Remembering Honoured Member Frances Gordon
Another Summer Olympics is well underway. Like past Olympics, there are sure to be wonderful performances by outstanding world athletes, amazing victories, crushing defeats and a great deal of controversy.
One tremendous Alberta sports success story involves a team that competed at three different Summer Olympics, won all the games they played and yet were never awarded an Olympic gold medal.
That is the story of the Edmonton Grads women's basketball team.
The origins of this truly remarkable sports powerhouse go back to the time of the First World War. The provincial championship senior girls' basketball team from McDougall Commercial High School asked their coach, Percy Page, if he would continue to coach them after graduation.
He agreed. The Commercial Graduates Basketball Club, nicknamed 'The Grads', was born.
As a side note, Page had previously been a teacher at the Hillsdown one-room country school, east of Red Deer.
In 1922, the Edmonton Grads defeated the London Ontario Shamrocks to claim their first Canadian women's basketball championship.
The next year, the Grads won the Underwood Trophy to become the North American champions. Until they disbanded in 1940, the Grads never ceased to be both the Canadian and American championship team.
In 1924, the Grads played six games during the Paris Olympics.
They won all the games. Because women's basketball was not yet considered an Olympic sport, they did not win gold medals. However, they were designated the world women's basketball champions by the International Basketball Federation.
In 1928, the Grads played nine games in conjunction with the Amsterdam Olympics and won every single match.
Again, they were not awarded any Olympic medals, but did win the right to call themselves both the French and World champions because of the European teams they beat.
In 1932, the Grads attended the Los Angeles Olympic Games as spectators. However, no formal women's basketball games were played.
In 1936, the Grads went to the Berlin Olympics. This time there were women's basketball games again. The Grads were also allowed to both wear official Canadian team uniforms and sit in the Canadian athletes' section. They won all nine of their games. They crushed the team from London, England by a score of 100 to 2.
Because of the outbreak of the Second World War, there were no 1940 Summer Olympics. The Edmonton Grads also decided to disband in 1940.
Over the lifetime of the team (i.e. 1915 to 1940), they won 502 games (400 official contests) and lost only 20. In 1983, all 38 players with the Grads were inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
There was one Red Deer player with the Grads.
She was Frances Gordon (later Mills). Frances was born in Red Deer on Jan. 19th, 1915.
After excelling in academics and sports in school in Red Deer, she went to Edmonton to train as a teacher.
She was scouted by Page, and began playing for the Gradettes, the feeder team for the Grads.
She left Edmonton and the Gradettes for a couple of years while she taught in a one-room country school. After returning to Edmonton to attend McDougall Commercial School, she joined the Grads in the spring of 1937.
After a year, Gordon returned to the Gradettes. She continued to play with them until the team disbanded in 1940.
After the end of the Second World War, she returned to Red Deer where she got a job with the City Utilities office. In 1948, she married Oswin 'Ozzie' Mills, who later became the head of the City's Electric Light and Power Department.
Frances was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and the Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School Halls of Fame. She passed away in Red Deer on April 14th, 2004 at the age of 89. She and Ozzie are survived by two sons, Brian and Gerry, and their families.
Congrats from Barb Clark to 4x100m Freestyle Relay Winners!
"Congratulations Girls! We know that you put in your best effort and are proud to have another Bronze Medal in the Women's 4x100m Freestyle Relay. Way to go Gals!"
- Barb Clark Parolin
ASHFM Honoured Member Barb Clark Parolin won the Bronze at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 4x100M Freestyle Relay.
It's been 40 Years since Canada placed in the medals for the 4x100m Freestyle Relay.
Great job Sandrine Mainville, Chantale Van Landeham, Taylor Ruck, Penny Oleksiak, and Michelle Williams!
Lawrence Lemieux's Heart of Gold
Article from Free Press Journal: Heart of Gold
"I just had to go. If I went to them and they didn't really need help, c'est la vie. If I didn't go, it would be something you would regret for the rest of your life."
The 1988 Seoul Olympics, where one of the best in the sports of sailing Lawrence Lemieux entered the books of Olympic history for not setting a record, or grabbing Gold medal, but was for the sportsmanship which he showed.
Lawrence Lemieux grew up sailing on the lakes of western Canada. So adept was he that, throughout his teens and twenties, Lemieux won many competitions throughout North America. Skilled and self-assured, the 32-year-old Lemieux easily earned a place on his country's sailing team in the 1988 Olympic Games, held in South Korea.
On the morning of September 24, the waters off Pusan were calm, the wind blowing at 10 to 15 knots—nearly ideal sailing conditions. The first four races went smoothly, with José Luis Doreste of Spain and Peter Holmberg of the Virgin Islands earning comfortable leads. Lemieux's turn came with the fifth race, when the wind picked up to a dangerous 35 knots.
Lemieux was in second place while sailing in a Finn class (individual) race in the 1988 Olympics sailing at a speed which could easily get him a Gold medal but instead went on to save his two fellow sailors.
While sailing, when saw them sailing, he had two options. Either save them, or sail to the finish point to grab the Gold medal. The wind had become very rough during the race with waves reaching the height of almost four meters. While sailing, Lemieux came across two sailors in another race capsize, one holding on to the boat, the other was being swept away by the heavy wind.
He tried to call to see if they needed help, but simply could not hear their replies. Giving up his chance to medal, Lemieux decided he needed to help save the two from the team for Singapore. "I just had to go. If I went to them and they didn't really need help, c'est la vie. If I didn't go, it would be something you would regret for the rest of your life."
It wasn't an easy rescue. The waves were high and breaking, causing Lemieux's boat to take on water, but he was able to rescue the sailors, Chan and Shaw Her Siew, and get them into his small boat. Had he not come to their aid, Chan would likely have been lost at sea.
"I could have won gold. But, in the same circumstances, I would do what I did again," said Lemieux, years later, even though he never had another chance for an Olympic medal. He was given a medal for sportsmanship and awarded honorary second-place.
Though he is not remembered by many, Lawrence Lemieux epitomizes the best of the Olympic spirit.
Lawrence Lemieux showed the whole world what the Olympics was all about. The Olympics is not all about winning. Yes, people from hundreds of countries come to the Olympics to win a medal but that isn't what the Olympics is about. It is about courage, it is about self sacrifice and sportsmanship. Mr. Lemieux embodied what the Olympics is all about.
He went on to compete in many other competitions and to work as a sailing coach and race organizer in Canada, and he was recently inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
Calgary Stampede named the "Dwayne Erickson Media Suite"
It wasn't even noon, but we drank rum and Cokes to toast to an old friend anyway.
Not quite the way he drank them, mind you. His were a little stronger.
But it was an appropriate tribute to honour someone who gave so much to the sport of rodeo, touched the lives of so many cowboys and cowgirls, mentored so many journalists, and became a larger than life figure at the Calgary Stampede for decades.
Year after year, Dwayne Erickson sat in a chair — his chair — in the South Media Press Box. He wasn't always easy to deal with. Cantankerous, ornery, impatient, and downright grouchy, Dwayne could intimidate the greenest of interns and the city's most veteran scribes. Yet, if he gave you a small smile or a gentle compliment about your story of the day, there was no better feeling in the world.
Regardless of your relationship with Dwayne, when you truly understood what he was about, you couldn't help but admire his passion and gift.
"Right from the first time I did any good in the pros, he was the first one to give you a call," said Rod Hay, a four-time Calgary Stampede saddle bronc champion and a 20-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier. "He covered my entire professional career. You knew darn well you did something good if Dwayne called you.
"If you saw Dwayne was calling, you knew you must have done something good somewhere. It was always nice to hear from Dwayne, for sure . . . he had our sport's best interest in mind at all times."
Dwayne passed away at the age of 75 in the spring of 2013.
On Saturday, at the suggestion of the Calgary media eager to pay tribute to an old friend, the Calgary Stampede board renamed the South Media Press Box the "Dwayne Erickson Media Suite."
Hay, among others, raised a glass of rum and Coke in his honour.
"With Dwayne, everybody he knew he loved rodeo," Hay said. "All he wanted to do was to show rodeo the way it really is and show people what rodeo was about. All of the cowboys trusted him and loved him.
"He was one of the best things that ever happened to our sport, I believe."
Saddle bronc rider Dustin Flundra agreed.
"I had him on speed dial, I'm pretty sure he had me on speed dial," chuckled the Pincher Creek native. "If he didn't know what we'd done already, he'd call to see how we did. You knew as soon as you got the call that you'd either won something somewhere or something didn't go the way it should.
"Dwayne was going to get the stories both ways. I don't know if you can find a person that has done more for sport than him . . . he thought we were rock stars and wanted us to have the same attention that other professionals got."
Dwayne covered his first Calgary Stampede in 1982 and every National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas since 1985, working not only for the Herald and the Journal, but both the Edmonton and Calgary Suns, the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC-TV and the Canadian Rodeo News.
"If Dwayne trusted you, then you could be trusted," wrote George Jonhson in a written tribute after his passing in 2013.
In 2000, he left the Calgary Sun to write for the Calgary Herald. I met him seven years later when I first started covering the rodeo. And I had no clue what I was doing.
But, gradually, after getting past his tough-as-leather exterior, I started to learn the importance of listening and watching, instead of talking.
Writing stories about good people and building good relationships, you see, was almost more important than the sport itself.
"He's definitely missed among the cowboys," Flundra said."Especially the ones that got to know him as a person, not just as a reporter. He developed relationships with quite a few of us, beyond rodeos.
"Just before he passed away, he'd come to the Twin Butte Store because he'd heard all of us cowboys talk about what we'd do after Calgary. He wanted to come check it out . . . he was really interested in our lives outside of rodeo too."
Dwayne — Dwayne-O or Cowboy, as he was known to the media covering the Calgary Stampede — said it best himself.
"What I have tried to do is explain that cowboys are not million-dollar hockey players or football players," Dwayne had said when he was inducted in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame, a quote which will now be hung in the Dwayne Erickson Media Suite next to his photo. "They are good, everyday people who have the greatest sense of community that I have ever seen.
"It makes me so proud of this sport, because there isn't a moment when they wouldn't stick out their hand and help, in competition and in life.
"Rodeo is a life teacher."
Honoured Member Ken Read reflects on '88 and looks forward to '26?
Article from Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: Calgary 2026? By Ken Read
Each winter the Calgary region hosts up to seven annual World Cup events. Another four winter sports stage World Championship or quadrennial World Cups. Alberta is home to eight of the twelve winter National Sport Organizations. Canadian Sport Institute Calgary has matured into the largest of Canada's seven Sport Institutes.
In 1981, when a fairly obscure western Canadian city called Calgary won the right to host the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, none of this existed.
So much has changed on the sport landscape in 35 years. But to really understand the legacy of 1988, you need to think back to what it was like to be in sport prior to 1981.
There was no Saddledome, no Olympic Oval. The Canmore Nordic Centre and Nakiska did not exist. Canada Olympic Park was everyone's favourite city ski hill called Paskapoo. The administration of most winter sports operated out of Ottawa, under the watchful eye of Sport Canada. Calgary hosted the Brier and Skate Canada and had held the first-ever World Cup downhill at Lake Louise. The Flames were new in town, housed in the 6,500 seat Corral.
There certainly was a thriving winter sport community. International calibre Olympic talent had emerged from local clubs and programs in alpine ski racing, figure skating, speed skating and hockey. Local boosters wanted to run events to showcase Calgary, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies, to give home-grown athletes as well as other Canadian Olympic prospects and talent in emerging sports like freestyle and short track speed skating a chance to compete at home, to inspire local kids. But we lacked facilities and international experience.
So when Frank King galvanized a renewed Olympic bid from the Calgary Booster Club in 1979, he found a highly receptive audience and community.
I'm reflecting back to these early days of the 1988 Olympic bid, because it is so important to contrast what we take for granted today with what existed 35 years ago. No annual World Cups. No National Teams based in the province. Rare international events. No facilities.
It was an enormous amount of sweat equity, ingenuity and investment that revolutionized sport in Canada. We all know how successful the 1988 Games were. But the real success story started through the preparation and development as Calgary ramped up for '88.
To prepare for the Games host cities are required to stage "pre-Olympic" events in all sports. A common-sense plan to test venues, give athletes a chance to train on Olympic sites, test logistics that range from transportation to security to pageantry, to train volunteers and work with partners that would include media, sponsors and funding agencies. The investment in people - volunteers and officials - delivered the capacity and know-how to organize annual World Cup events. Result: alpine skiing, bobsleigh, luge, skeleton and speed skating now are regular stops on the international calendar, with hockey, cross country skiing, biathlon, figure skating and curling hosting major events.
Successful annual events were bolstered by a will to build training environments. National Training Centres emerged as funding became available, with National Teams centralizing their year-round programs close to these venues. Result: National Training Centres are now established at Nakiska (alpine), Canmore (biathlon & cross country), the University of Calgary (speed skating), Canada Olympic Park (nordic combined and ski jumping; sliding track for bobsleigh, skeleton & luge).
With National Teams centralized in Alberta, it followed that once Sport Canada allowed the National Sport Organizations to move their head offices to logical locations (rather than Ottawa), the administration of each sport followed the athletes. Result: Calgary and Canmore are now home to Hockey Canada, Alpine Canada, Luge Canada, Bobsleigh/Skeleton Canada, Ski Jump Canada, Nordic Combined Canada, Cross Country Canada and Biathlon Canada.
As Canada established a network of Canadian Sport Centres across the country to support our athletes, with most winter sports housed in the Calgary region, it was a natural evolution that CSI-Calgary became the primary provider to winter sports. Sport Centres are the employer of the support teams that surround athletes including exercise physiologists, strength and conditioning coaches, biomechanics, dieticians, mental performance consultants, anthropometrists, biochemistry lab technicians, physicians, physiotherapists, athletic therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists.
Working with funding partners at the federal, provincial and municipal level, WinSport Canada established the Athlete Centre within Canada Olympic Park that is now one of the leading facilities for athlete training in the world. Result: CSI-Calgary has evolved to become Canada's largest Sport Institute, now employing more than 75 professionals and working with 345 current and future Olympians/Paralympians and Pan-Am/Parapan athletes and hundreds of coaches, technicians, officials and volunteers working with sport organizations.
The steadily expanding sport expertise and availability of venues has easily accommodated the addition of new and emerging sports that were added to the Olympic program post-1988. First to be included were skeleton and freestyle (moguls and aerials), followed by snowboard (cross, alpine and half-pipe) and ski cross, then expanding to slopestyle and now big air. Result: skeleton, freestyle, snowboard, ski cross programs and events were merged into the Calgary and region sporting mix on venues that are arguably best in the world.
The circle of sport influence driven by the legacy of '88 and the critical mass of sport expertise has continued to bring even more projects with a core sport focus to bolster the sector. Result: Canada's Sport's Hall of Fame, the winter offices of Own the Podium and National Sport School; complementing sport are the Human Performance Lab at the University of Calgary and Sport & Wellness Engineering Technologies (SAIT). Expertise along with bricks and mortar have gravitated to Calgary as a centre of sport excellence.
The human factor has enormous impact. From those who are passing through, to many who came and put down roots, Calgary and area have been transformed. Many recognizable names within the sport community have come from other countries and parts of Canada. They have brought professional credentials and sporting pedigrees. Their children have joined our clubs. Their leadership and expertise populate sport boards, event committees and administration of local, provincial and national organizations. Result: Hundreds of international athletes come to Canada each year for training and competition. Canadians from across the country centralize to Calgary each year for their National Team programs. Many have elected to stay. Hundreds of sport professionals who lead and support our sport programs have been recruited from around the world and now call Canada home.
Just imagine if you can, almost none of this existed in 1981.
The business of international sport is no different than any other business sector. To remain competitive, relevant and to thrive, infrastructure needs to be maintained. Excellence is fluid, with the bar constantly raised. The medium that presents sport to the world is in flux with the expectations of digital delivery and efficient broadcast servicing a requirement for all sporting events from the World Cup level and up. We have an enormous sport business now resident in the region, so a review of existing and potential facilities and the infrastructure necessary to keep our competitive edge is a prudent business decision.
It hasn't all been sweetness and light through this journey. Mistakes have been made, but an Olympic bid is a once in a generation chance to learn, adapt and improve in the same way Calgary learned from the Montreal experience and Vancouver learned from Calgary. But on balance, without doubt, the 1988 Games have been good for the city and region, province and country and an enormous lift for Canadian sport. Even a review to evaluate a potential bid is a chance to refresh, reinvigorate, renew, redress and rebuild.
This bid is for an event 10 years from today. At the core, the focus of the feasibility study should be on where we, as a community and country, would like to see this thriving sector evolve to by 2050 and beyond. To inspire youngsters, lift the next generation of champions, transfer knowledge to new leaders and officials. At a time where diversification is high on the list of urgent needs for our economy, sport and the related sectors of tourism and communications can figure prominently.
When the IOC announced "Calgary!" in October, 1981, none of us truly imagined the possibilities. What a journey. As we now look forward, what opportunity awaits us .....
More from Ken Read's blog: White Circus - Weiß Zirkus - Cirque Blanc
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
HM Gretzky to Promote Hockey in Australia
Having played an influential role in popularizing hockey across America's southwest, Wayne Gretzky is turning his attention to a new frontier. The Great One's heading Down Under.
"You know what, I've said it a thousand times in my lifetime that everything I have in my life is because of hockey," Gretzky said. "And quite honestly,
I never thought I'd ever one day be saying I'd be going to Australia, let alone go to Australia for a hockey event. You know, I'm so lucky."
The 55-year-old Gretzky has signed on to take part in the Wayne Gretzky Ice Hockey Classic, which involves a series of five exhibition games that began this weekend featuring current and recently retired NHL players and minor leaguers.
Gretzky, who is attending the U.S. Open to watch his daughter's fiance, Dustin Johnson, compete this weekend, is heading down early next week and will suit up for a 4-on-4 game to be played in Sydney on June 25.
The objective is to increase hockey's profile in Australia and raise money for STOPCONCUSSIONS Foundation and Brain Injury Australia.
Gretzky is no stranger to being a hockey ambassador after helping the NHL make inroads in California, when he played in Los Angeles, and then in Arizona, when he co-owned and coached the Coyotes.
Australia, however, is essentially uncharted territory, even though it's been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1938.
Ice Hockey Australia lists only 4,200 registrants out of a population of about 28 million, according to the IIHF.
Gretzky is undeterred.
"Listen, in 1988, we had only 6,000 people show up at an L.A. Kings game. It takes time," he said, recalling his first season with the Kings.
"The weather's a hindrance, there's no question it's very hot down there," Gretzky said. "But once kids do participate in the game of hockey, they love it. So that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to raise awareness more than anything."
It helps that the series will feature some colorful characters.
They include John Scott, the journeyman enforcer who became an overnight sensation for defying the NHL and electing to compete in the 2016 NHL All-Star game, in which he was selected as the MVP.
The U.S. team is coached by Dave Hanson, who became famous for his role as one of the Hanson Brothers in the 1977 movie, "Slap Shot," starring Paul Newman.
"First off, we want to take down some players who can actually play," Gretzky said. "But on the other side of it is, you want to take down people with some personalities and some love and passion for the sport, who will go that extra mile away from the arena."
The trip to Australia comes at a time when Gretzky's impact on hockey in America's southwest is becoming evident, and days after the Great One mourned the death of his idol, Gordie Howe.
This week, the NHL is expected to announce it is expanding into Las Vegas.
On Friday, Auston Matthews, who grew up a Coyotes fan in Scottsdale, Arizona, is projected to be selected with the first pick in the NHL draft.
"Did we think No. 1 pick overall? Maybe not," Gretzky said, referring to ever envisioning someone from Arizona being a top prospect.
"But we knew there were some great players and great kids coming out of those areas because there's great athletes that live there."
Gretzky played down the impact he had in transforming the NHL's landscape.
"A small role," Gretzky acknowledged. He instead credited the work done by his Kings teammates, including Luc Robitaille, and contemporaries: From Brett Hull playing in St. Louis to Detroit's Steve Yzerman; from Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh and Mark Messier's decision to play for the New York Rangers.
"Listen, I got lucky when I came along and went to L.A.," Gretzky said. "One guy can't change the sport. When you have four or five, six guys that go to another level, it really helps."
And yet, he can't help but wonder what influence this hockey series might have in Australia.
"Nobody ever thought a kid from Arizona would be a No. 1 pick," Gretzky said. "So what's to stop an Australian kid being the No. 1 pick 20 years from now?"