TORONTO — In November of 1999, the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto awarded its prestigious Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for journalists to Russ Conway, The Eagle-Tribune’s executive sports editor, honoring his work exposing corruption in pro hockey at the highest levels.
Conway, who wrote a compelling book on the scandal, “Game Misconduct,” was honored in 1999 along with Wayne Gretzky, who was the only former player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame that year.
Tomorrow night, 14 years later, Conway will be back in Toronto adding to his list of awards, this time honored by the National Hockey League Alumni Association with its Keith McCreary 7th Man Award for his dedication to retired NHL players and their pension pay. McCreary, who died in December of 2003, was the long-time chairman of the NHL Alumni Association.
Conway, a former hockey writer, sports editor and investigative reporter for The Eagle-Tribune, is credited with helping former players receive a benefit plan that exceeded their, in many cases, “paltry” pensions. The NHL and the NHL Players Association agreed several months ago to pay $3 million into the fund each year over the next decade to help some of the oldest living former NHL players. Conway’s exposes of pension fund abuses were key to that agreement.
Conway’s work led to his being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. But he wasn’t finished.
He found that former stars were struggling to survive day to day and decided to do something about it.
“Ted Lindsay was the first to help start the union, and he and guys like Fernie Flaman paid for it by being traded or sent to the minors,” said Conway. “It wasn’t right. The players association and the NHL weren’t treating the former players right.”
Conway said that former NHL player Ron Murphy’s story touched a chord with him. Murphy played 19 years, including the last four with the Bruins. Murphy, who has long been retired and has a difficult time moving around due to five compressed disks incurred over his long career, was reported to be making only $8,400 per year from his NHL pension.