HM Alex Decoteau Remembered
At the top of a gentle rise just outside the town of Zonnebeke, overlooking the pastoral farmers' fields that spill out over the Belgian countryside, is the Passchendaele British New Cemetery, the final resting place for many Commonwealth soldiers, including a large number of Canadians.
Walk down to the lower tier, past a few rows, go in three graves and there sits the marker bearing the name A. Decoteau. A small rose bush sits just to the right of it, the blooms gone in the November winds. A small wooden cross carrying a red paper poppy sits in the ground in front of it.
Like most of the other gravestones here, it provides the basics of information: He was a private in the 49th Battalion and he died on the 30th of October, 1917, at the age of 28.
For almost a century, he has rested in this spot along with his comrades who were killed in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. But that doesn't even begin to reveal the story of Alex Decoteau, a man who was one of Canada's greatest runners of his day, an Olympian, a Cree and a trailblazing aboriginal.
Born in 1887 on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan, Decoteau was a natural athlete who loved to run, winning races as a teenager. In 1909, he moved to Edmonton to live with his sister and her husband. He began working for his brother-in-law, a former Mountie, in a machine shop. In 1911, he joined the Edmonton Police Force, becoming Canada's first aboriginal police officer. A few years later, he was the first motorcycle cop in Canada, patrolling the west end of the city from his bike.
The love he had for his job was surpassed only by his enjoyment of running. He'd started running back in school in Saskatchewan and had never looked back. In Edmonton, he won race after race and began to compete on the national level, where his success continued.
On Canada Day (then Dominion Day) in 1910, he ran in the Alberta provincial championship, entering four separate races – the half-mile, mile, two-mile and five-mile. To no one's surprise, he won all four.
A year later, in Vancouver, Decoteau easily won the Canadian championships in the five-kilometre race, which qualified him to run in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. He was the only Albertan on the team that year and many predicted he was a medal contender. That hope was buoyed when he came second in his semi-final heat. In the final, he was running well, sitting in third place on the last lap, however leg cramps took hold in the unusually warm temperatures and had to settle for fifth.
Still, he returned home to Edmonton to great acclaim, receiving a parade down Jasper Avenue.
In April 1916, Decoteau enlisted with the Canadian Forces and, after a stint with the 202nd Battalion (known as the Edmonton Sportsman's Battalion) joined the 49th Battalion. He continued to run, entering military races in England, where his group was training. At a military sports day (common diversions for the soldiers at the time), Decoteau won a five-mile race and was presented with a gold pocket watch by King George V, who was in attendance.
A year later, in October, the 49th was sent into action on the Ypres Salient, in what became known as the Battle of Passchendaele, famous for the horrid conditions, that included knee-deep mud and constant rain. During one fierce part of the battle, Decoteau was shot by a sniper, falling to the ground immediately. In those days, it was not uncommon for the bodies of dead soldiers to be looted and at some point, the German killer reportedly took the pocket watch from Decoteau's body.
So incensed were his comrades that they later in the battle managed to find the sniper, kill him and retrieve the watch. It was eventually sent home to his mother, a small testament to a son who gave his life in battle.
While his body rests in that cemetery beside those of his fellow soldiers, in 1985 his family and friends performed a special Cree ceremony that returned his spirit to Edmonton, the city where he made such an impact. Members of the Red Pheasant First Nation, Canadian Armed Forces and the Edmonton Police Force were all in attendance.
It may have been almost 100 years since Decoteau died, but his name and impact live on.
His skill as a runner and his devotion to his country were recognized with his induction into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
As a fitting tribute, in 2001, the city of Edmonton started the Alex Decoteau run, focusing on students from the city's inner city schools. It also named a street named after him – Decoteau Way – and next year, a century after he died, Decoteau Park will open in Edmonton.
Canadian Sledge Hockey Championship Banner Donated
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum are the proud recipients of the Canadian Sledge Hockey Championship banner presented to them by Alberta Sledge Hockey on October 25, 2016.
Team Alberta went undefeated during the tournament where they faced off against, Quebec, Ontario and BC before facing Ontario once again in the gold medal match. Winning the game 3-1 Alberta came out on top and with the gold.
Head Coach Steve Arsenault was exceptionally proud of his players. "When we started this journey in October I think it was a shock because we went from not having a high-performance program for sledge hockey in this province to demanding one right off the bat. They played exceptionally well. I couldn't ask for a better result."
Tanner Fandrey, a member of Team Alberta spoke about the reaction of his coaches after that gold medal game. "Even the best players in the world are still excited to see those grassroot wins, I think that was the most awesome part of the game was to see those guys, so excited about winning the first ever National Championships."
Fandrey was present at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to represent the players while presenting the banner to Managing Director Donna Hateley.
Honoured Members Celebrating Olympians and Paralympians
Article from ASC - Excellence in Sport ENews: Element Selection2016 Celebration of Sport Luncheon in Calgary
On Thursday, October 13, Sport Calgary hosted the 2016 Celebration of Sport Luncheon and along with the Government of Alberta, Alberta Sport Connection and the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, the Alberta athletes, coaches and mission staff who represented Canada in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games were honoured in a special celebration.
The event was emceed by former Olympic Gold Medal speed skating champion, Catriona Le May Doan and attended by Lieutenant Governor, Lois Mitchell, Federal Minister of Sport and Persons with Disability, Carla Qualtrough, Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism and Naheed Nenshi, Mayor Calgary, all of whom congratulated our Alberta athletes on their achievements at the Games and thanked them for representing Canada and Alberta.
The Luncheon also featured a panel discussion on Sport with Scott Russell, CBC; Carla Qualtrough, Federal Minister of Sport and Persons with Disability; Jim Peplinski, Former Calgary Flame; and Ian Allison, Marketing Director, Spruce Meadows.
Alberta is home to, and trains, some of the best athletes in Canada. ASC is proud to have them represent us on the world stage and to support them through our sport system. Through Podium Alberta, ASC provided more than $850,000 to support more than 200 Alberta-based athletes pursue athletic excellence at the highest levels of national and international competition while fulfilling their educational goals. For more information please see: Podium Alberta.
Olympian and Paralympian Salute Day
Calgary athletes were honoured at city hall on Monday, with the mayor proclaiming Oct. 3, 2016 as Olympian and Paralympian Salute Day.
Athletes, coaches and trainers who represented Canada at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio received a standing ovation in council chambers at the start of Monday morning's meeting.
"What a summer. Our Olympians and Paralympians gave Calgarians so many reasons to be so incredibly proud this year and always," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
"Your performances in Rio made us all proud to be Canadians."
Canadian athletes won 22 medals at the Olympics and another 29 at the Paralympics, and Nenshi said Calgary-based athletes won four Olympic and three Paralympic medals in Rio.
"We are of course in this city extremely proud of our own Olympic legacy. We're even more proud of the role that our city plays in Canada's Olympic movement as a centre of sport in this country," he said.
Nenshi is a self-proclaimed "big sporting fan" who spent time in Rio this summer cheering on athletes and talking about a potential Calgary Winter Games in 2026.
He spoke to council Monday about one of his fondest Rio moments — standing by himself, in an empty section, waving a small Canadian flag and watching Erica Wiebe win gold in wrestling.
"I spent the entire day watching the women's wrestling. I now have a new favourite summer sport," he said.
Honoured Member Graham Kelly inducted to Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame
Considering he's already in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, it certainly seemed logical that Graham Kelly would have a spot of honour in the place he's called home for 48 years.
The longtime columnist here at the News and former city alderman got his due, added to the Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame Wednesday night at the Family Leisure Centre.
"It's about time," remarked emcee and current council member Les Pearson, summing up the feelings of the few dozen attendees.
Kelly's work as a CFL historian through the seven books he's written on the league were instrumental in his nomination for that shrine. His 44 years writing a weekly column at the News was key for the provincial honour. But as the 73-year-old stood at the podium in a building he had a hand in creating, accepting not one but two standing ovations, it was made clear his work in the Gas City's sports scene goes far beyond being a writer.
"This is the biggest," said Lee Little, who nominated Kelly. "As a community volunteer and working with the football association, it's a football person talking to a football person. Graham allows us to bridge the football to politics talk, and when we talk to him, he gets it."
As kids played football at the adjacent Methanex Bowl, others skated or swam or worked out elsewhere in the leisure centre. All owe some gratitude to Kelly, who in 30 years on city council had a hand in all of it and more.
"You cannot drive anywhere in this city and not see a project he was not involved in," noted Mayor Ted Clugston, adding that the city is better for having him.
Kelly, born mere blocks from where the Saskatchewan Roughriders play, moved to Medicine Hat with wife Lorena in 1968. The one-time waterboy for the Riders transitioned into writing and initially was denied a chance to be a columnist. But he persisted, and thanked his wife and family in attendance for supporting his passion over the years.
"Lorena did so much to facilitate my career," he said. "When I was in the press box she was in the stands with my sons (David and Rob)."
One time Lorena was even in the press box herself, called into duty when Graham was in Hamilton at a university conference in 1965 while the Tiger-Cats headed to Regina for a regular season game.
At the time he was writing for United Press International. He asked her to fill in.
"Lorena was the first woman in a press box in the CFL," Graham said to a round of applause Wednesday.
"Now most of the reporters are women."
Times do change, but Kelly's spot as a columnist has remained. He's been to 42 Grey Cup games, seen the city's population nearly triple, and was acutely aware of the special place this honour holds in his heart.
"To be inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (in June) was certainly special and a highlight of my life, but most of the people in Red Deer that night never heard of me, don't know me," said Kelly. "It was very special to be honoured by people in Medicine Hat who think I'm worthy of being honoured, many of whom I've worked with over the years. It's a special thing."
Among the attendees was fellow Sports Wall of Fame member Lovell McDonnell and many who Kelly recognized as former students of his. Quinn Skelton, now coach of Hat High's Mohawks football program, said Graham was "the same type of teacher as you'd expect him to be now. Straightforward historian, a great guy to listen to in class.
"He was involved back in the early days of Rangeland football, he's always been a positive supporter with our minor football both on and off the field. A great role model and a positive public figure to look up to here in Medicine Hat."