Playing professional hockey was a boyhood dream for the late Harry Cox. Growing up in the small town of Plunkett, Sask., in the late 1920s and ’30s, he put those dreams aside and went to work to help provide for his mother and siblings after his father had passed away. Although Harry’s personal hockey ambitions were never fully realized, his impact on the game and his community was exponential.
In the 1950s, Harry and his wife Mildred moved to Lethbridge where they raised their family (two sons, Brad and Geoff, and a daughter, Karen), and Harry began a remarkable career in the insurance industry. He worked for London Life for 37 years and his sons went on to established Cox Financial Group, which today is a third-generation family business in Lethbridge. But this is just the beginning of Harry’s legacy.
“Harry really loved Lethbridge,” Mildred recalls. “He wanted to see Lethbridge grow, and he wanted to help make that happen.”
The Lethbridge Y’s Men, the Lethbridge Community Foundation, the United Way and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors are just a few of the organizations Harry devoted time to.
“Dad was a community builder,” says Brad. “He helped bring the Canada Winter Games to Lethbridge in 1975, he helped raise the capital for the Lethbridge Sportsplex and the Lethbridge YMCA. He was a real behind-the-scenes kind of guy who made things happen.”
Throughout the years, Harry’s love for hockey never faded. In fact, his passion for the game gave focus to his efforts.
In the 1970s, Harry assisted in bringing a Junior B League to Lethbridge and he was co-owner of the Junior A Lethbridge Longhorns franchise for a year. Then in the early ’80s, he played a key role in establishing the men’s Pronghorns hockey program at the U of L.
“Although there were a number of individuals who worked to achieve the goal of a hockey program, in my view, Harry was the driving force behind it and its ultimate achievement,” says Jerry LeGrandeur, who was on the U of L Board of Governors with Harry at the time. “He was tenacious in his efforts and his enthusiasm was contagious. As I look back, I think it unlikely that the hockey program would have happened as soon as it did without Harry’s commitment and effort.”
In addition to personally donating to the initiative, Harry also gave his time and helped raise the funds to get the program started.
“Dad supported the hockey program because that is where his heart was,” says Brad.
In 1983, the Horns took to the ice. The team won a national title in 1994, sparking the career of coach Mike Babcock, and over the last three decades, has graduated education, business, community and industry leaders alike.
“Because Dad never had the opportunity for a post-secondary education, being on the Board and establishing the men’s hockey program was a real highlight for him,” says Geoff. “He also really believed that hockey was a way to connect the University with the community.”
Over the years, Harry and the Cox family remained strong supporters of the Horns and the University. “We’d often have the players over for dinner and BBQs,” recalls Mildred. “And even after Harry became ill with Parkinson’s disease, he’d still be at the rink.”
The Cox family is a long-time supporter of student scholarships; Harry even directed a life insurance policy to the men’s hockey team with a scholarship. They also support Parkinson’s research at the U of L.
In 2014, Harry passed away. While his presence is greatly missed at Nicholas Sheran Arena — the Home of the Horns — his vision lives on. It is carried in the hearts of the players who proudly wear the U of L’s blue and gold; the fans who cheer them on; and the community that stands together.