Snow Lake has lost a famous son, a wife has lost her husband, and a family their father and grandfather. Former Edmonton Oiler and Winnipeg Jet Ken Baird, 65, passed away in the early morning hours of Dec. 18 and this small community morns his loss.
In the past number of years, Baird was a fixture in Snow Lake. He was employed as a group leader in Hudbay’s Snow Lake Concentrator, retiring several years back. He was a humourous and steadfast friend to many, an avid golfer, an “honest” fisherman and a big supporter of minor hockey.
A fine family man, Baird was also known for his prowess on the ice. He got his start in minor hockey in Flin Flon, and when his family moved to Snow Lake in 1962, the 12-year-old continued playing at the midget level. It was in Snow Lake that he made up his mind to pursue a career in hockey. He played two years at the junior level, most of it with the Flin Flon Bombers; however, there was a one game stint with the Estevan Bruins.
He set a record with the Bombers for points by a defenceman, with 75 during the 1970-71 campaign. He also made the 1970-71 WCHL all-star second team. That second year of junior impressed NHL scouts, as he was selected in the second round of the 1971 draft, 15th overall by the California Golden Seals.
After the draft, he played with the Oklahoma City Blazers of the CHL and was called up a couple of times that first year, playing 10 games with the Seals in 1971. The following year he jumped to the WHA with the Alberta Oilers and spent five years with them.
Although Baird picked up a few assists in the NHL, he never did score a goal. However, it was a different story In the WHA. He got 14 goals in his first season, 17 in his second, and picked up 30 in his third, all the while averaging 130 penalty minutes a season.
Injuries and sickness played a part in Baird’s career starting in 1973-74, when he missed several games with an inflamed sac around his heart. In 1975-76, he missed the final 33 games of the season as a result of a serious knee injury and subsequent surgery. In 1976, the then 26-year-old Baird got sick and was diagnosed with diabetes. He missed pretty well the whole year; however, he returned to the pros in 1977 with the Winnipeg Jets and went out of the league a winner, potting 14 goals and setting up seven others that season, before hoisting the Avco Cup at its conclusion.
Ken leaves to mourn his wife Uschi, daughter Amber (Tyler) Samborski, two grandchildren, a brother Dave (Shirley), a sister Ellie and numerous nieces and nephews. A service celebrating his life will be held in Snow Lake at some point during January 2017. The people of the community offer their utmost and collective respect and sympathy … as well as the profound wish that Snow Lake’s Golden Jet forever rests in peace.
One other item that should be mentioned… The Snow Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call at Hudbay’s Snow Lake Concentrator, just before 1 p.m. on Dec. 15. The department’s Chief Cory Anaka advised that nine members responded to a fire located in the mill’s crusher building and that it took three hours to extinguish. He said that he was unable to add anything further, as the fire was still under investigation.
Scott Brubacher, director of corporate communications for Hudbay, confirmed the blaze, stating: “There was a fire in the Snow Lake Mill on Dec. 15. There were no injuries and the usual protocols were followed under the circumstances. It is believed the fire was the result of hot work being done in the mill, but the fire is under investigation so there are not a lot of confirmed facts at the present time.”
Unconfirmed reports state that the blaze was confined to belting and other combustibles and that there was no structural damage.