steve Scheifele roomed with Pelawa on a "Jr. Olympic Team" that was players with the birth year 1968. He had nothing but respect for him. Said Pelawa was a big man with soft hands.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear things from people who got to know him. He was (is) my second cousin, but he died shortly before I was born. Thank you.

Ashley said...

I don't think my last comment posted. I just wanted to say thank you for your article. I like to hear about the faily members that I never knew. I didn't know George (he died before I was born), but he has always been a strong figure in my life. Thanks to your article I now know that my uncle wrote a sing for him and a few other things I didn't know before.

kgs 69 said...

Nice article about George, but it contain some inaccuracys. George was not a Native American. He was Polish. The family name was orginally Pelawski, but changed to Pelawa. The song written by the Red Ryder singer is not about George. For Ashley, if you want to know anything about George you may contact me at kgs6788@aol.com. I miss him every day.

Matthew said...

My name is Matt Britton and I am a 33 year old Calgary Flames Fan. I read your story of how you met such a wonderful young man. his story is tragic, and I hope it inspires others to Chase their dreams, and as well teaches people to embrace life and how short it really is. I will always remember George Pelawa, for who he is, and as Mr. Hockey 1986

Matt Britton, Edmonton Canada
matt.britton.76@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Was George the greatest hockey player in Section 8 history? I think you couild make a strong case.
I saw him play a number of times, he played like a man amongst boys. He used to literally run over opposing defensemen. As big as he was, he was so incredibly fast.

Rich Krivanek said...

I remember attending the high school hockey tourney in St Paul that George played in. We were walking the halls of the old Civic center when I turned a corner and almost walked right into George and another player. Years later, I retold that story to a pilot I was stationed with at McChord AFB, WA, 1Lt Tony Lind. Tony was that other player. Tony and George were inseperable during the tourney he told me. Great story. Almost as great a story as playing basketball on a cul de sac on a 6' basket in Eastmont, WA as a middle schooler with a couple of high schoolers from Cascade High. Good times. Rich Krivanek