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NWO Sports Hall of Fame by Diane Imrie

February 2017

Olympic & Church Connections
In preparing a presentation I recently gave at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church as part of their Canada 150 Speakers Series I uncovered some interesting sports history tidbits. First of all I was reminded of the fact that for many years churches did not just provide spiritual direction, they also provided the opportunity for their congregation to participate in sports.
In the case of St. Andrew’s it was hockey that appeared to be a popular activity, as evidenced by the items contained in their church archives. One photo featured the 1910 St. Andrew’s Hockey Club, which was back in the days of the seven man team, with a rover included on the roster. Seated in the centre of the team was Reverend Rowand, and in front of him a plaque for what I am assuming was for winning one of the various church leagues that were active at that time.

The following season the team is identified as playing in the Church Amateur Hockey League. There is no trophy or spiritual leader evident in the photo, but there is a young child identified as a mascot, along with a team pet named Nasty.
It would appear that hockey success continued for the church into the 1930s with the St. Andrew’s Good Companions Bible Class hockey team winning the 1938-39 Church League Hockey title. Members of that team included coach Cecil Stanfield and players Jeff Peat, Bill McLean, Bill Hammond, Hugh Knowles, Stan McKay, Angus Macdonald, Jimmie Christie, Don Murray, Bill McEwan, Harry Gothard.
For winning the championship the team was awarded the R.B. Pow Church League Hockey Trophy for Annual Competition. Upon reading the names of the winners on the trophy it would appear that the United Church may have had a bit of a lead amongst local churches during the 1930s as First United won the 1933 and 1935 titles and Knox United were 1934 champs. Other victories were had by St. Paul’s- Fort William in 1937 and St. Pat’s in 1938. St. Andrew’s was the last team name on the trophy, which is not surprising given that they were the 1939 champions and a lot of sporting competitions stopped during that time due to the impact of World War II.
The other interesting historic tidbit that I discovered was that the man that donated the trophy had a connection to our communities’ Olympic history and it was not for hockey, but for curling.
So how did a member of this church end up at the Olympics? The story goes like this. Organizers for the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid wanted to include curling as a demonstration sport so Canada and the United States were asked to send four teams to represent their respective nations to compete in a two-day round robin tournament. At that time the Fort William Curling Club was affiliated with the Manitoba Curling Association and Pow was one of the prominent and long time members of the club, who also happened to originally hail from Manitoba.
He was also very active in political life, having served as a member of Fort William City Council from 1929-1932 and 1937-1940 and as the Mayor of Fort William from 1933-1936. He also served as a President of the Conservative Party Association of Fort William. As it turned out the other members of the team that he curled with in Lake Placid were also quite politically connected with strong ties to Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. The skip was the Member of Parliament for Portage la Prairie, the third was the MP for Dauphin and the lead was the MP for Souris.
In those days Olympic competitors had to pay for their own travel and accommodation and at that time MP’s were provided with free train travel so it would not cost them anything to travel to Lake Placid. Although not recorded, one might also suspect that their hotel rooms may have made it onto their MP expense account. In the end, it turned out to be a good selection as the team went undefeated in their four games to claim the gold for Canada.
It was a real treat to have the opportunity to meet with the members of the Heritage Committee of St. Andrew’s who are doing such a great job preserving the treasures from their past. It was great to be able to discover the hockey trophy donated by one of their church members who just also happened to be an Olympian.
If you would like the opportunity to see another gold medal winning Olympic curler, plan to head down to the Fort William Curling Club February 8th to 12th as Brad Jacobs leads his 2014 Sochi Olympic gold medal team in the Northern Ontario Men’s Provincial curling playdowns for the chance to make a trip to the Brier. If you want to take in some more exciting fun, plan to attend the Sports Hall of Fame’s 6th Annual Two-Bit Auction presented by Canadian Tire taking place on February 23rd at the Columbus Centre on May Street. Tickets are only $5 and sell out fast so call the Hall of Fame at 622-2852 to get yours today.

January 2017
A Busy Year of Anniversaries and Activities
As this is my first column of a new year, I thought I would take a look at some special anniversaries that will be happening this year, as well as some exciting activities being planned for the months ahead.
I am sure I am not alone in being proud of the fact that this season marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of one of our countries greatest hockey teams. They began as the Toronto Arenas in 1917 and then became the St. Patricks and in 1927 became the one and only Toronto Maple Leafs. If you haven’t caught on yet, I am a Leaf fan and unlike some others, I am still optimistic that we will once again return to Stanley Cup glory. My original prediction was that it would be in 2022, but if it is 2027 to commemorate the centennial of their current name, I could live with that as well. Besides, by then I will be almost at retirement age so I will have more time to go to Toronto for the parade.


Speaking of the Stanley Cup, it was 110 years ago this month that the Kenora Thistles defeated the Montreal Wanderers to become the smallest community ever to win Lord Stanley’s mug. It is fitting that Kenora was recently selected to host the 17th edition of Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada on February 18th, 2017. There are four days of hockey themed events planned including a NHL Alumni Hockey Game, a live broadcast of Coaches Corner with Ron McLean and Don Cherry, a pond-hockey tournament and a breakfast with the Stanley Cup. Check out the City of Kenora’s website for more information.
It will be 50 years ago this summer that the 1967 Fort William Americans Senior Little League team claimed the Canadian championship by defeating Edmonton in a best of three final with their two straight victories of 6-0 and 2-0 earning them the national title. Representing Canada at the Senior Little League World Series, a double knockout event, the team lost their first and third games but made history by defeating a team from Matamoros, Mexico by a score of 2-0 in their second game, making history by becoming the first Canadian team to win a game in the world series championships. In recognition of the amazing history of success our teams have enjoyed over the years the Sports Hall of Fame is planning to host a Little League Baseball reunion this summer bringing together players and personal from all of our teams that have won national titles.
The year 1967 sparked a lot of activity given it marked Canada’s 100th anniversary, including the opening of Thunder Bay’s Confederation College. The Hall of Fame is looking forward to featuring some of that institutions sports history in an upcoming exhibit set to open during our Annual Community Open House on Sunday January 29th from 1-3 pm. The new exhibits celebrating our 2016 Hall of Fame Inductees will also be on display at that event.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of our great nation, and there are a number of different activities taking place. Our neighbours at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church are planning a Canada 150 Speakers Series with the first presentation night taking place on Wednesday, January 25th at 7:00 pm. Entitled An Evening of Sports Heritage it will feature stories about our region’s proud sporting past presented by yours truly, along with Hall of Fame President and Inductee Dave Siciliano and our Vice-President and Inductee Harry Curtis who will both share first-hand experiences from their extensive careers as athletes, coaches and builders that saw them involved from the local to the world level. Tickets are available in advance and at the door, with a $10 donation requested.
This year also marks the anniversary of the 100th anniversary of the building that houses the Sports Hall of Fame. Originally constructed as the Fort William Lands and Titles Building, it opened in the summer of 1917 and continued to operate for that purpose until November of 1971. It operated as the Thunder Bay Museum from 1972 to the mid 1990s prior to being taken over by the Sports Hall of Fame. Although nothing is officially planned as yet, something tells me there will be a 100th birthday party, complete with cake, happening at some point this summer.
In order to help keep the doors open, we also host a number of fundraising activities throughout the year and on Thursday, February 23rd the Columbus Centre on May Street will be abuzz with activity with our 6th Annual Two-Bit Auction presented by Canadian Tire featuring a number of great baskets to bid on. Tickets are only $5 and sell out fast so call the Hall of Fame at 622-252 to get yours today.
This month is also the deadline for people to submit nominations to our Selection Committee, so if you know of some athletes, builders or teams that are worthy of consideration for induction into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame you have until January 31st, 2017 to submit your nominations.
Happy New Year one and all and here is to a great year ahead. I look forward to seeing you at some of the exciting events that are happening in 2017 at the Hall of Fame and throughout the community.

November 2016
2016 Sports Hall of Fame Inductee – Ron Busniuk

With the hockey season upon us I thought I would take a look back at one of the individuals that we recently inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame who has literally done it all in the game. I am speaking about Ron ‘Buzzy’ Busniuk, who enjoyed success as both an athlete and builder having left his mark in the amateur, college and professional ranks, both on the ice and behind the bench, in a career spanning close to six decades.
Growing up in Fort William during the 1950s and 60s, Buzzy got his first taste of national success on the baseball diamond, helping the 1964 Fort William Nationals claim the region’s first Canadian Senior Little League title. A standout on the ice, he advanced through the minor hockey ranks earning top honours. Securing a coveted spot on the powerful Fort William Canadiens roster, he claimed the junior league Rookie of the Year honours and was picked up by the Port Arthur Marrs for their 1967 Memorial Cup challenge.
Making his way to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 1966 he served on the Bulldogs roster from 1967-70, playing on the forward line and at defence. Named the teams 1967-68 Rookie of the Year, he led the team in scoring in all three seasons, was twice named team MVP, served as Captain of the squad in 1969-70, was named All-American, earned All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association First Team recognition, received UMD’s Outstanding Senior Athlete Award and was named to UMD’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
The property of the Montreal Canadiens, he joined the professional ranks with their AHL affiliate going on to help the 1971-72 Nova Scotia Voyageurs become the first Canadian team to win the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup. Acquired by the Buffalo Sabres the following season, he won his second Calder Cup playing with the 1972-73 Cincinnati Swords.
Known for his scrappy style of play he was called up by the Sabres in March of 1973 to replace an injured Craig Ramsey. Taking to the ice at the Boston Gardens for his NHL debut he quickly made his presence known bumping the Bruins early on with two of their players making it to the box within the first five minutes for retaliation penalties. Assessed three penalties of his own throughout the game, he even took on Boston’s star player in the game’s only fight, which resulted in the legendry Bobby Orr being ejected in the second period with a game misconduct. Spending the 1973-74 season with the Swords, he earned First Team AHL All-Star honours and skated in five more NHL games with the Sabres, recording three assists.
Moving into the World Hockey Association in 1974-75 he joined the defensive line of the Minnesota Fighting Saints, moving over to the New England Whalers mid-way through the 1976 season. Acquired by the Edmonton Oilers in 1977 he served as Assistant Captain the two years that he was there.
Retiring from the professional ranks following the 1978 season, he returned home and spent two seasons playing with the Thunder Bay Twins before moving behind the bench, leading them to back-to-back Allan Cup titles in 1984 and 1985. The team’s 1985 victory is considered one of the greatest in Canadian senior hockey history, with their epic come from behind battle to win four straight games against the Corner Brook Royals to claim the national crown still talked about amongst hockey fans.
Coaching at the minor league level he took a team to the 1982 Air Canada Cup and served the game at the grass roots level for many years as an instructor and valued team advisor and mentor to up and coming coaches and players.
As the oldest of four brothers he also influenced his younger siblings with Mike enjoying a successful professional playing and coaching career, Ken playing in the senior ranks and Larry serving as a long-time minor hockey volunteer. Ron has also passed along his love of the game to his son Bryson who claimed a national midget title with the 1997 Thunder Bay Kings and also enjoyed time in the college ranks.
The proof of Ron ‘Buzzy’ Busniuk’s impact on the world of sports does not just rest in the multiple awards and trophies he earned at the amateur, collegiate, professional and national level, it is also evident in the many friends he has made within the sports community and the willingness he has to pass along his knowledge and passion for athletics to others.

Oct 2016
A True Builder of Sport – Jim Johnson
Some signs that it won’t be long before we are sweeping the white stuff off our cars is the dropping of the puck and cheering of the fans attending the home opener of the Lakehead University Thunderwolves hockey game, and the reports of how well Thunder Bay AAA Kings teams are doing at hockey tournaments. Last month we had the opportunity to recognize a man who was a driving force behind the creation of both of these hockey institutions, when the late Jim Johnson was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Seeing as this is the time of year that the community is enjoying the legacies of his hard work, I thought I would provide a look back at the life of this true builder of sport.

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Upon his arrival in Thunder Bay from Toronto in the early 1970s Jim quickly got involved in his adopted hometown, serving as a coach in the minor ranks and as a director with junior hockey organizations. Throughout the 1980s and 90s he coached his way up through the minor ranks to the AAA level, helping lead teams to provincial honours, and coaching the Thunder Bay Bearcats to a bronze medal at the 1988 Air Canada Cup National Midget championships. A certified instructor, he provided NCCP coaching clinics for over a decade, throughout the country and as far away as England.
In the late 1980s he began working on the formation of a hockey league that would allow local players the opportunity to stay at home, and still have the chance to compete at the highest level. In 1989, his dream became a reality with the formation of the Thunder Bay AAA Kings. Serving as their first president, he remained active with the league as a coach, director and long-time supporter.
The legacy of his vision remains to this day with a number of Kings alumni going on to enjoy full collegiate scholarships and pro hockey careers, with many of them making it to the NHL, including his two sons Greg and Ryan. Another legacy of this builder of sport, is the Thunder Bay Tournament Centre, which he helped create during the mid 1990s, and helped promote as the site of NHL development camps.
In 2000, he was approached by Lakehead University and asked to help lead the charge in re-introducing a varsity hockey program to the school. Becoming the program’s lead investor he encouraged others to follow suit, with CIS hockey returning to the area for the 2001-02 season. Fittingly, Jim became the first President and Director of Hockey Operations for Thunderwolves Hockey, a position he held until 2005.
So the next time you are attending a Thunderwolves hockey game, cheering on a Thunder Bay AAA King alumni in the NHL, or watching kids take to the ice at the Tournament Centre, you can be thankful that people such as Jim Johnson have dedicated themselves to working hard at making their community be the best that it can be.
Sept 2016
Sports Hall of Fame 2016 Inductees
It is that time of year again when the community will come together to celebrate our rich and proud sports heritage. Four athletes and two Builders will make up the 2016 slate of Inductees to enter the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame at the 35th Annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on September 24th at Thunder Bay’s Valhalla Inn.
In the Athlete category the Hall will welcome rower Liam Parsons who began his career with the Thunder Bay Rowing Club during the 1990s, going on to enjoy success with the University of Western Ontario and as a member of Canada’s National Team, claiming multiple national and international medals including bronze at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games.
Boxer Kathy Williams is being recognized for her success in the ring during the 1990s and early 2000s where she claimed provincial and national amateur titles, and dominated state, North American and world professional bouts with multiple bantamweight championship belts to her credit.
Hockey player Ron Busniuk is being recognized for his success from the 1960s to 80s in the amateur, college and professional ranks which included MVP honours at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, back-to-back AHL Calder Cup titles, time in the professional ranks with the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL and Minnesota, New England and Edmonton of the WHA and rounding out his career behind the bench coaching the Thunder Bay Twins to their 1984 and 1985 Allan Cup titles.
Fort Frances born football player Jeff Treftlin developed his skills with his home town Muskies before going on to enjoy a successful record-setting all-star career as a defensive end at McMaster University, followed by an 8-season CFL career which included a Grey Cup championship with the 1989 Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Professional Builder category is designed to recognize people, other than athletes, who have enjoyed successful careers in sport. Being honoured in this category is the late Todd Hinds who used the skills he learned as a wrestler growing up in Thunder Bay to develop into a successful university coach during the 1990s and 2000s, and to serve with the National Women’s team helping to develop Olympic medal winning wrestlers, before his untimely passing in 2015.
The Volunteer Builder category recognizes individuals who give of their time to ensure that sporting opportunities exist for others. The late Jim Johnson truly filled that role for the sport of hockey having served as a long-time minor league coach and instructor from the 1970s to 90s and as a founder of the Thunder Bay Kings AAA Hockey League and Lakehead University Thunderwolves, serving as the first President of both organizations.
The 2016 slate of Inductees will be officially inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, September 24th at the Valhalla Inn. Tickets for the event are $80 each and can be purchased by calling 622-2852 or dropping by the Hall of Fame at 219 May Street South (beside City Hall), Tuesday to Saturday from 12:00 to 5:00.

June 2016

MEMORIES FROM THREE DECADES
This month will mark thirty years since I first started working at the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Like so many people that call Thunder Bay home I am actually a transplant who came here for what I thought would be a very short time, which turned out to be much longer than anticipated.
Open House at Twinhaven 10th anniversaryI was born and raised in Toronto and had just graduated from McMaster University in the spring of 1986 with a degree in political science and Canadian history. I decided to come up to Thunder Bay to spend the summer with every intention of returning to Toronto in the fall. The Sports Hall of Fame had posted a job for a summer student and I applied for it seeing as it combined two of the things I love, sports and history. Just as my summer job was about to end and I was trying to figure out what my next step in life would be, the position of Executive Director became available. The Board asked me if I was interested in taking the job, which they promised would provide me with a great deal of experience, but not necessarily a large amount of pay seeing as they were a small non-profit organization. I said that I would try it for a year and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the past three decades I have had the honour of getting to meet so many wonderful people from all walks of life and experience some pretty special moments. I cannot possibly name all of the people I have met, but I wanted to highlight a certain few who have had an impact on my career. People like the late Fred Bragnalo who taught me the value of never giving up, even when the odds are stacked against you, just as he never gave up on his goal of having a Sports Hall of Fame.
Individuals like Phil Jarvis who has shown me what a true volunteer is, giving unselfishly of his time, financial support, expertise and wisdom whenever called upon. He also has the uncanny ability to seem to know exactly when to drop by the Hall of Fame to provide us with some words of encouragement and friendly advice which lifts our spirits and gets us back on track.
Mentors like Donna Gilhooly who, in her role as Manager of Community Recreation for the City of Thunder Bay, not only provided a positive role model for women in management positions, but also taught me about the importance of community partnerships and what great things can be accomplished by bringing people, organizations and governmental agencies together to work towards a common goal.
And then of course there is the long time Curator of the Sports Hall of Fame, Kathryn ‘Kate’ Dwyer who has been along for the majority of what has at some points been a pretty wild ride. She is the Ethel to my Lucy, the Laverne to my Shirley….you get the picture. The two of us have stuck it out through thick and thin even at one point not knowing if there would be a Hall of Fame to call home when the school board asked us to move out of our original location in Twinhaven School because they needed their space back. We packed up the collection, moved to a temporary facility, raised the money needed to renovate our current home on May Street, and moved again. A wild ride indeed.
I have also been provided some truly unforgettable opportunities through my job. When we hosted a convention of sports halls of fame from across Canada we treated the delegates to helicopter rides over Big Thunder. The next year our hosts in Calgary reciprocated with bobsled rides down the Olympic track. Other sports heritage moments have seen me in the Notre Dame locker room, behind the scenes at Canadian & World Figure Skating championships, on the field at Lambeau, golfing at Glen Abbey and holding the Stanley Cup. Pretty neat perks of working in the field of sports heritage.
Our yearly Induction Ceremonies have provided their fair share of tears, laughter and great moments of pride. Annual golf tournaments, which were started in 1988 by the late great newspaper man Bill Guy at the then Lee Fogolin owned Centennial Golf Course, and continue today in memory of Fred Bragnalo at the Fort William Country Club (being held this year on Monday, July 25th) have provided many memorable moments. Giving school tours, conducting radio and television interviews, writing sports history articles and helping producing videos, designing and installing displays, discovering amazing artifacts, meeting and greeting visitors to our museum and working alongside wonderful staff and volunteers have all been a rewarding part of this great job.
So here is my advice to all of those recent graduates out there. If someone offers you a job in a field that was not necessarily on your life’s master plan, don’t be afraid to take a chance because you never know where the road will take you. To everyone who I have met along my journey over the past 30 years, thanks for the memories and here’s to sharing many more adventures in the years to come.

May 2016

Treasures from the Past
One of the great things about my job at the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame is that we never know from one day to the next what is going to come walking through our front doors. Recently we had a visit from one of my curling colleagues who had mentioned to me a while back that she had some photographs I might be interested in seeing. The other day she followed through on her promise and brought the photos, along with her husband, to the Sports Hall of Fame. As it turned out, her husband was a former building inspector and he had found two great hockey photographs which had been left behind in a property he had visited
One of them was of the Port Arthur R. T of T Hockey Team who had claimed the Evans Trophy as winners of the 1904 Algoma District Series. Not only is it a great photograph, it also provides us with the fun challenge of undertaking some research to discover what the initials R.T of T mean and what other teams were involved with that particular hockey series.
sports1928 Provincial Papers Team winners of the Loon Lake to Port Arthur relay race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second treasure was a panoramic framed image of the 1926-27 Port Arthur West End Hockey Club, who were the Western Canada Junior hockey champions. Some of the members on the team went to the big leagues, including NHL’ers Cliff Barton and Roger Jenkens. Another member of the team, Norman ‘Nummy’ Friday would go on to win a silver medal for Canada at the 1936 Olympic Winter Games.
The third photograph had special meaning to the donor as it featured his father and his uncle. The photograph, which accompanies this article, is of the 1928 Provincial Papers Team that won the First Annual Relay Race from Loon Lake to Port Arthur. Included in the photo are (back row, left to right): Peter Jacobson, R. Rickard (Manager), Robert ‘Bob’ McCullough and (front row, left to right): E. Miller, W. Smith and Tom McCullough. Along with the photo came a well worn and yellowed newspaper clipping that described the 28 mile race in detail.
The race was held on a Saturday afternoon and included teams of runners from the Provincial Paper Mills Athletic Association, the Fort William YMCA and the Community Athletic Centre. The winners of the race were presented with the Suggett Cup donated by Port Arthur jeweler A. G. Suggett. Each member of the winning team also received solid gold medals donated by Colonel J. A. Little which can be seen proudly displayed on the chests of the winning papermakers in the photo.
The conditions for the running of the race were described as being less than ideal with rain falling intermittently which made the road quite slippery and covered with pools of water. The Provincial team strategically took off their jerseys so as not to be weighed down by their wet garments. Included amongst the field of racers were two well known local runners including Doug Skinner running for the Y, and Tommy McAuliffe who ran the final leg for the C.A.C. who had to make up close to a mile to get back in the race, finishing two minutes behind the winning team.
No wonder the donor was proud of the photograph and the story that went along with it considering that his father and uncle were credited with being the stars of the race. To quote portions of the newspaper account it seems that Bob and Tom McCullough could be given chief credit for the big lead taken by the Papermakers with Bob overhauling the young C.A.C man and striding ahead with machine-like precision before handing his brother Tom a lead of over 400 hundred yards.
So the next time you are whizzing down the highway in the comfort of your modern day vehicle and pass Loon Lake try to envision the MuCullough boys and their hearty teammates striding along the road to victory in the falling rain close to 90 years ago.
The Loon Lake to Port Arthur relay run may be a thing of the past, but this month you can still cheer on runners competing in a race steeped in history. When runners take off for the start of the 2016 Firefighters 10 Mile Road Race on Monday, May 23rd it will mark 106 years since the first running of this historic race which began under the sponsorship of the Times-Journal back in 1910. Congratulations to the dedicated group of volunteers, participants and cheering fans who have kept the ten-mile road race a part of our history for so many years.

April 2016

Sport & Volunteers Go Hand in Hand
They say April showers bring May flowers. I am hoping that those flowers will arrive quickly as it will mean it is time to hang up the curling broom and get out the golf clubs. Speaking of curling, although my Tuesday night squad won’t be bringing home any trophies this year, it was great to spend another season on the ice sharing laughs and the occasional good shot. It was also wonderful to see the incredible run that skip Krista McCarville and her team of Kendra Lilly, Ashley Sippala, Sarah Potts, along with their fifth Oye-Sem Won Briand and coach Lorraine Lang had at the national women’s curling championships in February bringing home a silver medal.
sports Lorne Allard in shop with hockey button onThat is the great thing about sports. It allows you the chance to share special moments with teammates who, more often than not, are also friends. Some of whom become friends for life. Not only do the athletes become friends, often the parents or relatives of young athletes also make lifelong friendships as they get to know each other while volunteering their time to help out.
National Volunteer Week is April 10th to 16th so I thought this was a good time to acknowledge the incredible role that volunteers play in the world of sports. As I go through the list of builders that have been inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame I am reminded how the opportunities that exist in sport have been a direct result of the incredible and unselfish contributions made by so many men and women over the years. With such a long list, and limited space, I thought I would highlight two volunteers that were unique in their volunteer contributions.
People such as Hilda Donati who started her very own hockey league in 1945 to provide opportunities for younger kids to participate in the game. Reported at the time as the first organized Peewee Hockey League of its kind, it consisted of eight teams with Hilda ensuring that there were no more than twelve players per team so that every team member would be guaranteed ice time. By 1948, Hilda’s League had grown to 20 teams and Hilda continued to personally select, assign and outfit the players, while at the same time soliciting sponsors for the teams, and organizing the league out of her confectionary store which continued into the 1950s.
We recently lost another great sports volunteer with the passing of Lorne Allard whose contributions to sport as an athlete, coach and volunteer spanned seven decades. From helping to organize tin-can curling during the late 1940s at the Oliver Road playground, to dedicating his talents to such sports as boxing, football, hockey, track and field, baseball and soccer, he was the consummate sports volunteer. He spent over forty years behind the bench as a hockey coach and was very proud of the many players he nurtured through the ranks, including Lee Fogolin Jr. who went on to serve as the Captain of the Edmonton Oilers and won two Stanley Cups. He was also a builder in the truest sense of the word through his involvement in the creation of a number of projects including baseball fields, skating rinks, community and sports centres and conservation areas. His talents with a camera also saw him capture on film some of great moments from our sporting past as well as the many sport team photos that are adorned with the Allard name.
To all of those volunteers who continue to head out to early morning and late night practices on those cold winter days, sell raffle tickets and chocolate bars to family and friends and give up your time to help out whenever called upon please know that your efforts are greatly appreciated. It is because of you that Thunder Bay has such a rich and proud sports heritage as volunteers are truly the backbone of our sports community.

Feb. 2016

sports1991 Eila Brown Curling Rink

It is February which means that the sound of granite hitting granite and brooms moving quickly across the ice is emanating from curling clubs across the region. Each Tuesday night at the Fort William Curling Club I can be found participating in this fun winter sport, although my skip will tell you that my broom may not move as quickly as some others, but she appreciates my efforts. So far our team’s record of success is not going to earn us any trophies, or a spot in the Hall of Fame, but it sure is fun taking to the ice each week.
There have been a number of teams from our region that have done well and earned a spot in the hallowed halls. One team is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year so I thought I would take this opportunity to celebrate that fact. The team was skipped by Eila Brown and included third Arline Wilson, second Eileen Chivers-Wilson and lead Bette Toskovich and not only were they the first team to represent Northern Ontario at the Canadian Senior Ladies Curling Championships, they did so with great success.
Prior to the 1990-91 season teams from our region who were competing in senior curling were represented at the national level by Ontario. That year Northern Ontario was given a spot in the national finals and teams had the opportunity to vie for the chance to wear the gold and green at the national championships. The Northern Ontario playdowns were held at the Thunder Bay Country Club in February of 1991 and featured teams from Thunder Bay, Kenora, Sudbury and New Liskeard. The Brown team finished on top with a 5-1 record, stamping their tickets for a trip to Victoria to attend the Canadian Senior Men’s and Ladies’ Curling Championships which were held from March 9-16th.
With this being the first appearance of a Northern Ontario rink and the first time the members of the Brown squad had competed at the national level, the team entered the event with a goal of finishing in the middle of the pack which they thought was pretty realistic. As it turned out they underestimated their abilities and made up for all those years when there wasn’t a Northern Ontario representative. As journalist Bob Weeks reported the team went through the field like a hot knife through butter, finishing the round robin with a perfect 11-0 record.
In the final game they met up against Saskatchewan’s Emily Farnham, the 1989 Canadian Senior and 1974 Canadian Ladies champion. They got a quick jump on their competition by scoring 3 in the first end. Up 5-2 after five ends, Farnham missed an open hit for three which would have tied it up but instead allowed Brown to steal for one. Running their opponents out of rocks the Brown rink defeated Saskatchewan by a score of 7-5, finishing with a perfect record of 12-0, a feat which had not been accomplished in senior play since 1980. This marked the first time that a rink from Northern Ontario had ever won a Canadian Women’s senior curling title and the first senior curling title for northwestern Ontario. Well done ladies!
There is another first going to be taking place in curling this month. The Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame is hosting our inaugural Heritage Classic Doubles Funspiel at the Fort William Curling Club on Saturday February 13th and Sunday February 14th.
This fundraising event will be an opportunity to celebrate our rich curling heritage along with the local and regional curling fraternity and our friends and supporters. This event is also a way for people to learn about doubles curling which will be making its debut at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. We will be holding a Doubles Curling Clinic at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon prior to the start of the bonspiel for those people who are registered to play in the event. The bonspiel will get underway with the first Draw taking place at 5:00 on Saturday night followed by fun activities into the evening and the remainder of the bonspiel occurring on Sunday from 9:00 am to approximately 4:00.
We are looking forward to having a number of Hall of Fame Inductees who have been honoured for their involvement in curling on hand to cheer on and meet and greet our participants, and to celebrate our proud curling heritage. The event is open to teams comprised of all genders, ages and abilities and the cost to participate is $60 per 2-person team which includes a 3 game guarantee of doubles curling along with food and fun and the opportunity to raise some funds for the Hall of Fame. Registrations are available on-line at nwosportshallofame.com or by calling the Hall of Fame at 622-2852.
Another fun fundraising event is being held on Thursday, February 25th at the Columbus Centre when we host the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame 5th Annual Two-Bit Auction being sponsored by Canadian Tire. Tickets for this popular event are only $5 each and sell quickly so get yours in advance by calling the Hall at 622-2852.
It promises to be a busy month, which will make the winter go just that much more quickly as the days get longer and the temperatures get warmer.

Jan. 2016

Bringing Home the Allan Cup
Welcome to 2016! Something tells me it is going to be a great year. We kicked if off in grand fashion by bringing home the Allan Cup as part of Rogers Hometown Hockey held in Thunder Bay on January 2nd and 3rd. The festivities were held at Marina Park and we featured this legendary Canadian hockey trophy along with a display highlighting the teams from our community that have won it.
The Allan Cup was donated for the 1908-09 Canadian Senior amateur hockey season by Sir H. Montague Allan, a Montreal sportsman and financier. It was introduced to replace the Stanley Cup after it had become the championship trophy of professional hockey clubs. Prior to 1919 the winner of the Allan Cup was determined through a series of challenges which was eventually changed to a more structured format which saw a Western versus Eastern Canada final.

sportsBill Mcdonald Mayor Assef Mickey Hennessey
Our connection to this national trophy dates back to the 1920s when senior hockey was king in the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur and all throughout Canada. Our community has won more Allan Cups than any other in Canada, with 10 Canadian Senior Hockey titles to our credit.
The Port Arthur Seniors claimed three Allan Cup titles during the 1920s. They defeated the University of Toronto in 1925 and 1926 and St. Francois Xavier in 1929. Many of the players went on to play in the professional ranks.
The Port Arthur Senior Bearcats defeated the Montreal Royals to claim the 1939 Allan Cup title. That victory would have seen them as Canada’s hockey team at the 1940 Olympic Winter Games had they not been cancelled due to the war. A few years back I had the chance to interview some of the players from the 1939 Bearcats. It was a great experience that I consider one of the highlights from my almost three decade long career in the field of sports heritage.
Listening to the likes of Edgar and Burt Laprade, Don Gordon, Joe MacArthur and T. B. ‘Bones’ McCormack recount in great detail the various games they played along the trail to their Allan Cup victory was truly priceless. They brought the Allan Cup home by train and they said that the crowds started to build at Marathon and by the time they got to Port Arthur it seemed like the whole town had come out to welcome them home. I can still remember Edgar Laprade saying that winning the Allan Cup for his hometown was one of, if not the, highlight from his entire Hockey Hall of Fame worthy career, which gives you an idea of just how significant the Allan Cup was to players from that generation. Bones McCormack always said it was the next best thing to winning the Stanley Cup back in the days when there were only a handful of teams vying for Lord Stanley’s mug because to win the Allan Cup teams had to face some pretty stiff competition from teams all across this hockey rich nation.
By the time the Thunder Bay Twins were formed in the early 1970s the desire to bring home the Allan Cup to the head of the lakes was just as strong and it was that team that restored Thunder Bay’s reign of supremacy in senior hockey. The Twins claimed their first Allan Cup title in 1975 and during the 1980s the Fort William Gardens was packed to the rafters to cheer on the likes of Billy McDonald, Gerry Cizmar and Wally Presenger with the Drive for Five producing titles in 1984, 1985, 1988 and 1989.
In 2005 the Thunder Bay Bombers rounded out our local Allan Cup history by adding our 10th title. When you include the Allan Cup won by the Fort Frances Canadians in 1952 our region truly dominates space on this legendary Canadian senior hockey trophy.
Today the Allan Cup is competed for by AAA Senior hockey teams in an annual tournament which Kenora is hosting in 2017. If the host community gets to ice a team there is a chance our region’s rich and proud sports heritage may include an even dozen Allan Cup titles.
Speaking of our proud sports heritage, if you know of some athletes, builders or teams that you feel are worthy of consideration for induction into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame you have until January 31st, 2016 to submit nominations for consideration by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
We will also be hosting an Open House at the Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, January 30th from 1:00 until 3:00. Drop by and check out the exhibits celebrating our newest Inductees. There is also a chance that the Allan Cup may be on display during the Open House as our colleagues at the Hockey Hall of Fame may extend our time hosting the national trophy which is fitting for the community that has won it the most times.
Wishing you all the best for a safe and happy 2016.

Dec. 2015

Time Flies By
Wow it is December already. They say time flies by when you are having fun so with another year about to come to a close, in what seems like a blink of an eye, I must be having one heck of a good time. Mind you since the last time this column appeared a lot of great things have happened.

sportshallKevin Page - Dr Vern Stenlund - Bobby Orr
In September we hosted our 34th Annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies and what a night it was. The Class of 2015 represented a wide variety of sports from different eras and included three Olympians, a World Cup skiing champion and two outstanding builders. Throw a NHL hockey legend as a surprise guest into the mix and you have the ingredients for a pretty special night.
Just prior to the start of the induction ceremonies we always host a reception so our Inductees can meet each other and the members of the media and the Hall of Fame Board of Directors. As people were visiting with each other I heard one of our Inductees get pretty excited when he realized that one of his friends had shown up to surprise him. The Inductee was Dr. Vern Stenlund and the friend was Bobby Orr. Needless to say, as word spread of the surprise guest, there was a new level of excitement added to an already special night.
In October the excitement surrounded the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays almost made it into the World Series. Their amazing run this year has reignited the spark in a number of people, including this almost lapsed baseball fan. I can’t wait for the first pitch of the 2016 season. In fact this may be a good excuse to head down to Dunedin, Florida to check them out in training camp.
I was in Winnipeg catching the Jets take on Tampa Bay when the final game was on and I was one of those people running in and out of the hockey arena to gather around the television sets in the lobby to watch the baseball game. After the hockey game ended we were ushered out of the MTS Centre and tried to make our way into a local watering hole to catch the final innings only to be turned away due to it being too full. So we gathered with the masses on the street and watched the television screens through the windows in the rain. That is when you know you are a real sports fan.
November brought with it some warm days during a time when blizzards and gale force winds are the norm. I was almost tempted to liberate the golf clubs from the basement but I didn’t want to jinx the weather. I was testing out some new drivers while I was in Winnipeg, so heads up to my golfing buddies, including the likes of Keith and Peter, as I think I have found one that should add some more distance off the tee.
November also marked the induction of Dryden’s Chris Pronger into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The smiles on the faces of his parents Eila and Jim, and the shout out he gave to his grandparents Anna & Erkki Nyholm thanking them for his fiery Finnish heritage that served him well throughout his hockey career, were great highlights of his induction. Chris joins a very exclusive list of people from our region to enter the hockey shrine including Kenora stars Tommy Phillips, Si Griffis, Tom Hooper and Billy McGimsie and local hockey products Jack Adams, Jack Walker, Gordon ‘Phat’ Wilson, Alex Delvecchio and Edgar Laprade and builders Norman ‘Bud’ Poile and Fred Page.
Balmertown’s Eric Radford and his pair partner Meagan Duhamel from Lively no doubt secured a spot for themselves in the Skate Canada Hall of Fame with their gold medal winning performance at Skate Canada International in November. Last season they won every competition they entered, including the World championship. I can’t wait to see them compete at the Canadian Championships in January where they will try for their fifth consecutive senior pair title which will tie them for the most ever with former champions Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul; Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini; and Sandra and Val Bezic. That is some pretty impressive company for two kids from Northern Ontario to be in. Eric’s former coach and mentor the late Paul Wirtz, who got his start in Marathon and is an Inductee of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, would be so incredibly proud of him, as we all are.
As we say goodbye to 2015 and get ready to ring in a new year, I must extend sincere thanks to the members, Inductees, donors, sponsors and dedicated volunteers and staff of the Sports Hall of Fame that all played a part in helping to preserve and honour our region’s rich and proud sports heritage throughout the year.
Happy holidays everybody and see you next year. If you are still looking for some Christmas gift ideas consider a Fame 500 Club Lottery ticket, a Century of Sport in the Finnish Community of Thunder Bay book or a membership to the Sports Hall of Fame. Call 622-2852 to order, or drop by the Sports Hall of Fame at 219 May Street South (beside City Hall) between the hours of 12:00 to 5:00, Tuesday to Saturday.

Oct. 2015

Baseball Fever

Let’s Go….Blue Jays….Let’s Play Ball! As I write this article the Toronto Blue Jays are still maintaining their lead in the MLB American League Eastern Division, having just downed the New York Yankees by a score of 4-0 in front of over 48,000 fans. I was in the stands on April 7, 1977, along with close to 45,000 other fans, when the Jays took to the snow covered field at the old Toronto Exhibition Stadium to take on the Chicago White Sox. Thirty eight years and two back to back World Series titles later, and Blue Jays fever is still alive and well.

sports1915 Fort William Canucks Northern league
Over the years our community has had its fair share of excitement and strong history on the diamond. A milestone in Thunder Bay’s professional baseball history goes back over a century. On November 4th 1913 a group of prominent citizens and businessmen gathered at Fort William city hall and decided to form a joint stock company called the Fort William Baseball Club with the goal of purchasing the St. Cloud, Minnesota Northern League franchise and moving it to the head of the lakes. A total of $10,000 was to be raised through the sale of stocks valued at $10 a share. A stock subscription committee was formed and prominent citizens with names such as McKellar and Rutledge throwing their financial and verbal support behind the project.
On May 20th, 1914 their dream became a reality when the Fort William Canucks, in their red and white uniforms, took to the newly dedicated ball field at Arena Park, located at the corner of Archibald and Miles streets for Fort William’s first ever professional baseball game. Prior to the game a parade began at city hall with the Fort William players and their opponents, the Virginia Ore-Diggers, being carried through the streets on board an Ogilvie Flour Mills truck, The parade made its way over to Port Arthur and back, with the streets lined many deep all along the route. An estimated crowd of over 3000 fans overflowed the grandstand and bleachers as Fort William Mayor Young threw out the first pitch, with Port Arthur Mayor Oliver at bat and Virginia Mayor Boylan serving as catcher. Although making it first onto the scoreboard with one run in the first inning, the hometown favourites lost that inaugural game 3-2, but it did not seem to matter to the local fans who seemed to be hooked on professional ball.
The team continued to compete in the Northern League C Division facing teams from Duluth, Fargo-Moorhead, Grand Forks, Winona, Superior, Virginia and Winnipeg. As Canada’s involvement in World War I progressed, however, the conflicts impact was felt on the professional baseball circuit, with the team disbanding in June of 1916, and the Northern League shutting down operations completely in July of 1917.
Professional baseball made its return appearance to the head of the lakes the same year the Blue Jays won their second When the Jays won their second World Series title. In 1993, the Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks, and owner Ricky May joined the revised Northern League. The team provided local baseball fans with some great memories during their six season run before their move to Schaumburg, Illinois following the 1998 season. A piece of the Whiskey Jacks still remains in Thunder Bay with their mascot Jack, finding a home in the display gallery of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.
Top level baseball returned to the head of the lakes in 2003 when the Thunder Bay Border Cats joined the Northwoods League. Taking up residency at the Port Arthur Stadium the team has done well over its history, bringing home the 2005 and 2008 league championship titles, and continuing to keep the spirit of professional baseball alive in Thunder Bay, just as the Blue Jays are doing for Canadian baseball fans.

2015 Sports Hall of Fame Inductees

It is that time of year again when the community will come together to celebrate our rich and proud sports heritage. Three Athletes and three Builders will make up the 2015 slate of Inductees to enter the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame at the 34th Annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on September 26th at Thunder Bay’s Valhalla Inn.
Swimmer Debbie Clarke served as a member of the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts during the 1970s where she set multiple national age-group records. Earning a spot on Canada’s swim team for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal she swam in the preliminary heats for the freestyle and medley relay teams helping her teammates advance to the finals where they went on to claim two Olympic bronze medals. Following her competitive swimming career she shared her knowledge of the sport as an Assistant Coach with the Thunderbolts in the early 1980s.
Sean Crooks began his close to two decade long skiing career by first competing in Nordic combined in the early 1990s before going on to focus on cross country skiing with Big Thunder Nordic Ski Club. Throughout his career he claimed multiple national titles and represented Canada with distinction at races all around the world, consistently cracking the top 20 in World Cup events and earning a spot on the 2006 Olympic Winter Games team.
Port Arthur born Bill Keenan, a pioneer in the sport of freestyle skiing, was a moguls specialist with the National team during the 1980s. In 1981 he became the first Canadian ever to win a World Cup moguls event and in 1983 he won the overall World Cup title. Retiring in 1986 he served as a colour commentator for freestyle skiing when it was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games and his image was used for the $20 commemorative 1988 Olympic coin.
Chris Lindberg earned success as both an amateur and a professional athlete. Learning the game of hockey growing up in Fort Frances during the 1970s and 80s, he served at centre ice for the University of Minnesota-Duluth before beginning his professional career. Enjoying time in the NHL with the Calgary Flames and the Quebec Nordiques during the 1990s, he also spent time on the Canadian National Team where he contributed to 2 Spengler Cup titles and Canada’s silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, going on to spend time playing overseas before retiring in 2005.

sportsJim Mauro umpiring in the late 1950s

The Volunteer Builder category recognizes individuals who voluntarily give of their time to ensure that sporting opportunities exist for others. This year’s inductee truly epitomized that role. Jim Mauro Sr. who is being inducted posthumously, began his involvement in baseball as a player back in the 1940s and 50s and by the 1960s he had discovered a passion for umpiring. Developing into one of the best umpires in the area and country, he was called upon to umpire at the 1972 & 1974 Little League World Series. As someone truly devoted to the sport of baseball he passed along his knowledge to the next generation by serving as a league administrator for both Senior and Little League baseball from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The Professional Builder category is designed to recognize people, other than athletes, who have enjoyed successful professional careers in sport. Being honoured in this category is Dr. Vern Stenlund who learned the game of hockey growing up in Port Arthur during the 1960s and 70s before a knee injury ended his professional playing career and moved him behind the bench. Serving as a coach at the minor, junior and university levels for three decades, he has also contributed his talents as a consultant to Hockey Canada, authored numerous books and instructional manuals, and most recently assisted Bobby Orr with his authorized publication, Orr: My Story.
The 2015 slate of Inductees will be officially inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, September 26th at the Valhalla Inn. Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling 622-2852 or dropping by the Hall of Fame at 219 May Street South (beside City Hall), Tuesday to Saturday from 12:00 to 5:00.

June 2015

Getting Ready to host the Pan Am Games

It will not be long before Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area will be a buzz with activity as some of the world’s top athletes arrive in our province to compete in the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. When Ontario hosts the 17th Pan American Games they will be the largest ever with over 7,000 athletes from 41 countries competing in 36 different sports with the fifth edition of the Parapan Am Games seeing over 1600 athletes from 28 countries competing in 15 different sports.
Thunder Bay athletes have competed in ten of the past sixteen Pan Am Games and in two of the past four Parapan Am Games with multiple medals to our credit.
Our first Pan American Games participant was Bill Shwaluk who competed in weightlifting in 1959 in Chicago. In Winnipeg in 1967 runner Don Domansky claimed our region’s first Pan Am medal, bringing home a bronze for his performance in the 400m. Two local residents, Harry Hollinsworth and Lothar Bode were also in Winnipeg serving as track and field officials.
In Mexico City in 1975 Domansky repeated his bronze medal showing this time serving as a member of Canada’s 4 x 400m relay team. A number of local swimmers who were members of the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts represented Canada in the pool that year including Tom Alexander, Joann Baker, who returned with two silver medals and Bill Sawchuk who brought home a bronze.
Our swimmers continued to shine at the 1979 Pan Am Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico with Sawchuk adding 3 silver and 2 bronze to his medal collection and Joann Baker and Suzanne Kwasny also donning the maple leaf. Local wrestlers Steve Daniar, Brian Renken and Wyatt Wishart all returned home with bronze medals from their time on the mats.
Curt Harnett made his first Pan Am Games appearance in 1983 in Caracas, Venezuela where rower Maureen Grace brought home a bronze medal. Harnett earned two Pan Am cycling medals in 1987 in Indianapolis claiming a gold and silver with Sandra Greaves bringing home gold in judo and Lou Kok a silver in wrestling.
The 1990s saw Gord Sturrock take to the Pan Am wrestling mats in Havana in 1991, Anne Saasto bring home a gold medal in bowling in 1995 from Mar del Plata, Argentina and Trevor Stewardson in the boxing ring in Winnipeg in 1999.
2007 marked the first year that the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games were held in the same city with Rio De Janeiro playing host. On the water, local sailers Alisia Cameron, Jim Cameron and Richard Walsh competed for Canada, and in the water, swimmer Andrea Cole brought home our first Parapan Am Games medals including 5 gold and 1 silver. In 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico cyclist Robbi Weldon added 4 more Parapan Am gold medals to our record of success and was named Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.
With qualifying events still underway it is not yet known if some local athletes will have the chance to compete at the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games but hopefully our record of involvement in these great international events will continue.
One of the sports that will be making its first appearance at the Pan Am Games this year is golf which is also a sport that helps to raise money for sports heritage with the hosting of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame Fred Bragnalo Memorial Golf Tournament which will be held on Monday July 27th at the Fort William Country Club. For further information check out www.nwosportshalloffame.com or call the Hall of Fame at 622-2852 to reserve your spot in this great event.

Hall of Famer Stan Baluik

Baluik, Stan
It is April which means that it is time for the Masters which will see golf enthusiasts glued to their television sets cheering on their favourite player. It is also that time of year when hockey fans are finding out if their favourite teams have a chance to make it into the playoffs. A long standing joke is that teams that don’t advance along the Stanley Cup trail will be making their way to the golf course sooner than later.  As a Toronto Maple Leaf fan I have heard that joke recited on more occasions than I care to remember.
One Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame Inductee was talented both on the ice and on the links. Port Arthur born Stan Baluik was well known by local hockey fans for his performance with the Fort William Canadiens Junior Club from 1950-54.  Earning top scoring honours in his final season he joined the forward line of the Kitchener Canucks in the OHA, and went on to spend time in the QHL, WHL and AHL before his talents caught the eye of the Boston Bruins, who signed him in 1959.
Called up to the NHL for a few games with the Bruins, his playmaking skills were utilized to a greater extent by their AHL affiliate the Providence Reds.  A top point getter his talents earned him the 1959-60 AHL Rookie of the Year award.  Spending his final five years of hockey with the Reds, he retired with an impressive professional hockey record of 509 games played with 191 goals and 322 assists.
While he was developing his hockey skills as a youngster here at the Lakehead, he was also dedicating his talents to the game of golf, first serving as a caddie and working his way up to caddie master and an eventual assistant golf pro.  In 1952, at just sixteen years of age, he played in his first of two Canadian Opens. Two years later he was in the headlines yet again winning the Ontario junior golf title.
Turning professional at the age of 19, in 1956 he was recruited as the Club Pro at the Fort William Country Club, a position he held until 1963. Dominating local golf championships, he earned numerous victories, and was a three time winner of the Thunder Bay District Golf Association’s District Open in 1957, 1960 and 1961.
As luck would have it, when Stan was contemplating his future in hockey, a Providence Reds fan, who also happened to own a golf club, offered him a job as the Club Pro of the Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, Rhode Island.  According to Baluik, the offer was three times what he was making playing hockey so he made the decision to hang up his skates and pick up his putter full time.
Serving as the Head PGA Professional at Kirkbrae from 1964-2005, he has been referred to as the dean of Rhode Island golf professionals. During his time in Rhode Island he claimed victories in the Vermont and Rhode Island Opens and New England Pro-Am and played in the PGA Championship. Named Rhode Island Chapter Professional of the Year in 1995 and the New England PGA Professional of the Year in 2004, in 2005 he gained entry into the Rhode Island Golf Hall of Fame.  Many of his students went on to become PGA Professionals themselves, including his son David, who is carrying on the Baluik legacy in golf.  In 2001 Stan was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.
This is also the time of year that planning is getting underway for the always popular Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame Fred Bragnalo Memorial Golf Tournament.  This year’s event is set for Monday July 27th at the Fort William Country Club.  Mark the date on your calendar and watch for further information on the Sports Hall of Fame website at www.nwosportshalloffame.com or call the Hall of Fame at 622-2852 to reserve your spot in this great event.

 

Eddie Kachur

sportsEddie Kachur action

In December of last year I was attending a hockey game at Delaney arena and when I looked out onto the ice I saw a young player sporting the name Kachur on the back of his jersey.  Like so many families in Thunder Bay it was another example of how sport so very often makes its way down through the generations.  In this case it was John Kachur carrying on the tradition of his grandfather Eddie Kachur who had made the name synonymous with hockey many years earlier. That moment of name recognition was made that much more significant one week later when we received news of Eddie’s passing on December 16th, 2014.
It was on the outdoor rinks of Fort William’s East End during the early 1940s that this future NHL’er started to develop his hockey skills. It was not long before he began accumulating hockey laurels.  In 1947-48 he was named league MVP while playing for the Fort William Bantam Hockey club. Not surprisingly his talents soon earned him a spot on the highly competitive and successful Fort William Columbus Club Canadiens junior team.  Serving with the team from 1949-53, he was known for his high scoring abilities, including netting 6 goals in one game and helping his team claim the District junior title in his final season with the club.
In 1953, while still a teenager, Eddie began a professional hockey career which would last for close to 20 seasons. An outstanding winger he made his way onto the Cincinnati Mohawks of the International Hockey League and helped his team claim the 1953-54 Turner Cup as league champions, becoming the first IHL’er to score 4 goals in one game.  The 1954-55 season saw a QHL Championship with the Shawinigan Falls Cataracts, a Montreal Canadiens farm team.  His 56 goals and 48 assists over his two seasons with the club saw him earn a spot on the 1955-56 QHL second All-Star team.
Given the incredible depth of the Canadiens farm team system during the 1950s the ability to make the jump to the big leagues with that club was incredibly difficult but Eddie came close, missing out on the final cut to Henri Richard.  He did make it to the NHL, however, joining the Chicago Blackhawks midway through the 1956-57 season and skating with the club for the entire 1957-58 season.
Joining the AHL with the Buffalo Bisons in 1958-59 his team finished atop the standings and were runners up to the Calder Cup.  With the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds from 1960-62 he was an EPHL first team All-Star in 1960-61, placing third in the league in points that season.  Rejoining the Buffalo Bisons, he claimed a Calder Cup in 1962-63 before being traded to the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League in 1964.  From there it was on to the Providence Reds where he starred for six seasons, often making headlines for his scoring abilities. Voted an AHL All-Star in 1967-68 he netted 47 goals, the most by any player that season in both the NHL and AHL.
Rounding out his career in the 1970s, Eddie became a playing coach for the Thunder Bay Twins and the Johnstown Jets of the Eastern Hockey League.  Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Eddie wisely retired from the professional ranks in 1972 and returned home, going on to star with the Thunder Bay Oldtimers.  Making his way to Lac Des Milles Lacs he and his wife Sheila went on to operate Camp Sawmill Bay for many years.
The contributions Eddie Kachur made to the game of hockey were enshrined in the Providence Reds Sports Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

 

 

Steve CollinsAnniversary of Sporting Firsts

Welcome to 2015! My goodness where has the time gone? Each year at this time I like to take the opportunity to celebrate some of the anniversaries of our Hall of Fame members. This year I thought I would highlight some of the special anniversaries of our inducted teams and individual athletes who accomplished sporting firsts.

Ninety years ago Port Arthur residents were lining the streets to welcome home their champions as the 1924-25 Port Arthur Senior Hockey Team returned on the train having defeated the University of Toronto in two straight games to claim the regions first ever Canadian senior hockey title.

It is hard to believe that it was forty five years ago that our fair city was born with the amalgamation of Port Arthur and Fort William into the newly named Thunder Bay. In 1970 Canada’s newest city sent off a group of 16-18 year old All-Star baseball players, bearing the name of the Thunder Bay Red Sox, to compete in the Canadian Little League Big League Division Championship in Windsor and claimed the first national title for their newly named city.

Forty years ago city athletes pulled out all the stops with Thunder Bay teams and athletes dominating the national sports scene in a variety of sports. With the formation of Thunder Bay came the creation of a powerhouse hockey team that carried on the tradition of excellence in senior hockey. The first national title won by the Thunder Bay Twins was claimed in 1975 when the team defeated the Barrie Flyers in game 6 of the Allan Cup finals which was held in front of a packed Fort William Gardens.

This year will also mark the fortieth anniversary of the winning of our first Brier title with skip Bill Tetley and his team of Rick Lang, Bill Hodgson Jr and Peter Hnatiw claiming the national curling title in a dramatic game that came down to the final shot in the 10th end.

That same year saw the Port Arthur Continentals win our first and only Major Division Little League title. On the water in 1975 Bill Scollie earned a number of firsts in singles rowing finishing ahead of the pack at the Canadian championships and becoming our first rower to compete at the World Rowing Championships held in Nottingham, England. In the pool in 1975 Hall of Fame members Joann Baker and Bill Sawchuk brought home our first medals in swimming from the Pan-American Games.

The bowling lanes produced a number of special anniversaries that will be celebrated this year. It was sixty years ago that Richard ‘Dick’ Thompson won our first national 5-pin bowling title bringing home the 1955 national singles crown. In 1975 the members of the Northern Ontario Mixed 5-pin bowling team claimed the first and only world 5-pin bowling title with Jim Lee serving as the coach of the team which was comprised of Cliff Keenan, Frank Massaro, Ovide Duguay, Ron Stansfield, Elvira Dustin, Lucille Harris and Bev McCool. Twenty five years ago Anne Saasto was our first 10-pin bowler to win the TSN Pins game national finals which she repeated five years later in 1995, the same year she became our first bowler to win gold at the Pan-American Games doing so in the team event.

On the slopes forty years ago Dave Irwin became our first skier, and only the second Canadian male, to ever win a World Cup Downhill, doing so at Schladming, Austria. That same year a young Steve Collins began taking to the ski-jumps at Big Thunder and within five years time was dominating the sport earning a number of titles including the 70m event at the World Nordic Championships for Juniors. It will be 35 years ago this March, when the then fifteen year old shocked the ski-jumping world by winning the 90m event at a World Cup competition in Lahti, Finland. His jump of 124 meters broke the old hill record by 8 meters and stood for 12 years. Just one month earlier he placed 9th at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the best showing by a Canadian. Named the top under-20 Canadian male athlete, he was nominated for the 1980 Lou Marsh Award placing third behind only Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky.

Tom Jones Jr. is also celebrating a special thirty-fifth anniversary this year having won our first national GT-2 title at the Canadian Auto Sports Club Championships at Mosport in 1980, while at the same time setting a track record in his class and beating the GT-1 finishing time, a feat never before accomplished.

This year marks the 25th anniversary for a number of athletes from our region who were the first to bring home medals from the Commonwealth Games in their particular sports. Returning home from the 1990 Games in Auckland with medals around their necks were boxers Vernon Linklater and Domenic Filane, cyclist Curt Harnett, diver Mary DePiero and decathlete Michael Smith.

Happy Anniversary to our history making athletes and all the best to everyone in 2015!

If you know of some athletes, builders or teams that are worthy of consideration for induction into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame you have until January 31st, 2015 to submit nominations for consideration by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

 Holiday Sport Traditions

sports hallPort Arthur Bearcats Seniors winners of 1939 Christmas Day game2

Port Arthur defeated Fort William by a score of 5-1 in the Christmas Day game held on December 25th, 1939

The month of December is one that is looked forward to by many people for a variety of different reasons. For some it is the chance to get together with family and friends to share in the festive season and for others it is a chance to celebrate their spirituality and religious faith.

For sports fans holidays also provide the chance to settle in with a nice cup of hot cocoa, or whatever your chosen beverage might be, and take in some traditional holiday sporting events. In the United States, the tradition of watching football games on the Thanksgiving weekend and on New Year’s Day has a long and storied past. The same is true of football and rugby in Great Britain, with Boxing Day serving as the traditional time to turn on the telly or head to the stadium to watch your favourite team in action.

Boxing Day has also become a special day for hockey fans as it marks the kick off to the World Junior Hockey Championship which this year will see Toronto and Montreal sharing the hosting duties.

The tradition of holding hockey games throughout the holiday season is nothing new to the people of this community. In fact in the early days of organized hockey at the Lakehead the opening game of the Thunder Bay Senior Hockey League was actually held on Christmas Day. The games were held in rotation between the popular rinks at that time, including the Prince of Wales and Port Arthur Arenas.

Thousands would travel by streetcar, auto or on foot to attend the popular match-ups which would fill the rinks to capacity. Eventually there began the tradition of holding a junior hockey showdown at the alternate arena each year. For those who missed the Christmas Day game, there was also the traditional New Year’s Day hockey match, which was also well attended by local hockey fans.

An early reference of a Christmas Day game dating back to 1913 noted that Fort William defeated Port Arthur by a score of 3-1 on Christmas Day only to have Port Arthur fans happily ringing in 1914 as the Port Arthur Thunder Bays downed the Fort William Young Men’s Association by a score of 9-2 in the New Years Day game.

Over the years the status of the games reflected milestones in the community. For example in 1931 there was no game in Port Arthur as there was no ice available due to the fact that the old Port Arthur Rink on South Court Street was destroyed in a spectacular fire in the spring of 1931with its replacement on North Court Street not being built until 1932. During and shortly after the Second World War years holiday games were held sporadically and when games were held they included such teams as the Port Arthur Shipbuilders and the Fort William Legion.

Hockey games taking place on Christmas Day were also a tradition in the National Hockey League for many years with the last games taking place in 1971. More recently the NHL has introduced another unique tradition with the Winter Classic occurring in large outdoor stadiums most often on New Year’s Day. Something tells me the fans that attended the Port Arthur versus Fort William game back in 1913 could never have imagined the day when over 105,000 people would fill a football stadium to watch the Detroit Red Wings take on the Toronto Maple Leafs as happened last year on New Year’s Day. Mind you Leaf fans, such as myself, could never have imagined that their team might actually win the game, which they did, defeating the Wings 3-2 in a classic showdown that came down to a shootout

Although some hockey fans were likely not so happy that those wildly popular Christmas Day hockey games ended, something tells me that the people who worked so hard to prepare a piping hot holiday meal were not that upset to see the tradition come to an end.

Speaking of Christmas, if you are still looking for a gift for that special sports fan or local history buff pick up a copy of A Century of Sport in the Finnish Community of Thunder Bay which recently won a communication award from the International Sports Heritage Association and was named Best in Show at the recent ISHA conference in Nashville. Copies are currently available at a cost of $25 each and can be purchased at the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame at 219 May Street South or on-line at www.nwosportshalloffame.com. For more information call 622-2852.

Wishing you all the best for a safe and joyous holiday season. See you in 2015.

Local Sprinting Hero was Unofficial Champion of Canada

Alf Cooper

sportsAlf Cooper

One of the great pioneer athletes of the region in the early 1900s, Alf Cooper was a born sprinter. Born in 1880 to a prosperous Toronto businessman, the family found themselves in Fort William around 1890 after adverse circumstances cut short their intended West coast move. The first report of Alf??s athleticism came in 1891, when a weekly newspaper reported on some unexpected wins at the Dominion Day races. At this time, track meets were a regular part of community events and attracted a great deal of attention; this event featured two races for boys up to fifteen years of age as well as a variety of open track and field contests. Alf, only ten years old at the time, defeated opponents up to five years his senior in the 100 and 220 yard dashes, earning a pair of shoes and a pair of pants for his efforts. He would go on to win many other events in the community before the turn of the century, most notably a 100 yard dash down Cumberland street in honour of the annual public picnic held at Stanley in 1898.

In June of 1904, he journeyed to Winnipeg to serve as Fort William??s sole representative in the Dominion Track and Field Championships, where he shocked the competition by taking first prize in the 100 yard dash and 220 yard dash, hop-skip and jump, standing high jump, broad jump, and quarter mile run, earning the title of All-Round Amateur Champion. He would return the following year, claiming all the same titles once again. During this period he was also heavily engaged in unofficial races in Fort William, accepting all bets from challengers who felt they could best him in the 100 yard dash. A stream of young athletes flowed in, and thanks to Alf??s unrivaled speed, a stream of heavy-hearted, light-pocketed young athletes flowed out.

His greatest challenge came in 1908, when Walter Knox arrived from the train in Fort William, eager to race. Knox had defeated a slew of Olympic champions to claim five national titles at a single meet only a year prior, and he felt that he was unbeatable. He challenged Alf under a false name, hoping to entice the backers of the local champion into heavy betting. This strategy worked, and when the betters discovered Knox??s identity on the day of the race, many were outraged at the trick and wished to retract their bets. However, the rules stipulated that bets could not be called off on the day of the race, so it was before a large and enthusiastic crowd that the two squared off on the starting line. Against all odds, Alf was the one to break the tape 100 yards later, a feat which earned him the title of unofficial sprinting champion of Canada that September day. Knox, who would go on to coach Canada??s 1920 Olympic track team, would return to the Lakehead once more to challenge Alf to both 100 and 220 yard races, but was defeated again at both distances.

By this time, though, Alf had become a successful businessman. Fort William??s industries flourished during this period, so Alf kept himself busy and prosperous by selling real estate and insurance to the influx of new citizens. Although he would still lace on his spikes now and then to take on a hot-heeled young challenger, his days in the athletic limelight were largely behind him. He did continue to contribute to sport in the community, however; he donated the beautiful Cooper Charity Cup in 1909 to be competed for in a charity soccer tournament, and served as a referee for the Ten-Mile Road Race in 1910 and 1911, the first two years the race was held.

From his humble beginnings as a fleet-footed boy running through his father??s dairy fields to his latter days as a local sports hero, Alf Cooper proved that athletes from northwestern Ontario are not to be underestimated. Although he never gained the national attention of the likes of Walter Knox, Cooper proved that he could run with the best of them.

For his contributions to the region??s sports heritage, he was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame on October 1, 1983.

 

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Sports Hall of Fame 2014 Inductees

It is that time of year again when the community will come together to celebrate our rich and proud sports heritage. Three (3) Athletes, two (2) Builders and a national championship team will make up the 2014 slate of Inductees to enter the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame at the 33rd Annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on September 27th at Thunder Bay??s Valhalla Inn.

All three of the athletes being inducted competed at the highest level in their chosen sports. Amber Peterson claimed multiple national titles and was the first female from the region to represent Canada at the Olympics in freestyle skiing competing in aerials at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Jason Myslicki attended the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games competing in Nordic combined skiing and spent close to two decades representing Canada in international and World Cup competitions. John Adams was a stand-out goalie with the Port Arthur North Stars and Marrs during the 1960s, going on to spend time between the pipes in the NHL with the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals and in the WHL and AHL. Following his professional playing career he served as a player-coach with Thunder Bay teams and as a recruiter of local talent for NHL player agents such as his former team-mate, Bobby Orr.

Two people from the region are being recognized in the Builder category including Dryden??s Bill Salonen who has dedicated himself to sports development for over half a century, serving as a coach and official for little league baseball, high school football and hockey and in a number of executive capacities for such organizations as Hockey Northwestern Ontario, Hockey Canada and the Superior International Junior Hockey League. Fort Frances born John ??Gino?? Gasparini, enjoyed a successful career at centre ice with the University of North Dakota before moving behind the bench, serving on the coaching staff of the Fighting Sioux from 1971-94, leading them to 3 NCAA titles and earning multiple coaching awards before moving on to the USHL from 1995-2009 where he served as Commissioner and President.

The Team category will welcome the 1996-97 Thunder Bay AAA Kings Midget Hockey Team that claimed the Air Canada Cup as Canadian champions. Members of the team included: Erik Adams, Bryson Busniuk, David Breton, Matt Britt, Paolo Campagnolo, Joey Gallant, Jeff Heerema, Rob Illson, Adam Levanen, Adam MacNeil, Nick Mallet, Lee Maunu, Nathan Saj, Jean-Paul Nault, Kyle Shaen, Colin Shaw, Stephen Silversides, Chris Sharp, Tyler Williamson, Rick Bragnalo (Coach), Doug Adams (Assistant Coach), Tom Annelin (Trainer), Cliff O??Brien (Manager).

The 2014 slate of Inductees will be officially inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, September 27th at the Valhalla Inn. Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling 622-2852 or dropping by the Hall of Fame at 219 May Street South (beside City Hall), Tuesday to Saturday from 12:00 to 5:00.

Hockey Legend: Jack Adams
I am writing this article while there is a raging blizzard outside.? Did I mention it is late April?? Although a number of people are complaining about the weather I have decided to just embrace it.? Besides, they are still playing hockey with the Stanley Cup now being awarded in late June, so I guess it will keep us in the mood for hockey.
At one time the Stanley Cup playoffs ended in late April or early May.? In fact the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, they did so on May 2, 1967 by defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6.? As a die-hard Leaf fan, every chance I get to mention that my team actually did win the Cup, and that they defeated the Habs to do so, I take the opportunity to do just that. Seeing as the current roster of Leaf players are waiting to golf rather than take to the ice in the playoffs, I thought I would highlight the hockey career of a man from Fort William who actually got the chance to win the Stanley Cup while playing with a team from Toronto, and claimed many more during his time with Detroit. He is the only person to have had his name engraved on Lord Stanley??s mug as a player, coach and general manager.
John James ??Jack?? Adams was born in Fort William in 1895 and it was there that he got his first introduction to the game that would see him become an outstanding hockey player, as well as, one of the most successful, well-known, and at times controversial, National Hockey League executives. Getting his start in the local leagues, by the age of 19 he left his grain elevator job and moved to Calumet, Michigan to further pursue his hockey career. Going on to play in Peterborough and Sarnia his talents caught the attention of the Toronto Arenas and he joined their roster during the 1917-18 season, the same year that the NHL was formed, with Toronto claiming the Stanley Cup in that inaugural season.
After another season with Toronto, he was asked to join the Vancouver Millionaires playing with that club from 1919-22, where he led the league in scoring for one season and competed in two Stanley Cup finals.? Although planning to retire from the game, the Toronto St. Pats made him an offer he couldn??t refuse and he returned to Toronto ice where he remained until being sold to the Ottawa Senators for the 1926-27 season, where he added his second Stanley Cup to his record of success.
When he was ready to hang up his skates following that season, Frank Calder, the President of the NHL, recommended him for a coaching position with the Detroit Cougars, the forerunner to the Detroit Red Wings.? Moving behind the bench as coach and manager in 1927 he would remain with the Red Wings organization for 35 years during which time the team won 12 regular season championships, 7 Stanley Cup titles and only missed the playoffs in seven seasons. It was also under his leadership that some of the greatest players of all time were developed, including the likes of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Fort William born Alex Delvecchio.? He is also credited with helping to develop such innovations as hockey??s farm team system. Although referred to by many as ??Jolly Jack?? he was also known to not be afraid to speak his mind.
Retiring from the NHL at the end of the 1961-62 season, in 1963 he took on the job of President of the Central Professional Hockey League. On May 1, 1968, at the age of 73 this dedicated hockey administrator passed away at his desk which although sad, was also somewhat fitting, given his lifelong commitment to the game of hockey.
The contributions of this exceptional hockey player and administrator have been well recognized. In 1959 he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the player category and in 1966 he became the first recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy for his outstanding service to hockey.? In 1974 the ??Jack Adams Award?? was introduced by the NHL to be presented each season to the coach who contributed the most to their team??s success. His hometown has also not forgotten where his hockey career began, inducting him into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame on September 28, 1985.

Track & Field Builder ? George Walters
Whenever the phone rings at the Sports Hall of Fame and I hear a chipper British accent I know that I am in for a great day of story-telling.? The person on the other end of the phone is a true builder of sport who is not afraid to express his passion for sports with an ability to recount facts and figures in a way reserved only for the best of statisticians.
Growing up in England, George Walters developed a love and appreciation for athletics that he brought with him when he moved to Canada in 1958.? Arriving in Thunder Bay in 1970 following some time in Kapuskasing, he went on to volunteer his time and talents to the development of sports in the region for over forty years.
Involved in a wide variety of youth athletics through his long-time association with the Royal Canadian Legion Sports Foundation and the Legion Athletic Camp program, it is in the sports of running, track & field and badminton that he is perhaps best known.? A coach of badminton and tennis at local clubs and schools, he also enjoyed success as an athlete in both disciplines.
His organizational efforts resulted in the creation of the Legion Mid-Canada Elementary School Teams Cross-Country race which saw 76 boys and girls from Thunder Bay take part in the inaugural event in 1972.? Over the years, tens of thousands of school aged children, from all across the region, have stood upon the starting line waiting for George to send them on their way as the official starter and Chairman of this popular event for over 30 years.
Anyone who has stood at the starting line of the annual Ten Mile Road Race since the early 1980s would have taken off to the sound of the starter??s pistol fired by George given that he has been the official starter of the race for thirty years.
An accredited official in badminton and track and field, George worked tirelessly to provide training for local coaches and officials through seminars and clinics. Chairman of Officials at the 1981 Canada Summer Games in Thunder Bay, he trained and supervised over 80 volunteers in preparation for the event. From 1975 to 2001 George served as an official at numerous Ontario and Canada Summer and Winter Games traveling all across the country volunteering his time and talents. In 1983 he served as an official at the World University Games and 1993 saw him as a track and triple jump official at the World Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Sky Dome in Toronto.
Over the years George has also played an important role as a mentor, working behind the scenes encouraging young athletes to do their best and often making phone calls or opening doors wherever he could to allow our region??s athletes to pursue their dreams making him a true builder of sport.
The outstanding accomplishments of this builder of sport were recognized with his induction into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame on September 27, 2003.