Saskatchewan Sports Stories: The Regina Rugby Club makes their debut

As the sun began to set below a cloudy autumn prairie sky, quarterback and captain Albert Townshend shouted signals to his fellow Moose Jaw Tigers. The Tigers centre rolled the football backwards with his foot to start the play. Townshend crouched, picked the ball up and spun the ball underhand wide towards the sideline. Reading the play, Regina’s Ted Porter intercepted the lateral before it could reach Tigers halfback Dewart Bissell. Porter quickly dodged the remaining Moose Jaw backs before they had fully recovered from the surprise and quickly broke away into the clear. After running 80 yards, Porter touched the ball down into the grass between the uprights at the Moose Jaw Baseball Grounds.
Porter had just scored the first touchdown in Saskatchewan Roughrider history.

Regina Rugby Club, 1910: “Billy” Ecclestone (back left), Jas. D. Scott, Pete Green; George Lythgoe (second back row left), M.J. O’Brien, John V. Lackey, R.L. “Dinny” Hanbidge; “Roy” W. Hamilton (third row sitting left), Alex. Page, W.J. Bright, Chas. Galvin, H. Hoppins; Harry B. Froste (front row, left), L.C. Duncalfe, E. “Ted” Porter, “Tommy” Blair, Allan R. Ferguson; Courtland “Slabs” Merrick (front row, reclining). Missing: “Al” Urquhart.

One hundred and ten years ago today the Regina Rugby Club played their first game of rugby football in Moose Jaw. In the century that has passed, that rugby club has changed names, colours and leagues, but with each autumn the tradition that is the Saskatchewan Roughriders grows.
The birth of Riders football took place in Moose Jaw on Oct. 1, 1910.
This is the story of that game, the first football season in the province and the origins of the game.
*  *  *  *
Rugby football was a new sport in the west at the turn of the 20th century. Beginning to gain in popularity in the east, the Canadian Rugby Football Union was formed in 1882 after the game was played on eastern campuses as far back as 1861.
Members of the North West Mounted Police stationed in Regina brought the game west with them. The Mounties took up the sport as early as 1886 and soon formed a team that challenged their Winnipeg counterparts. The game was played informally, but as more young men heeded the call to go west, the desire to organize grew.
The Regina Rugby Football Club was formed at a meeting at City Hall on Sept. 6, 1910. A day later, the Regina team began to practise at Railway Park every day at 5:30 p.m., giving the players at least an hour of daylight after work to learn the finer points of the game.
In addition to their outdoor practices, the Regina team also held “chalk talk” practices once a week at night when they discussed strategy and signal calling. Crucially they also discussed the rules which still often varied by region and league.
Both teams would field 14 men who would play both ways. There were five substitutes ready in case of injury, but once a man was substituted, he could not return.
At a meeting at the Flanagan Hotel (now the Hotel Senator) in Saskatoon on Sept. 22, the Saskatchewan Rugby Football Union was founded by representatives from Regina, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Weyburn and Prince Albert. Given the speed with which organized rugby football was moving, only Regina and Moose Jaw fielded teams for a shortened 1910 season.
The teams would meet four times to decide the provincial champion.

*  *  *  *

Seppi DuMoulin photo courtesy of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Septimus (Seppi) DuMoulin was instrumental in the creation of the Moose Jaw Tigers. DuMoulin, a banker, had relocated to Moose Jaw. The former player and official in Ontario Rugby Football Union brought his know-how to the Friendly City and named the team after his former club — the Hamilton Tigers. In 1950 the Tigers and the Hamilton Flying Wildcats would merge to become the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
After coaching Moose Jaw’s Tigers, DuMoulin would conclude his 1910 football season on Nov. 26 when he returned to Hamilton to coach the Steel City’s Tigers in the Grey Cup. The Hamilton Amateur Athletic Association Grounds was filled by 12,000 fans in the stands and hundreds more who knocked down the outside fence and perched on the scoreboard for a view of the action. They saw the Tigers lose the second Grey Cup 16-7 to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
DuMoulin would be the only man to go on to hold chief offices in all three major football unions — including a term as president of the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union in 1932. He was inducted as a charter member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
*  *  *  *
Though the game was new to many, anticipation was high before the first game. Both city’s newspapers invited players to open tryouts. As the teams took shape, fans gathered after work to watch the open practices and speculate on their chances.
The Regina team already enjoyed the support of the “15th Man” before it had even kicked off their first game. For the Saturday afternoon opening game, 150 fans paid $1.25 each for return fare on a special train to Moose Jaw. There at the Baseball Ground, they were joined by 600 local fans under cloudy skies but with the weather a comfortable 15C.
The crowd was enthusiastic, though a touch confused by the nuances of the rough spectacle laid out before them.
The Moose Jaw Morning Times reported that “a good many of the spectators, being unfamiliar with the game, hardly knew when to yell, but they thought they were right in going to it when a Regina man was bumped.”
The Regina fans may have been out-numbered, but they weren’t shy about letting their neighbours know that they were there. According to Moose Jaw’s Evening Times, the Regina fans “never failed to make themselves heard and encouraged their favorites right heartily.”

*  *  *  *

It turns out that “games are won in the trenches” may be a cliché as old as the game itself.
After the dust settled on the first rugby football game in the province’s history, the writers of the day were unanimous: size matters.
Moose Jaw Evening Times summed up the first game succinctly in their subhead: “Home team superior in weight and playing ability.”
The story explained that “the Moose Jaw boys could control the scrimmage very much as they liked, while the backs were showing well in judicious rushes.”
The Moose Jaw line trio of Grayson, McDonald and Cochrane each weighed 175 pounds. Incredibly that provided a huge 20-pound average weight advantage in the trenches. Moose Jaw used their size to pound the ball directly at the Regina defence. One of those undersized Regina scrimmage men was Robert Leith “Dinny” Hanbidge who would become a member of Parliament and the party whip in the Diefenbaker government and would go on to be the province’s 12th Lieutenant-Governor, serving from 1963-70.
Depending on which account of the game you trust, either side had the better of a scoreless opening quarter.
The Evening Times felt that “From the kick-off the ball was kept in Regina’s territory and the Moose Jaw scrimmage took control of the ground by bucking the Capital city boys off their feet. Robbins, Townshend and Johnson were noticeable and time and again went through the opposition to the requisite distance as easy as wind through a sieve. But Regina fought better with their feet on their own goal line and managed to keep out the Tigers in the first quarter.”
Regina Morning Leader felt that the Queen City boys — resplendent in the regal colours of purple and gold — “were in the game all the time and had the play in Moose Jaw territory a good part of the game.”
In either case what happened next is a matter of fact, not opinion.
The Tigers finally found their breakthrough when Townshend, their quarterback and captain, was able to bull his way 10 yards through the stubborn Regina resistance to score the game’s first touchdown.
When Robbins failed to kick the convert, Moose Jaw held a 5-0 lead.
The Tigers built on the lead when a Bissell punt forced Regina’s halfback, Miller, into his end zone where the ever-present Townshend tackled him for a rouge to go ahead 6-0.
Regina failed to make much forward headway and Townshend capped a drive late in the second quarter with his second touchdown. Another failed convert gave Moose Jaw an 11-0 half time lead.
The lead either gave the Tigers a false sense of security or lit a fire under the Regina boys — or both. Either way the visitors came out for the second half and began to move the ball — and more importantly — win the battle along the line of scrimmage.
The Evening Times noted that Regina “more than held their own for the only time in the game and the team was able to make ground: but the homesters always tightened at the right moment and nothing came from their efforts . . .”
Regina captain Charles M. Galvin’s punt was fumbled by Tigers fullback Scythes which led to Moose Jaw conceding a single to cut the lead to 11-1.
The Tigers responded in the fourth quarter by pinning Regina deep into their own end repeatedly and not allowing them past their own 25 yard line.
It was there with the Tigers driving to try to extend their lead that Porter read Townshend’s intentions and breakaway for what the Morning Leader called “the outstanding feature of the game.”
Porter was certainly less green than many of the other players on the field. The Regina wing had formerly played for the Toronto Argonauts, as did Regina’s first quarterback Allan Ferguson. The Toronto club was formed in 1873 when the Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club decided to form a rugby team.
Regina also had a winger named Sheriff who had come from the Queen’s University side in Kingston. Jim Scott had played for the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association team — Montreal AAA is the oldest sporting club in the country. Their hockey club won the first Stanley Cup in 1893 and would win three more. In 1931 they won the Grey Cup.
Townshend was a constable with the Moose Jaw Police. The “big, husky, ex-Hamilton Tiger” — as the Regina press called him — used his experience to keep the Tigers in possession and on the attack. Moose Jaw also had other seasoned players like Bissell, Robbins, Johnson and Duff who were prominent because of their experience.
Despite their limited time to prepare and many of the players’ limited experience, both teams demonstrated good ball handling and didn’t fumble the ball often.
After Porter cut the Moose Jaw lead to 11-6, the woeful performance of the kickers continued as Galvin missed the convert despite being located right between the uprights.
Once again the Tigers forced Miller to concede a rouge before the Tigers added a final touchdown in a bizarre fashion.
Bissell’s long punt went over the Regina backs and into the end zone. Believing the kick would count as a rouge (or a kick-in goal as it was sometimes called) and that the ball was no longer live, they let it lay there. Which is where Moose Jaw winger Law flopped on it to score the final touchdown in the 17-6 win.
The Regina newspaper account of the game makes no mention of the second Moose Jaw rouge and reported the score as 16-6.

*  *  *  *

It is worth noting that DuMoulin, as the president and coach of the Tigers, refereed the game.
It was common in the early days of the sport to have representatives of the clubs officiate the games. Often one team would provide the referee and the other the umpire. Sometimes the men would switch positions at half.
In Regina, the Morning Leader made a point to complain about the officiating saying that DuMoulin was allowing Moose Jaw to get away with “off side interference.”
“(DuMoulin) a few years ago was one of the best rugby officials in Canada, but he seems to have neglected his foot ball education since coming to this province. At one stage of the game, Scott, of the Regina team, so strongly objected to his decisions that he was ruled off for two minutes.”

*  *  *  *

A week later the teams met again in Regina. Moose Jaw sent 200 supporters east by train. Admission to Dominion Park was a quarter and the crowd that paid their two bits saw Moose Jaw win a very close 7-6 game thanks to another missed convert attempt by Regina.
In that game Regina was bolstered by a handful of skilled reinforcements. Most notably quarterback Billy Ecclestone — another former Hamilton Tiger — took the reigns. Like Porter, winger Clarence Dale had previously played with the Argonauts. Doc Stringer had an impressive resumé as he had played U.S. college football at the University of Wisconsin and then had played with the Calgary Caledonians in ’09.
After the close win, the Evening Times stated that club officials felt that “the game revealed one or two defects that must be remedied by Saturday.” So daily practices continued and a call went out for “all the regular players, and anyone interested or ambitious enough to try and win a place on the team . . .”
The third meeting of the season proved anticlimactic. Ecclestone could not leave his business commitments and Moose Jaw capitalized on five Regina fumbles in a 38-0 rout to clinch the provincial title at the Baseball Ground.
They completed the season sweep with a 13-6 win.
It is the only winless season in Roughrirder franchise history.
The Tigers weren’t able to challenge the Manitoba champions — the Winnipeg Rowing Club — because they were not part of a recognized amateur association. The next fall the Western Canada Rugby Football Union was formed to rectify the problem with nine teams representing the prairie provinces.
Wanting to build on their great 1910 season, the Tigers’ manager, Walter Ross, offered to pay all of the expenses for the Calgary Tigers if they would come to Moose Jaw on Nov. 12, but the game never took place.
In 1911, Regina changed their colours to blue and white — they would wear red and black in their third season — and claimed the provincial title. They were set to play Winnipeg before foul weather forced them to default in dubious circumstances. The Calgary Tigers beat Winnipeg 13-6 to claim the Hugo Ross trophy as the first Western Canadian champions.
Ross, a Winnipeg realtor, donated the championship trophy and less than a year later would die aboard the Titanic.

In 1912 the Regina Rugby Club won the Western Canada Championship after finishing their debut season winless in 1910.

The men representing the two cities weren’t the only ones making history on the gridiron in 1910. The Regina and Moose Jaw Collegiate Institutes engaged in what is believed to have been the first organized high school rugby football game played in Saskatchewan.
The school, now known as Central Collegiate, hosted Regina on Oct. 29, 1910 suffering a 23-2 defeat.
Moose Jaw Collegiate Institute was in its first semester in its new building. Their first starting 14 featured: Grayson, Sifton, McKay, Moffatt, Knight, Kern, McGillivray, Johnson, Cunningham, Cochrane, Rorison, Paul, Pascoe and Emerson.
Moose Jaw actually took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of singles by their kicker Moffatt. Regina took a narrow 5-2 lead into the half, but their superior backs coupled with Moose Jaw’s poor tackling led to the game getting away from them.
Two days later, Moose Jaw traveled to Regina’s Dominion Park where they lost 23-5 to Regina before a crowd of 800 people.
The Evening Times saw a lot of promise in the teens despite the scores.
“Although beaten the local boys made a good enough showing to warrant a belief in their ability to make a good team, but they suffered obviously from a lack of experience.”

A postcard depicting Regina Collegiate in 1910. Peel’s Prairie Postcard Collection PC002676

Rules constantly evolving to make game safer and more open

In 1910 rugby football had a foot in each sport that made up its name.
Many of the key early rule changes that turned rugby into football had already been established. However, with no forward pass, the game would have looked significantly more like rugby than what Canadian Football League fans have enjoyed for years.
Of the key differences between rugby and football, the most basic is one of the most crucial — the team in possession started each play by ‘heeling’ the ball back to their quarterback. While similar to a scrum in rugby, the right of possession divided teams into offensive and defensive sides on each play.
Teams had three plays to gain 10 yards for a first down. Three men were required on the line and they couldn’t move until the ball was heeled back. A yard had to be given by the defence. There were 14 men on the field — as opposed to the 15 in rugby. The Ontario Rugby Union was using 12 players as early as 1903, but the Canadian Rugby Union and other leagues in the country were slower to change.
A touchdown (or try) was worth five points. A goal from a try – a convert – was kicked from the 35-yard line and worth a point. A goal from the field was four points. A free kick was three points and a penalty kick was two points. A rouge was a single point scored off of a punt or a missed field goal when the player receiving the kick was tackled in the end zone.
Many of those changes were the so-called Burnside rules named after University of Toronto captain Thrift Burnside who took many of the innovations Walter Camp was making in the U.S. college game.
When McGill University went to Cambridge, Mass. on May 13, 1874 they met Harvard in the first rugby football game in North America. It could be said McGill brought rugby football to the U.S. as their use of their hands to pick up the ball helped take the game away from soccer. The innovation impressed the Harvard team and the two games the teams played were played first under the “Boston Rules” and the second under the “Canadian Rules.”
Those compromised rules continued to evolve separately in each country.
The forward pass had been legalized in the American college game in 1906 after American president Theodore Roosevelt demanded change after the 19 deaths the year previously. The forward pass wouldn’t be legal in the Canadian professional ranks until 1929. It was felt at the time that with the wider field, the Canadian game didn’t need to be opened up.
In 1910 teams were still using three downs on both sides of the border. The Americans wouldn’t add a fourth down until 1912.

Michigan vs. Penn in a U.S. collegiate game in 1910.

In the U.S. 1910 was a pivotal year in the development of the game.
While violence and death had long been a part of U.S. football — and part of its early appeal. Major changes were made after the deaths in 1905, but the last straws appeared to have been broken in 1909.
Army’s captain Eugene Byrne died after suffering a dislocation between the first and second cervical vertebrae while tackling Harvard’s Wayland Minot.
Army cancelled the rest of their season, but two weeks later Virginia freshman halfback Archer Christian died in a game in Washington, D.C. The death in the capital so soon after Byrne’s death led to renewed cries to have the sport abolished.
Instead major changes were made. The need for seven men on the line and the abolishment of motion at the snap of the ball came into existence. Previously, only the centre was on the line as he snapped the ball, allowing the lines for both teams to be already moving at each other at the snap of the ball. The committee also tried to curb dangerous pile-ups by ruling that a player was down once their knee or elbow touched the ground.
The forward pass was upheld and some of its restrictions were rescinded. When added in 1906, a pass had to be touched by a player on either side before it hit the ground or else it resulted in a turnover. Under the rule change in 1910, it merely resulted in a loss of a down.
Those changes helped make football a far more vertical game and uncrowded the line of scrimmage. The game had taken a huge leap forward in its evolution.

This story was first published in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald on October 1, 2010 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first game in Saskatchewan Roughriders’ history. This version has been updated from the original with minor edits.

Plan your visit with the Sask. Sports Hall of Fame

We look forward to welcoming you back to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (SSHF) when we re-open on September 2.

Before you come, please read the following so you can plan your visit with us.

Please send us an email ([email protected]) to let us know what time you would like to visit and we will reply and let you know if we have the space to accommodate you or your group. A maximum of 10 people can be in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame at any given time.

Once you have arrived at the building, please enter the main front doors into the vestibule. At that point there will be signage requesting you to call our main office (306-780-9232) so that we may come and greet you and guide you into the Hall of Fame. We will be happy to welcome you and answer any questions you may have.

The SSHF has implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures to keep you safe during your visit. You can learn more about them here.

In addition to enhanced cleaning, we will also be asking our visitors some questions regarding their personal health and travel history. We will also be collecting our visitor’s names and a phone number. Your information will not be used for promotional purposes and will only be shared with the Saskatchewan Health Authority should they request it.

All visitors who are over the age of three are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times while inside the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. All SSHF staff will also be wearing masks for your added safety and peace of mind. If you do not have a mask, they are available for purchase on site for $2.

Inside the SSHF galleries, socially distant directional guest flow must be obeyed during your visit. Please follow the directional decals on the floor and stay to the right. We require guests to keep two metres (or six feet) between themselves and anyone else who is not part of their group. We ask that you be patient and wait for others to move forward as required to respect proper distancing.

We would also ask that you please keep your group together and your children within your reach at all times. Groups of six or more may be asked to split into smaller groups.

You can find more information on what exhibits and features are currently open and available here.

As always, food and drink are not permitted inside the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.

While we have washrooms onsite, we would appreciate your understanding in trying to use the washroom before your visit if possible.

Visitors who are not able to commit to the above protocols should please choose to postpone their visit to a later date.

What to expect during your visit

The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (SSHF) has instituted several new initiatives to provide the safest and most hygienic atmosphere for our visitors’ peace of mind. We hope you will feel comfortable and safe during your visit.

We have implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures for “high-touch” areas throughout our three galleries. The SSHF is cleaned extensively each morning before opening. All available interactive elements are cleaned as required once our visitors leave. You can learn more about which interactive features will be available here.

Hand sanitizer is available once you immediately enter the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and again at multiple points throughout our galleries.

We are not offering in-person public programming, school field trips, or group tours at this time and there is no public access to our archives as well.

A maximum capacity of 10 people can be in the SSHF at any given time to ensure proper social distancing. If your group is larger than six, you may be asked to split into a smaller group.

To accommodate our limited capacity we ask that you contact us via email ([email protected]) in advance of arrival. Please refer here for more information to help you plan your visit in advance.

Please be advised that staggered entry into the galleries may be required at peak times. Visits may also be capped at one hour at peak times should there be more visitors scheduled to arrive.

There is no seating available inside the SSHF galleries to limit contact points. There is also no available seating area in the foyer of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame building at this time. The water fountain in the foyer is also closed to the public.

All visitors will be asked for their name and a phone number as well as some basic questions regarding their personal health and travel history. That information will not be used for promotional purposes and will only be shared with the Saskatchewan Health Authority should it be requested. Refusal to answer these questions or provide this information will result in the denial of entry to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.

As we require our visitors to wear a mask that covers their face and nose at all times when in the SSHF, our staff are similarly required to wear a mask. We do so with respect for your well-being when visiting and in the hope that our visitors feel as comfortable as possible spending time with us.

We encourage our visitors to follow the guidelines of the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Public Health Canada. Practicing proper hygiene etiquette and taking preventative actions will help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.

Saskatchewan Sports Stories: Diane Jones Konihowski

The summer of 2020 has featured numerous postponements and cancellations across the sporting world — none bigger than the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics which were pushed back a year.

At the same time, the nexus of sports and politics has intersected at a level that has rarely been seen before.

Forty years ago, however, Saskatoon’s Diane Jones Konihowski experienced both political fallout and the loss of a chance to compete at the Olympics at the same time when she became the centre of controversy after speaking out following Canada’s decision to join the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympic Games.

Jones Konihowski was one of the faces of amateur sport in Canada and had the endorsements, commercials and name recognition that came with it. That public goodwill evaporated seemingly overnight following her criticisms of the boycott at the height of the Cold War which led to hate mail and death threats directed at her, along with her family and friends.

“I was the only one speaking out against it, everyone else got sucked in,” Jones Konihowski said recently from her home in Calgary.

Diane Jones Konihowski speaking at her 1980 SSHF induction ceremony.

For Jones Konihowski, it would have been her third Games competing as a pentathlete, but it also constituted her last — and best — shot at an Olympic medal.

“I was alone in speaking out as far as I remember. It was easy for me to speak out because I was out of the country and I wasn’t being brainwashed. I could think very, very clearly and look at the scenario and think ‘this is very wrong on so many levels.’ I was able to articulate that. It took many years before people would come to me and say, ‘you know you were right,’” Jones Konihowski said. “To this day — and it was 40 years ago — people still come up to me and say that was so wrong at that time. Nobody had the guts. I can’t remember anyone else chastising the Canadian Olympic Association for their decision.

“It’s interesting this year that we were the first in the world to say that we’re not going (to the Tokyo Olympics) because of COVID. We led the world in saying it’s not safe to go. Then Australia fell in and Great Britain came and then the Games were postponed.”

Jones Konihowski was raised in Saskatoon and attended Aden Bowman Collegiate and the University of Saskatchewan where she excelled in track and field and also as a volleyball player with the Huskies. An exceptional all-around athlete, she was also a promising gymnast in her youth and was coached by Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Sebestyen before she out-grew the sport. 

“Looking back I really lucked out with some amazing Phys. Ed. teachers and sport coaches. They just motivated me to love what I was doing,” Jones Konihowksi said. “Two of my coaches were Olympic coaches. Bob Adams was my first coach in track and field and he was obviously an Olympic decathlete and he was one of the Olympic coaches in 1964. Chuck Sebestyen, one of my gymnastic coaches, was also (an Olympic) gymnastics coach in 1964.

“I just lucked-out meeting all of these people in my life. They were there for me to really nurture and push me to be a better athlete.”

Having excelled at multiple sports and being naturally competitive, it only made sense that Jones Konihowski would excel at the pentathlon which featured five events: shot put, high jump, long jump, the 200-metre run and the 100m hurdles.

She was 21 years old when she made her Olympic debut in Berlin where she finished in a very respectable 10th place.

“It was fabulous. There’s nothing like the Olympic Games. I don’t care what anyone else says,” Jones Konihowski said.

The joy of her first Olympics turned tragic when 11 members of the Israeli delegation were kidnapped from the Olympic Village, held hostage and ultimately killed by terrorists.

Jones Konihowski had just completed competition on September 5 when the pre-dawn attack occurred and was headed into the city with fellow Canadian track athlete Joyce Sadowick to meet up with another Canadian to do some sightseeing. When they woke up in the early hours there was already an eerie silence in the Athletes Village that tipped them off that something was wrong. As soon as they left the Village they were swarmed by reporters looking for information on the breaking story.

Diane Jones Konihowski competing in the high jump while at the University of Saskatchewan. photo courtesy the University of Saskatchewan.

“For me, I was touched by it because the day before I was training in hurdles with Esther Roth, who was a hurdler from Israel, and after training we went to lunch and she said ‘why don’t you come over and have lunch with us.’ So I had lunch with a bunch of wrestlers and basically, all of those guys were dead the next day,” Jones Konihowski said.

Despite being an Olympic pentathlete, Jones Konihowski was also still playing volleyball at the U of S, but a serious ankle injury at the end of the volleyball season required surgery and hurt her chances at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand where she finished sixth.

Fully healthy, she won the pentathlon gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City and expectations were high coming home for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. 

She had an endorsement deal with Canadian apparel company Penmans and appeared in commercials with Montreal Expos star Gary Carter, Olympic skier Nancy Greene, and hockey broadcaster Howie Meeker.

“Montreal was a huge learning experience. Because I was a media darling, they loved me all through the 70s — I was tall, long legs, long blonde hair and I was successful — I got a lot of media attention,” Jones Konihowski said.

Jones Konihowski was training in Santa Barbra, California in the lead-up to the ’76 Games, but was back in Canada every other weekend promoting the Games. She did a cross-country tour as the “coin girl” with André Ouellet, the Postmaster General at the time. Even when she arrived in Montreal, she was already kicking herself for disrupting her training schedule so significantly.

“The frustrating thing for me in ’76 was I could have got a medal. All the way through the competition I’m just thinking ‘damnit, if I was really at my peak I really could have got a medal,’” said Jones Konihowski who finished sixth in the pentathlon and also seventh in the long jump.

“I came out of Montreal really ticked off because I blew it. I realistically could have got an Olympic medal, but you learn. At the end of the day, it’s not about the hardware. I’ve always said that. We only learn from those times when you fail, you underperform and put in a disappointing performance. It’s the only time you learn. You don’t learn from your successes.” 

She competed under her maiden name as Diane Jones in ’72 and ’76 but married fellow SSHF member and former Huskies track athlete John Konihowski in 1977 while he was a member of the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos. While making Edmonton their home, the 1978 Commonwealth Games would be in the Alberta capital and once again Jones Konihowski would be one of the faces of the event. She was the Queen’s Baton Final Runner – the Commonwealth Games equivalent to being the torchbearer at the opening ceremonies. However, nothing was going to distract Jones Konihowski from her goal. She won the pentathlon in a games record score. A year later she repeated as Pan American Games champion in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

“Going into ’78 – Edmonton, hometown, really important to do well – I just said a lot of no’s. I didn’t get caught up in that and I did very well. Not only did I win the gold medal in Edmonton, but more importantly it was with a score that put me No. 1 in the world,” she said. “That told me that I’m on track to get on the podium in Moscow, two years later. I was very, very focused.  

“(The Pan American Games) was a really good performance — Canadian record, Pan American Games record, the whole bit — so I thought OK good, we’re right on track here.”

Diane Jones Konihowski

Still, she wanted to ensure she was free of distractions. Years earlier she had invited Karen Page, a pentathlete from New Zealand, to come up to Saskatoon to train with her coach at the U of S, Lyle Sanderson (who is also an SSHF inductee). After spending Christmas of 1979 at home, Diane, John, and Sanderson and his family all moved down to Auckland, New Zealand to train with Page and get laser-focused on Moscow with no distractions.  

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979 to start the Soviet-Afghan War and in January of 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter threatened to boycott the Moscow Olympics is the Soviets didn’t pull out of Afghanistan by February 20, 1980. Later that month, Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark also threatened a boycott. Not coincidentally, the Lake Placid Winter Olympics would take place in February of 1980 with the Soviets competing in the U.S. Those Games concluded four days after Carter’s ultimatum.  

On April 22, 1980 – a date Jones Konihowski can recall with ease – with the U.S. State Secretary due in Ottawa the next day, the new Pierre Trudeau government formally backed the boycott. 

In New Zealand, Jones Konihowski found out that her Olympic medal dream was dashed when a reporter at an Edmonton radio station called her. She didn’t hold back in criticizing the decision. 

“I was very disappointed when I got the call on April 23,” Jones Konihowski said. “Of course I had not watched any media from back home, I had not read a thing. So I was clear-headed and not brainwashed. 

“I was saying it was wrong on a number of levels. One, it’s no surprise to world leaders that Russia has invaded Afghanistan, come on, give me a break here. We’re still sending wheat to Russia; we’re still trading with them. President Carter could have made a much stronger statement to Russia by denying them to come to his Games in February, but he waited until the end of their Games to announce a summer boycott. That’s wrong. On all levels, it’s wrong.” 

The boycott ended up being widespread, but at different levels of involvement. China, Japan and West Germany were also among the countries that didn’t send any athletes. Some western nations sent smaller squads and some individual athletes opted not to compete. Some nations — France, Spain, and Italy notably — attended but competed under the Olympic flag and did not attend the opening ceremonies.

“My greatest disappointment is really that the Canadian Olympic Association at that time went with the government’s decision,” Jones Konihowski said. “I can see the government following Carter. That’s OK. But the Canadian Olympic Association I felt let down the athletes and coaches by following suit and declaring that they were going to stay home as well. Meanwhile Iron Lady (Margaret) Thatcher said no and the British Olympic Association said ‘we’re going.’ So they went. If you can say no to Iron Lady Thatcher, why can’t we say no to Pierre Trudeau?”  

Back home, Jones Konihowski’s comments were not well received. To put it mildly.

“My mom was phoning me ‘Oh my God, everyone is calling you a Communist. Can you shut up.’ All of that kind of stuff,” she said. “The two girls in our apartment in Edmonton were getting horrible phone calls. So we basically told them to not answer the phone. 

“Even Karen in New Zealand was getting bomb threats, her parents were going nuts. 

“It was a really, really crazy time. Canadians mostly love to complain, but they never act on it. It was a really contentious time.” 

Jones Konihowski also quickly got a call from her sponsor in Toronto. 

“They said ‘Unless you retract what you’re saying, I can’t support you any longer,’” she recalled. “I said ‘You know Jamie, that’s fine. Put your money with another athlete, but I really believe strongly in this. This is wrong. This has nothing to do with Russia invading Afghanistan. Do you think Russia is going to pull out?’” 

They returned to Canada in May and the mood of her detractors hadn’t calmed any.

“John didn’t let me read any of the hate mail. And there was a lot of it,” Jones Konihowski recalled. “The Edmonton Eskimos, their lines were ringing off the hook, ‘how can you hire the husband of a Communist?’ John got it on the football field as well. He was called a ‘Commie’, which is interesting. (Edmonton head coach) Hugh Campbell stood up for me. The Edmonton Eskimos organization supported me, which was good, and John, which was awesome.

“I got a few positive letters, but in the media, I was lambasted by many of my friends. It was a really difficult time. I still felt so strongly that it was so wrong. It made no sense that we would be punished for something that is so political.” 

Four-time Canadian Olympian Abby Hoffman — Canada’s flag-bearer in Montreal — was a member of the executive council of the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), track and field’s governing body, and reached out to Jones Konihowski. 

“She phoned me and said: ‘I have an invitation for you from the Russian organizing committee to come to the Games,’” Jones Konihowski said. “I didn’t ask her, but I assume that the invitation would have been extended to other athletes and not just me. I said ‘oh Abby, I have to think about this. You wouldn’t believe the death threats we’re getting.’ 

“I turned it down. I really thought that I wouldn’t get out of this country alive. I kind of feared for my family a little bit. My mom and dad didn’t deserve that. John and the Edmonton Eskimos certainly didn’t deserve that.” 

Jones Konihowski instead competed in the Liberty Bell Classic, a track and field event in Philadelphia for athletes who boycotted the Games. She won the pentathlon with ease, but it was cold comfort with the real Games kicking off in Moscow days later.

Soviet athletes swept the medals in the pentathlon with Nadiya Tkachenko — fresh off an 18-month ban after testing positive for steroids — setting a world record in the process.

Two weeks later at the first post-Olympic competition in Germany, Jones Konihowski beat all three Moscow medalists.

1980 Summer Olympics pentathlon champion Nadezhda Tkachenko competing in the shot put portion of the pentathlon at Moscow’s Lenin Stadium. RIA Novosti archive, image #399455 / Yuriy Somov / CC-BY-SA 3.0

“Tkachenko was a druggy and you knew that they weren’t going to test positive at their Games. There was no way,” Jones Konihowski said. “Without (American Jane Frederick) and I there, there was no competition really in the pentathlon and the three Russians won it. I don’t even know what they scored, but it was brutal. Then two weeks later in Germany, I blew them out of the water. They were off their drugs, clearly, and they were just sucking eggs two weeks after the Olympic Games. I’m sorry, that doesn’t sit well with me.” 

Tkachenko had finished one place ahead of Jones Konihowski in Berlin and again in Montreal as they continued to improve. Both times Frederick was behind them and in Montreal finished fifth-sixth-seventh. Jones Konihowski hoped that four years on, she, Tkachenko and Frederick would all move up the standings together to share the medals. 

“So my dream was that our third and final Olympics… you’d go from 9-10-11 to 5-6-7 to 1-2-3. That was sort of my dream that that was how it would come out,” she said. “It would have been a beautiful story.” 

There would be no storybook ending to Jones Konihowski’s great career as she retired in 1983.

“It was maybe six or seven years later that I started wondering what would have happened if I had gone,” Jones Konihowski said.

 Twenty years after her criticism of the Canadian Olympic Association, she returned to the Games as Canada’s Chef de Mission for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.  

Jones Konihowski has been named to the 2020 class for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1978, was the CEO of KidSport Canada and was a director of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Diane Jones Konihowski was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.

Enjoy these Creating Active Champions activities!

Hello! Welcome to our Creating Active Champions games page. Each weekday during our Creating Active Champions program from July 6 to August 21, 2020, we will post a new game or puzzle. The newest game will be at the top of this page each day and if you missed a day, you can just scroll down to find it.

We invite you to join us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SaskSportsHF) at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to take part in the fun of Creating Active Champions!

For July 22, please visit this web site to enjoy some great cycling resources for you and your family.

For the Creating Active Champions activity for Monday, July 20 please visit this web site about the 5BX.

Saskatchewan Sports Stories: Lynn Kanuka (Williams)

Lynn Kanuka remembers sprinting up and down a hill made out of garbage in Regina in the dead of winter until she was exhausted.

Unorthodox as it may have been, it typifies Kanuka’s grit and inner strength that helped her find a late surge that propelled her onto the medal podium. Competing under her married name of Lynn Williams, she won an Olympic bronze medal in the women’s 3,000-metre run in 1984 and a gold medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games.

“I’m tough and tenacious. I’ve been described as the petite, little tenacious girl,” Kanuka said with a laugh.

“I was small and stocky and no one would have looked at me and said ‘you’re going to be an Olympic runner.’ Nobody would have said that. No way. But my engine is strong, I think – my aerobic engine and my work ethic. Certainly, there’s a talent factor that got fine-tuned over the years, but I was fortunate to have really wonderful people as supporters – first of all my family and then these great coaches that helped me along.”

Lynn Kanuka

An active multi-sport athlete who had been a competitive swimmer, Kanuka decided to start running on her own down Wascana Parkway near the University of Regina (U of R) when she was 16.

“I wanted to do something for myself. It wasn’t about sport, it was about fitness. For whatever reason, I decided I would bundle up and run out to the university and back. It was wintertime. It was cold. I didn’t have running technical clothes or anything. My friends thought I was nuts. People weren’t really doing that – and certainly not 16-year-old teenagers,” Kanuka said.

She said she had great “fun-loving prairie parents” who were supportive and threw her into sports to keep her out of trouble. Her father had been an athlete, but still, she was surprised when he saw her going out for a run and offered to go with her.

“That was pivotal,” she said. “He could have said ‘why are you going to do that, it’s -30C outside’ or ‘you should be helping your mother make dinner in the kitchen.’ He could have said that, but instead he said ‘well wait a minute and I’ll come with you.’

“He huffed and puffed and we got all the way out there and I was about to turn around and go back. There’s that garbage dump hill out there, covered in snow and he said ‘we’re all the way out here, why don’t you run up and down that hill a few times.’ I never argued with him and now I was huffing and puffing. I loved it. I loved working hard. It felt good to move and breathe and have my heart-rate go up. And that was probably my first running interval session.”

She had run track, but in her senior year at Regina LeBoldus, she decided to run cross country instead of playing volleyball and won the high school provincial title. After high school, she trained in Regina under the guidance of coach Larry Longmore at the Wheat City Kinsmen Track Club. She competed at the 1977 Canada Games in St. John’s, NL and also attended the Legion Track Championships as she got her first taste of national-level competition.

“Those things are very pivotal and they nudge, nudge, nudge you along with more experience,” Kanuka said. “Along the way you have these people – if you’re lucky like I was – who also nudge you along and that little voice in your head tells you you’re on the right path.”

After two years at the U of R – which did not have a track program at the time – Longmore encouraged her to transfer to the University of Saskatchewan to work with Huskies track coach Lyle Sanderson (himself a Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 1994).

“Lyle was a great coach and mentor and father of fun I would say,” Kanuka said. “He was coaching Diane Jones Konihowski and they had quite the program there over all of those years and so that seemed like a good idea to me. That was a pivotal year. It was only one year, but it felt so much longer.

“Things are so different now. We had a gym, a regular gym, and we would have a full track team practice going on in there. Lyle arranged for the construction of wooden corners…  It was small, small quarters, but everything was so well organized and orchestrated. Now, of course, there’s a field house. There are good things about having facilities, but there were many good things that happened when we were tough and close and resilient in those days and in those conditions.”

While she had been focused on attending medical school in Saskatoon, Kanuka made the national cross country team and won a university championship and Sanderson suggested she could get a college scholarship in the United States.

“I still wasn’t committed really. I didn’t understand what I could maybe achieve at that stage. I was just going along with it. At that point, I didn’t really have an Olympic dream,” Kanuka said.

She went to the library and sent letters to all of the warm-weather universities that “seemed like they would be cool places to go to” and settled on a scholarship to San Diego State. There she competed in a number of distances from the 800m to the 10,000m and was often injured.

“I had a wonderful experience down there, but there were challenges. I ran injured a lot. Every summer I never had a Canadian track season because I had to run so much,” Kanuka said.

Lynn Kanuka competing at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Kanuka made her IAAF World Cross Country Championship debut in 1979 and competed there for four straight years. However, she didn’t make her outdoor debut internationally until 1983. At the ’83 IAAF World Championships, she finished 10th in the 3,000m but ran the same time – eight minutes, 50.20 seconds – as the ninth-place finisher.  American Mary Decker won the race and West German Brigitte Kraus was second ahead of a pair of runners from the Soviet Union, including three-time gold medalist Tatyana Kazankina.

Having married fellow 1984 Olympian Paul Williams in 1983, she had almost considered her running career over.

“I was finished, I thought,” she said. “I was injured again and I thought I would go apply for med school. He said ‘Lynn, you never really got to be who you could be as a runner because of all of the racing and the injuries.’ He said ‘give it one more year and focus on the Olympic trials and see if you can make the Olympic team.’ That’s when a light went on for me. I thought I’ve been doing this for so long now, why don’t I focus on this and see what happens?”

Kanuka qualified for the Olympic team and she would compete in the first women’s 3,000m in the Olympics. It would be one of the marquee events of the Games.

After winning two gold medals at the IAAF worlds, Decker had been named Sports Illustrated’s Sportswoman of the Year – only the second time in 30 years that a woman had won the honour alone. Decker made her international debut at 15 – sporting braces and pigtails and weighing 89 pounds – and endeared herself to the American public by throwing a baton at a Soviet runner who cut her off during an indoor race in Moscow.  She had broken seven world records by the time she made her Olympic debut in 1984.

While the Eastern Bloc boycott meant that the top Soviet runners would not be present, there was some controversy about one runner who would be at the Games. Zola Budd was an 18-year-old South African runner who competed barefoot. With sanctions placed on South Africa due to their government’s apartheid policy, Budd had rarely competed internationally. However, she opened some eyes when she unofficially broke the world record in the 3,000m at a race in South Africa. That spurred an English tabloid to note that she had a British grandparent and champion her cause. Budd received her British citizenship in short order and not without some controversy.

Lynn Kanuka poses with her bronze medal from the 1984 Olympic Games.

Budd wasn’t the only runner posting great times. At Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C., the Canadian team was preparing for the Games and Kanuka ran the fastest time in the world in a time trial. The world record can only fall in an official competition, but still, the time she posted was valuable three weeks before the Games.

“We were so excited. We celebrated. ‘Oh my God, you’re so ready!’ I knew that I could run with anybody that was going to be there. So I was very excited. Nobody was looking at me and I knew I could be in that final,” Kanuka said.

Before the Games, the Canadian middle-distance runners trained together in Lynn’s old stomping grounds of San Diego. She qualified in second place in her heat, behind Decker who won in Olympic record time.

“Dieticians don’t like it when I tell this story, but the night before  I went out for dinner with one of my coach/mentors – Dr. Jack Taunton, he was a pioneer in the world of sport medicine – and for my last supper before the Olympic final we had pizza and a beer together,” Kanuka said. “Good prairie girl… we used to always have a Friday night beer and pizza night, so that was really familiar. It was a beautiful evening and I said ‘well Dr. Jack, I’m ready. There’s no reason not to go out there and run my heart out.’”

Thelma Wright, herself a former Olympic runner, was coaching Kanuka in Vancouver. Wright would give birth to a future Olympian during the Games back in Canada.

“She was great for me and in fact, I broke her (Canadian) records in the 800 and 3k, so that was really cool,” Kanuka said. “The day before the final she sent me a telegram: ‘Lynn, your godson Anthony Madison Wright came out fighting today and that’s what you need to do tomorrow.’”

With some inspiring words from her coach, a blazing training time fresh in her mind, and at ease in Southern California, the stars aligned well for her Olympic debut.

“I was nervous. There was so much hype, but I was ready. It helps when you’re ready. At least I had gone to the worlds in ’83, so that helped,” Kanuka said. “For me, I was a relatively unknown Canadian. Certainly, no one was focusing on me to win a medal.”

As it happened, the women’s 3,000m would not only live up to any pre-race hype, but it would go down as one of the most memorable races in Olympic history. Kanuka’s fighting spirit would hold her in good stead.

“On the day, what a crazy race that was, just crazy,” Kanuka said. “My plan was to tuck in the middle. It was going to be predictable that Mary Decker and Zola Budd were going to vie for the lead. They’re both front-runners. They like to lead. That’s how they are. But there’s danger in that. The track is narrow and only one person can be in front. I thought they would set the pace and I would tuck in there.

“I have what we call ‘good turnover.’ I’m small, but I can get my legs going quicker, so I get the jump on people and I can pass quicker and hopefully, they can’t react. That was always a strategy of mine.

“It was so bumpy and jostly and it was very fast. It was a world record pace the first few laps. We were working really hard and I was getting bumped around. You can’t really see it on TV, but it was not easy going.”

Kanuka settled in on the inside lane and sat in fifth or sixth throughout the opening laps. After four laps, Budd inched into a lead and with Decker on her heels, the pair collided and Decker fell into the infield having injured her right leg. Decker would contend that the inexperienced Budd had cut inside too quickly after her pass. Budd would be initially disqualified after the race for obstruction, only to have her result reinstated an hour later after a review of the tape. The incident would be debated for years, but at that moment the 93,000 people in the Los Angeles Coliseum voiced their shock and displeasure at seeing Decker hit the ground.

“I saw they bumped and then boom, Mary goes down. We all had to do a dipsy-doodle and avoid the collision, Kanuka said.

A lap earlier American Joan Hansen had collided with New Zealand’s Dianne Rodger and fell, but got up to finish the race. Behind Kanuka, Brigitte Kraus – the world championship silver medalist – had also hit the ground.

“When we came around there’s Brigitte down and I assumed – I think as we all did – that Mary went down, but she would get up and rejoin the pack somehow. Then there she is, still down as we do another lap and then you’re thinking ‘my God, Mary Decker is out’ and I remember the crowd – it started with this great roar – and now they’re booing like there was foul play,” Kanuka said.

Decker and Kraus would not finish the race.

Budd, Britain’s Wendy Sly and Romanian Maricica Puică were bunched with Decker when she fell and had broken away from the rest of the field.

“We all lost focus. It went from being in a pack to everyone being spread out around the track,” Kanuka said. “There were literally a couple of laps where I remember nothing. I just remember running in this weird vacuum and hearing all of this booing. Then I woke up. I heard the bell and it was ‘holy crap, it’s the last lap, wake up!’

“I looked and I’m in fourth and I could see that Zola Budd was coming back. The bear had jumped on her back. If anybody lost focus, she probably did. She had no gas. I thought ‘if I can go by her I’ll be in medal contention.’”

As Budd faded, Kanuka surged, catching her on the final backstretch.

“I passed her and now I was really running. I was racing for my life, but I knew that everybody else was waking up too. I could hear them,” Kanuka said.

Puică had more in the tank than Sly and won comfortably with Kanuka claiming the bronze medal in a time of 8:42.14.

Lynn Kanuka wave to the crowd from the medal podium in Los Angeles.

“It was an amazing day,” Kanuka said.

“It was a great race, but it was not my best race. It was just the one that got the most attention. I was a much better, stronger, seasoned, experienced athlete in the years following.”

Two years later, on a cold, windy day in Scotland, Sly would enter the Commonwealth Games as the favourite alongside Scottish runner Yvonne Murray. Two years on, Kanuka was definitely not flying under the radar anymore.

“That was probably one of my favourite strategic races because it was super cold and windy,” Kanuka said. “Yvonne and Wendy are taller than I am and Yvonne likes to lead, so being small I was going to tuck in, but no one wanted to lead that race because it was so windy.

“For four laps it was painfully slow. I knew I had the gears and I would have to go at some point, but I was hoping someone else would go and I could match it and then I would go with 500 metres left and see if anyone could stay with me and keep something in reserve and bust out in the final turn. That was my plan and it really worked.”

When Murray broke from the pack, Kanuka took her time reeling her in and then stuck with her. Kanuka tried to kick with 500 metres left, but Murray matched her late surge and passed Kanuka with 300 metres remaining.

“I remember thinking ‘come on Lynn, you can catch her.’ With 150 to go off the turn, I bust out and passed her and she couldn’t match it and that was it,” Kanuka said. “That was a great one. That was one of my favourite races.”

Kanuka returned to the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. She opened the Games with a disappointing eighth-place run in the 3,000m but finished her Olympic career with a strong fifth-place finish in the 1,500m.

Between those two races, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson failed a drug test, was stripped of his gold medal in the 100m and created a major distraction within the Canadian delegation and the track team.

“I personally had one of my best races in the 1,500, but of course the Ben Johnson scandal happened and that was awful afterward,” Kanuka said. “I ran my best time. I finished fifth, but it was a crazy race too.”

Kanuka had grown to prefer the 1,500m and finished in a time of four minutes and 86/100ths of a second. She was 62/100ths of a second out of second place in a frenzied finish.

“That’s how close it was,” Kanuka said. “That was a really great race. That was one of my best races ever, for sure.”

Romanian Paula Ivan won the 1,500m in an Olympic record time of 3:53.96 that still stands in a dominating performance. Two Soviet runners rounded out the medals.

Four women’s running world records and four more Olympic records still stand from the 1980s. Those times have done little to quell the suspicions of drug use that surrounded the era even before Johnson’s positive test.

“There were others in our midst as well who were dabbling in that world of performance enhancements. There were rumours flying around and scandalous things that were happening,” Kanuka said. “I didn’t really focus on that.

“I just tried to beat them. That’s the name of the game, get to the line first. Was it frustrating – if I really get going on it? Yeah, for sure, but I’m a cup-half-full kind of gal. Why focus on that? It’s just negative.”

Lynn Kanuka, left, coaching Canadian Olympian Nathasha Wodak.

Kanuka makes her home in White Rock, B.C. where she has four children and coaches Canadian Olympian Natasha Wodak, the Canadian record-holder in the 10,000m, amongst others. While she does coach elite athletes, Kanuka believes “movement is medicine” and is just as passionate about inspiring people to be more active.

“That’s really become my passion. I love helping people take steps to better health and enjoy the sport I love,” she said.

“I’ve worked a long time now – a dozen years or more – with our Indigenous population out here in B.C. When I first started we had three leaders that I trained to coach and lead the running and walking programs. Now from three leaders in one tiny training session, we now have five regional leader training events and we train at least 100 leaders every year and over 2,000-plus people who are mobilized in running and walking programs. This is not about performance, it’s about personal well-being and the kind of wheel of health that we know exists, we just have to tap into it.”

Glenn Hall

Saskatchewan Sport Stories: Glenn Hall

There aren’t many unbreakable records in the world of sports.

Glenn Hall, however, surely owns one of them.

The Humboldt-born goaltender played every game of a National Hockey League season seven seasons in a row. His streak of 502 regular games played by a goalie will never be equalled.

“I went back to junior hockey and my five years in the minors and I believe it was a 1,026-game streak by my count,” Hall said from his home in May of 2020.

Glenn Hall

Glenn Hall during his time with the Chicago Black Hawks.
Photo Courtesy : Hockey Hall Of Fame

Hall’s NHL streak ran from October 6, 1955 thru November 7, 1962 when a back issue forced him out of the net in the middle of the first period. The streak extends to 552 consecutive games if you count playoff games.

So what makes Hall’s record streak so insurmountable? The last time any goalie played every game in an NHL season was Detroit’s Roger Crozier in 1964-65. It is almost unthinkable that a goalie would appear in each of his team’s games in the modern era — to say nothing of doing so repeatedly for more than seven years.

Hall’s streak was partly based out of necessity. For most of the Original Six era in the NHL, teams only carried one goalie on their roster.

“In a one goalkeeper system, you played even if you were hurting a little bit. Most of our injuries were puck-related,” Hall said. “I’m sure I was like any goalie, I enjoyed playing.”

Not having a back-up is, of course, not the most notable anachronism of the Original Six era when it came to NHL goalies. Hall, like nearly all of his contemporaries, tended goal without a mask for the duration of his streak and nearly his entire 18-season NHL career.

“The people who played before us, they played without a mask, so we felt that we could too,” said Hall who donned a mask for the first time in 1968, his second season in St. Louis and 15th full season in the NHL. “I’ve had a bunch of little nicks, but I got hit hard three times. If you get hit up (by a puck) in the forehead they don’t hurt like they do around the nose or the mouth. Those are the ones that really hurt. Our big concern was the eye injury. There were a lot of kids who had to quit playing goal because of an eye injury. You felt lucky that you got out of the game with both eyes.”

It wasn’t just that Hall was durable, he also maintained an incredible standard of excellence during his career that earned him the nickname Mr. Goalie. He was named a first-team all-star a record seven times and holds the record for most all-star game appearances by a goalie with 13. That is even more impressive when you consider that five of his contemporaries during the 1960s — Johnny Bower, Eddie Giacomin, Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk and Gump Worsley — have all joined Hall as members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

While Plante is well-known for being the first goalie to wear a mask in the NHL, Hall was an innovator in his own right. He brought the “butterfly style” of goaltending to the NHL. Now the standard style young goalies are taught growing up, Hall’s penchant for dropping to his knees and covering the bottom part of the net was not well received.

“I caught heck for playing like that,” Hall said. “We were taught by people who had never played goal. They would tell you that you’ve got to stand up and you’ve got to do this and you’ve got to do that. And they had no idea how to play goal.

“They didn’t want me to play that way, but I knew if I could see the puck, I had a pretty good chance of stopping it,” added Hall who was noted for having incredible vision on the ice. “I could see the puck from down there and I found I could cover the four corners. I did what I had to do. I used to stand on my tip-toes to look over people too, as well as look underneath them. (The butterfly style) was just to see the puck. If you could see the puck you were in good shape.”

Glenn Hall

Glenn Hall tending goal with the Chicago Black Hawks in action against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hall won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 1952 as the Red Wings spare goalie before he had made his NHL debut. In 1955 he was tasked with replacing Sawchuk in Detroit and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. After four years in Detroit, he moved to Chicago and spent 10 years with the Black Hawks, winning the Stanley Cup in 1961. He would finish his career by playing four seasons in St. Louis.

In 1968, Hall won the Conn Smythe Trophy with the expansion St. Louis Blues. He is one of only five players to have ever won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs while not winning the Stanley Cup.

Hall would go on to share his knowledge as a goaltender coach with the Calgary Flames and won a Stanley Cup ring in that role in 1989.

Before reaching the NHL for good in 1955, Hall played in the minor-professional Western Hockey League (not to be confused with the current major junior league of the same name) with the Edmonton Flyers. He and his wife Pauline settled in the area as Hall found off-season work in Alberta.

“We squirrelled away nickels and dimes to buy a little land,” Hall said. “I used to spend the summers at my grandparent’s farm and I loved the farm. Pauline came from a farm herself, so that’s what we wanted. We were very happy when we settled down here.”

Hall, 88, is keeping in touch with loved ones through the phone during the COVID-19 pandemic. His wife passed in 2009 and while there are no animals to tend to on the farm, he has always enjoyed bird-watching.

“I’ve got a couple of golf carts and I drive around and look at the birds. I’ve got a goose nesting about 50 feet from the house. She keeps me a little land-locked. I don’t want to disturb her. I enjoy seeing them and I enjoy seeing the goslings,” he said. “I’m very comfortable here. I’m the boss. I don’t have a dog or a cat, but even if I had a goldfish I would be second in command.”

Hall’s self-deprecating humour aside, he was rarely second in anything in his career.

Hall was the only player to be named a first-team all-star selection with three different teams in any major North American sport. Even since his retirement, that feat has only been matched by National Football League star Deion Sanders.

So with all of the records and accolades, what was Hall’s best memory from his playing career? Hall’s reply was profound in its simplicity.

“Oh, just stopping the puck,” Hall said.

Glenn Hall was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.

Kid’s Corner educational resources

Welcome to our Kid’s Corner educational resource.

Here you will find sports-themed word searches, colouring pages, math games, and puzzles for younger students. We also have some crossword puzzles and our Create Your Own Hockey Team game for older students.

We hope to add more content geared towards our younger sports enthusiasts and when we do we will add them to this page.

New board elected for Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame

 The membership of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (SSHF) approved a new Board of Directors during the SSHF’s 2019-20 Annual General Meeting.

 

Following the meeting, Robb Elchuk began his term as SSHF President. Rankin Jaworski now moves into the non-elected position of Past President following his two terms as President.

 

Kevin Dureau assumes the role of Vice President, while Mike Babcock remains Treasurer and will also serve as Secretary.

 

Trent Blezy was elected to his first term on the Board, while Samer Awadh and Laurel Garven were each re-elected to another term.

 

Trent was born and raised in the southeastern part of the province and lives in White City. He works with the Ministry of Energy and Resources for the Government of Saskatchewan.  

 

As a volunteer, Trent has worked in fundraising capacities to support the Saskatchewan Children’s Hospital Foundation and has held several positions with various Constituency Associations through the Conservative Party and the Saskatchewan Party. 

 

Sports have always been and always will be a part of Trent’s life. He believes sports have a tremendous ability to bring people together, evoking an emotional response in people unlike other activities can. He looks forward to the opportunity of being a part of an organization involved with and celebrating those who elicit that emotional connection.

 

Linda Burnham, a two-time SSHF Inductee herself, is stepping off the board after three elected terms and two more years as Past President. Don Gallo and Nathan Morrison both completed their second term on the board and did not stand for re-election.

Minutes from the SSHF’s 2019-20 Annual General Meeting are available here.

 

The 2020-21 SSHF Board of Directors:

 

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

President – Robb Elchuk (Regina)

Vice President – Kevin Dureau (Regina)

Treasurer – Mike Babcock (Regina)

Secretary – Mike Babcock (Regina)

Past President – Rankin Jaworski (Regina)

 

DIRECTORS

Samer Awadh (Regina)

Trent Blezy (White City)

Lori Ebbesen (Saskatoon)

Laurel Garven (Regina)

Tennille Grimeau (Saskatoon)

Kelvin Ostapowich (Regina)

Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame moves 2020 Induction to 2021

The Board of Directors of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (SSHF) has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Induction Dinner & Ceremony scheduled for Saturday, September 26, 2020, due to health and safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Induction Class will be carried forward as the Class of 2021. Their induction is now scheduled to occur in September 2021.

The SSHF has been closely monitoring developments since social distancing protocols were put in place by the Government of Saskatchewan in March. The health and welfare of our inductees, their families and friends, patrons, staff, volunteers and suppliers remains front of mind. Given the continued uncertainty relating to when groups could gather safely and without restriction, the SSHF and its Board of Directors felt this cancelation was the most prudent course of action.

In arriving at this decision serious consideration was given to other creative means to honour our 2020 Class virtually to adhere to social distancing measures. Ultimately, the decision to cancel was made based on our concern for what would be best for our inductees. By delaying a year, the SSHF wanted to ensure that their induction night would be an opportunity to come together with family, friends, teammates and the Saskatchewan sporting community to celebrate their accomplishments.

In addition to moving the Class of 2020 forward, any nominees still under consideration will retain an extra year of eligibility. Our nomination deadline is October 31, 2021 and we encourage anyone who has an athlete, team or builder that they feel is worthy of inclusion in the Hall of Fame to please take the time to nominate them.

The Class of 2021 will be unveiled at a later date.

Update on the status of satellite halls of fame across the province

The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and its administrative offices are closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is an update on the status of the 11 satellite halls located throughout the province:

Humboldt & District Sports Hall of Fame (closed to the public until April 30)

Moose Jaw & District Sports Hall of Fame (Mosaic Place is closed to the public indefinitely)

North Battleford Sports Museum and Hall of Fame (closed until further notice)

Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame (the Art Hauser Centre is closed to the public indefinitely.) Please visit their web site

Regina Sports Hall of Fame (The Cooperators Centre in Evraz Park is closed to the public indefinitely.) Please visit their web site

Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame (the museum is closed to the public, but their office is still being staffed)

Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame (Sask Sport building is closed to the public.) Please visit their web site

Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame (closed until the City of Saskatoon facilities they are located in re-open.) Please visit their web site

Ted Knight Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame (closed to the public.) Please visit their web site

Turner Curling Museum, Weyburn (all City of Weyburn facilities are closed to the public indefinitely)

Yorkton and District Sports Hall of Fame (The Gallagher Centre is closed and all meetings specific to their organizational restructuring are postponed until further notice)

Information on our COVID-19 Response

Information on our COVID-19 Response
March 16, 2020
The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (SSHF) exhibit galleries have been closed for the past few weeks in order to undergo some renovations. During this time we have kept our administrative offices open and conducted education programing on an outreach basis.
Due to the unprecedented circumstances resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, effective immediately all outreach education programing will be suspended until April 14, 2020. Additionally, our administration offices will be closed to the public effective immediately. The SSHF staff has been authorized to begin working remotely at their discretion. Staff will remain available via their personal emails and general requests or questions can be sent to [email protected]
The SSHF management will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation via public health authorities and relevant updates will be posted to our website, www.sasksportshalloffame.com.