Walt McKechnie was the founder of McKecks and he owned and operated this fine establishment from 1986 until 2009. Walt was returning to the fond memories he had of the Highlands skating at Haliburton Hockey Haven, a summer hockey program for youngsters. This was following his retirement from the NHL in 1984. He fell in love with the area and thought it would suit him to open a little sports pub, since he knew how to be a good customer after his many travels during his 17 year pro career.
And so it was that the 1963 6th overall NHL draft pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs (traded back to them 78-79) bought the current building and opened McKeck’s Sports Pub alongside the Kozy Korner. The Kozy was later sold to the Tices, who still run it on Highland Street, and the original space which now houses Lisa’s Dental Clinic.
The building was a shoe shop at one time and it had a flight of stairs at the entrance for customers and another narrow flight of 12 steps to the 2nd floor for staff. The Dome was added on as a tribute to the summer past time of baseball and after 2 World Series, it became a hub of summer activity…those were the days, eh!
In 1997, another addition, The Heritage Saloon brought the full capacity up to 204 – with the same 2 flights of stairs – honouring Haliburton’s settlers and modern day dwellers alike.
After that, the only place left to go was outside. The rooftop patio at the back of the Saloon became the next addition, overlooking a great big Haliburton sky and Head Lake, and keeping with the health wise times, was completely smoke-free.
Years of favourite memories, fables and food all stored between these walls.
The restaurant was operated in hockey terminology and it took many of us a while to catch on, but eventually, we all came to understand and teach the rookies that we were in a competitive game and everyone was expected to go hard for the win. A lot of times, winning (and losing) was done the hard way. Nobody said it was going to be easy.
Many a hockey star, old and new, have been spotted over the years, but the real celebrities have been and are the locals who make a daily pilgrimage to the Pub for a pint, a laugh, and sometimes a tear. It seems to be the place that, no matter how much changes, including our latest tremendous renovation, this is a place for warm welcomes, good food, sincere conversations and a comfort that you often can only find in small towns, even if you are just passing through and it’s your first time here. We’ve always wanted this place to be somewhere you’ll want to come back to.
McKecks has had the privilege of being included in so many great cottage country memories – cottage openings, Coby Tournaments, Highland Games, Camp Weekend visits, May 24′s, Midnight Madnesses, Fall Studio Tours, New Year’s Eves, and B trail snowmobile rides to the best wings north of Buffalo.
We each have a memory and #11 started it all. Thanks, Wally.