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After Alberta's flood, hockey honcho hopeful cleans up wreckage

George Gosbee is seen at his home in Calgary , Alberta Thursday, July 11, 2013. The property, located near downtown Calgary, suffered extensive damage during the flood.

KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Follow the mud-caked street past the collection of work trucks and garbage bins and you'll find George Gosbee's place. It's the one with the water mark that sits halfway up the front garage door.

From the outside, the Gosbee house still appears rather majestic; the inside looks as if it were decorated by vandals. The floors are stripped to the wood. In some places, there's no wood at all, just big holes that lead to more dried-out dirt. The walls have been taken down to the studs, wires hang out. The basement is worse.

You can almost hear the joists and support beams rotting, which means the home to one of Calgary's most prominent businessmen – and National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman's new best friend – is more than a fixer-upper. It is flood ravaged and in far worse shape than the soon-to-be-renamed Arizona Coyotes, the NHL-run desert franchise that is expected to become another Gosbee property.

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Normally during Stampede week, Mr. Gosbee, the chairman, president and CEO of AltaCorp Capital Inc., courts investors and attends barbecues galore. This summer, he has been trying to close on his group's purchase of the long-troubled Coyotes (hence his buddy status with Mr. Bettman) and now, like so many other Albertans, he is dealing with a displaced family and a gutted home.

Fortunately for Mr. Gosbee, his wife and three children, he has the financial wherewithal to recover. He has also been a neighbourhood benefactor who has helped and been helped by others affected by the Elbow River's rise to destruction. Standing in his backyard, the 43-year-old Mr. Gosbee pointed to piles of tree limbs and debris standing six metres in height and told of how people have helped clean up things.

One of them, the Coyotes' Calgary-based strength and conditioning coach, Tommy Powers, brought 20 to 30 of his clients over to assist in demolition duty.

"There were so many hockey players helping out here and at other houses. Tommy had East Coast League, Western Hockey League, American Hockey League guys," said Mr. Gosbee, whose eldest son John plays Junior A in Port Alberni, B.C. "We really needed their muscle and determination. It was like a competition for them. They broke two sledgehammers trying to do more than the other guy."

Former Calgary Flames goalie Mike Vernon offered his help. He donned a pair of hip waders and rummaged through the murky basement waters until he stumbled on two bottles of wine. He brought them upstairs proclaiming, "We're going to be okay."

Mr. Gosbee will have to rely on his ability to muse his way through multiple situations, a trait his friends described in a previous Globe and Mail story as "scattergun" thinking. For the Coyotes, Mr. Gosbee sees the same opportunity the NHL does, that the city of Glendale, Ariz., can indeed be a successful marketplace for hockey.

The NHL's new collective agreement and 50-50 revenue sharing with its players helps Mr. Gosbee and his principal partners, Daryl Jones and Anthony LeBlanc. So, too, do the league's new and more lucrative television deals. What Glendale gets for committing $15-million (U.S.) a year for 15 years to the Coyotes' new owners – it is for managing Jobing.Com arena – are increased shares in parking revenue and naming rights, benefits to the city's side for hockey games and other events. Mr. Gosbee has dubbed it a "win-win" proposition.

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His Calgary home for the past 12 years? No such luck. It has been inspected and red-coded by the city, which means, like many houses in the area, it is uninhabitable and probably destined for a date with a wrecking ball.

"You see that big red bin out front?" Mr. Gosbee asked. "It holds 10 tonnes. That's our seventh bin. That means we've already hauled out 60 tonnes of stuff – possessions, drywall, wood, couches. The heartbreaking thing was realizing they probably have to rip [the house] down."

Still, Mr. Gosbee acknowledged his own plight could have been worse given how others have lost not just their homes and possessions but loved ones.

"My son John and I took a canoe here before we were allowed in [by police]. I wanted to see our home. It was the wrong decision," said Mr. Gosbee. "We barely made it; the current was so strong. We paddled our way down the street in front of our house, turned at 4A Street and then left."

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About the Author
Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. He joined the Globe and Mail in 1997 with an extensive sports background having covered Stanley Cup finals, the Grey Cup, Summer and Winter Olympics, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the 1989 Super Bowl riot and the 1989 earthquake World Series. More

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