Ardent hockey fan, Sam Behm was well known in local arenas

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He loved to follow the local hockey leagues, but was also keenly interested in NHL and other national sports

The Eganville Hockey League (EHL) and the sport of hockey in general lost one of its most ardent fans recently with the passing of Sam Behm of Palmer Rapids.

Although he was not at any games this year, Mr. Behm was a regular at most EHL games for many years and could always be spotted in the stands wearing his plaid jacket and a coffee in his hands. He loved the game and was always ready to share his thoughts with anyone eager to listen on how the game was going and who was or was not playing well.

Despite living an hour away, he would make the trip from the Hardwood Lake area every Friday night, even in inclement weather that some locals dared not venture out in. Mr. Behm was a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan and Toronto Blue Jays fan in the summer.

A former firefighter with the ministry of Natural Resources, he worked locally in the logging and forest industry. A proud member of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, he loved the outdoors.

His nephew, Sheldon Keller (mayor of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan Township) had the honour of delivering the eulogy at Mr. Behm’s funeral service Saturday.

He said Mr. Behm loved all sports — hockey, broomball, softball and would be a regular at the rink in Palmer Rapids in the winters or at Four Seasons Park in Hardwood Lake in the summer.

He said when the former Rat League was operating in Palmer Rapids, Mr. Behm coached one of the teams.

“I was working in the bush with him at the time and every game day, especially come playoff time, we’d have to quit early so he could prepare for that night’s game. Quite often, I’d hitch a ride with him and then when the game was done, home we’d go.”

He said if you went to visit Mr. Behm on a Saturday night, Hockey Night In Canada was on TV, or if you arrived when the sports was on the news, you’d have to come back later to visit.

Mr. Keller said his uncle not only loved the local leagues, he studied the professional leagues too, talking about who might get drafted each year, etc.     

“And he had such a great interest in local talent that grew up to go on to wherever it might have been,” he said.

Mr. Keller said Mr. Behm played only pick-up hockey himself and was a goalie. A bachelor, he lived with his mother for many years and cared for her.

“And he loved hunting and fishing, especially deer hunting.”

He described Mr. Behm as a great storyteller around the hunt camps.

“In my eulogy I said God must have wanted a storyteller in heaven because he could sure keep everyone entertained,” he noted. “It always amazed me the detail he could put in his stories, stuff from 50 years ago.”  

Mr. Behm was hospitalized mid-October with jaundice and while in hospital he contracted COVID.

“He was coming around from that, but all of a sudden he took a turn for the worse and passed away,” he said.

He recalled Mr. Behm being seriously ill a few years ago and spending many months in hospital, coming home very frail but he still went out to hockey games.

“He always maintained a positive attitude in life, even when the chips were down for him.”

Quite The Cat!

Kevin (Jock) O’Connor of Ruby is another nephew of Mr. Behm’s and in his typical style, he described him as “quite the cat.”

He recalled his uncle following his hockey career from his start in the minor system in Eganville and then later with the Barko Blazers in the former Eganville Forest League.

“He watched me from the time I probably put skates on,” he recalled. “He was all over.”

“He followed us with Barko and then in the old Barry’s Bay League,” he added. “It was sad to lose him, but he was not feeling well and he’s probably in a much better place.”

Mr. O’Connor said Mr. Behm would even drive to Bancroft to watch Junior B games.

“He was in Palmer Rapids lots when they had that old Rat League. He lived at the rink, I’ll tell you that.”

Like Mr. Keller, he recalled Mr. Behm having to quit early to prepare for the game he was coaching that night.

He said his knowledge of the game was amazing, from the local leagues to the NHL.

“He just loved the sport. And hunting and fishing.”

Mr. O’Connor said when COVID hit, Mr. Behm really missed going to the arenas.

He said in the recent years of the EHL, he would come to Eganville early and have dinner with Mr. O’Connor’s mother, his sister, Gertrude O’Connor, and then go to the game.

“When that all quit, I think that was the thing that killed him the most, the not being able to go out and visit” he remarked.

He said Mr. Behm loved to chat with everyone and he was a great storyteller.

“He’ll be missed for sure.”

Lost His Hockey Buddy

Glen Welk of Palmer Rapids was a longtime friend and could often be found sitting beside Mr. Behm at hockey games. He said when his son, Jordan texted him last week to tell him of Mr. Behm’s passing he could hardly believe it. 

“I told him my hockey buddy and my hunting buddy was gone on now,” he said.

 He had known Mr. Behm for over 30 years. He said when he built duck houses on Conroy’s Marsh in the winter, he and some other young lads from the Palmer area would help him.

Mr. Welk said on stormy nights when Mr. Behm had come down to the games in Eganville, he would offer to drive him home, but he never accepted, saying he could stay with his sister if he felt conditions were too bad.

“We used to have some great old chats, whether it was the NHL or the league down there. It was always about somebody or something.”

He said Mr. Behm loved attending the Heritage Cup tournaments in Barry’s Bay, noting they would sit together at the top of the stands.

Mr. Behm always greeted everyone with a smile, and Mr. Welk said as ill as he was at times, he never once heard him complain about anything. When he’d sit beside him at game, Mr. Welk recalled how Mr. Behm would ask how things were going with Mr. Welk’s work in the bush.

“I always called him Uncle Sam, because he was like an uncle to me,” he remarked.  

The visitation was held in St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Schutt on November 26 with the funeral service the following day.