Canada 150, Capturing a country through sport, Part 1 - The Toronto Star
Article from Toronto Star: Canada 150: Capturing a country through sport
There have been so many great sports stories since Confederation, it’s hard to pick just one that stands out. To celebrate our country’s birthday, The Star offers 150 of them in a 10-part series, beginning with memorable people and moments in our sporting history and running until Canada Day.
To capture the essence of sports in Canada over the last 150 years is to try to capture the essence of the country as a whole.
It is to tell the story of the coming together of cultures from around the world, encompassing sports of every imaginable ilk because there is so much about this country, its people and its sportswomen and sportsmen to remember.
It goes from the ubiquitous hockey that is ours to treasure and celebrate to runners and jumpers, skiers, skaters, snooker players, dart throwers and footballers — women and men whose impact on Canadian life has transcended fields of play.
Athletes and teams who have done Canada proud on a global stage, those who have been part of us for years and those who have been like stars shooting across the sporting landscape.
There are so many great stories, memorable moments, individuals and teams to cherish. There are moments of great heartbreak and disappointment. There are tales of perseverance and celebration.
There is no one single thing that stands out because the impact of sports and sports stories in Canada since Confederation is breathtaking.
Starting today and running until July 1, The Star will present a 10-part series to try and capture the quintessential moments and people of the last 150 years, to stir memories and celebrate history.
There is no one common theme that runs through the list because it is impossible to find one, just as it’s impossible to find one common thread that has carried Canada from 1867 until now.
The 150 people and events that we’ve come up with is not an all-encompassing list; it captures a representative look of Canadian sports and athletes and offers a glimpse of what we’ve done, how we did it and what it meant.
Once asked what it meant to be “wholly Canadian,” Steve Nash said this:
“One thing it is to be wholly Canadian is to not get carried away with this answer, you know? We know who we are, we do our best, we try to play as a team and we try to look out for other people rather than ourselves more often than not and let’s just leave it at that.
“It becomes wholly un-Canadian to gush over that answer, you know?”
Maybe. Maybe not.
Maybe now is the time to gush a little bit as we approach the 150th birthday of our country.
Maybe it is time to shine a light on so many great years of Canadian sports, great moments of Canadian sports, great people of Canadian sports.
We hope the next 10 days makes you smile and think. We hope you learn some things and remember some others. We hope it captures us.
The numbers are almost too much to comprehend: 200 points in an NHL season on four different occasions, 894 goals and 1,963 assists in 1,487 games, nine Hart Trophy wins as the NHL’s most valuable player, 16 seasons of 100+ points, four Stanley Cup championships with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers.
The Great One? Indeed.
The Brantford native is always in the conversation about the greatest hockey player ever; he wasn’t the biggest or strongest or fastest player on the ice but his intelligence and a sixth sense that seemed to let him see plays before they developed set him apart.
He credits his father, the equally famous and beloved Walter Gretzky, with helping him develop the instincts that made him such a special athlete.
“I’ve just learned to guess what’s going to happen next,” he said. “It’s anticipation. It’s not God-given, it’s Wally-given.”
November 21 is Red Mitten Day!
Honoured Member Carla MacLeod named Canada Winter Games Head Coach
MACLEOD, LAJOIE NAMED CANADA WINTER GAMES HEAD COACHES
RED DEER – Carla MacLeod and Serge Lajoie will be at the helm of the Alberta squads competing in hockey at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.
Hockey Alberta kicked off “The Road to Red Deer” on Wednesday with the announcements that MacLeod is the head coach for the Team Alberta U18 Female team, and Lajoie is the head coach for the Team Alberta U16 Male team.
Both have previous experience in the Canada Winter Games and Team Alberta programs.
MacLeod was a member of Team Alberta as a player at two Canada Winter Games (1995 and 1999), and was the head coach of Team Alberta at the National Women’s U18 Championship in 2016. As a player, her international experience includes Olympic Gold Medals in 2006 and 2010. She also coached Team Japan at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Currently, she is the Midget Female Prep head coach at the Edge School for Athletes.
“This is a tremendous honour. It has been a goal to get back involved with the Canada Games. Having been involved as a player, it almost feels like I’m coming full circle to come back as a coach. I know the magnitude of the Games, and I’m excited to have a front-row seat to some kids living that dream,” said MacLeod.
Lajoie was an assistant coach with the Team Alberta Male squad that won the bronze medal at the 2011 Games in Halifax, and head coach of the gold medalist U16 male squad at the 2013 Western Canada Challenge Cup. He also was an assistant coach for Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship. As a player, Lajoie participated in the inaugural Alberta Cup, winning a silver medal in 1986. Currently, he is the head coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“This is quite an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to coach at the Canada Winter Games. I had the experience in 2011, and I know it is a big event,” said Lajoie. “I really look forward to the opportunity and the challenge to get the most out of the players and make it an experience they will remember for a long time.”
Bobby Fox will join Lajoie as the U16 Male team’s associate coach. Fox, currently an assistant coach with the Medicine Hat Tigers, has coached Team Alberta U16 squads twice, including as head coach of the gold medal squad at the 2015 Western Canada Challenge Cup.
Competition at the Canada Winter Games runs February 14-23, 2019 for the Male squad, and February 23-March 2 for the Female squad.
Inspired by Honoured Member Alex Decoteau
Article from The Star: Indigenous Olympian killed at Passchendaele remains an inspiration to Canadians
Alexander Decoteau, 29 when he died in WWI’s Battle of Passchendaele 100 years ago, was the first Indigenous cop in Canada. His great-niece and an Edmonton police officer helped keep his story alive.
By the time Alexander Decoteau enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in 1916 and shipped out for Europe, he was already a local hero in Edmonton and a man of many firsts.
The young Cree had become the first Indigenous police officer in Canada when he joined the Edmonton Police Service in 1911, and he soon became one of the country’s first motorcycle policemen.
He was a world-class athlete and had won most major middle-distance or long-distance races there were to enter in Western Canada. In 1912, he’d represented Canada in the Olympics in Stockholm, running the 5,000 metres. In Edmonton, they celebrated his return from the Games with a parade down Jasper Ave.
In October 1917, after landing in Europe, Decoteau was part of the Canadian Corps sent to Belgium to join the final push to Passchendaele, a battle that would become an archetypal image of the trench warfare, muck-soaked misery and human carnage of the First World War.
On Oct. 30, 100 years ago, he was shot and killed by a German sniper.
In Decoteau’s story there is both the horror and appalling cost of Passchendaele, and the sometimes forgotten heroism of Canada’s Indigenous soldiers during the First World War.
When that battle was over and won, more than 4,000 Canadian soldiers had been killed and almost 12,000 wounded. With 275,000 British and 220,000 German casualties, it was among the costliest battles of attrition.
Aboriginal soldiers served there and in every major battle in which Canadian troops fought. It’s estimated that more than 4,000 First Nations men enlisted. Hundreds were killed or wounded and at least 50 Indigenous soldiers were awarded medals for bravery and heroism.
A century on, the story of Alex Decoteau — buried in Passchendaele’s New British Cemetery along with hundreds of his compatriots — continues to inspire.
And it turns out his story was in the process of being forgotten until the most unlikely of events 50 years ago.
As 86-year-old Izola Mottershead of Edmonton tells it, she hadn’t heard a great deal about her grand-uncle growing up. She just remembers all the trophies and medals she used to see in her grandma’s china cupboard, memorabilia her father later inherited.
“You know how it is, when you grow up things are just always there,” Mottershead said in an interview. “But somehow or other, with Alex Decoteau, to me he always felt like he was alive.”
In relating his story, Mottershead said Decoteau’s fame had faded in the half-century after his death. Then, in 1967, a man named Sam Donaghey, an Edmonton police sergeant, had just been promoted and was settling into his new office.
“He was cleaning out a filing cabinet and he found a little piece of newspaper clipping. It was a little story about Alex Decoteau winning a race and how he was part of the police force.
“So Sam started digging,” Mottershead said. “And once Sam Donaghey got digging, so did I.
“One thing just led to another. I thought, Ah, I’ve got to do something about this. This man is too important to just let it go.”
Alexander Wuttunee Decoteau was born Nov. 19, 1887, one of five siblings, on what is now the Red Pheasant Cree Nation near North Battleford, Sask.
His father, Peter, a Métis, was one of Chief Poundmaker’s warriors at the Battle of Cut Knife Hill. His mother, born Marie Wuttunee, was Cree.
When Alex was still a young boy, his father was murdered. His mother couldn’t support the children. So she asked that three of the boys be placed in a residential school nearby called the Battleford Industrial School for Indians.
At school, Alex was a good student who excelled at boxing, cricket, soccer and, of course, running. After leaving, he worked as a farmhand before moving to Edmonton. There, he took a job in a machine shop owned by his brother-in-law, a former Mountie who had married his sister, Emily.
For a time, Alex lived with his sister’s family before moving to his own apartment in town. In 1911, he was hired as an Edmonton police constable. He became a motorcycle cop and was promoted in 1914 to sergeant.
In April 1916, with the slaughter of the First World War raging on, Decoteau decided to enlist and joined the 202nd Infantry Battalion (Edmonton Sportsmen’s Battalion) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
By then, the war had already turned into a stalemate along the Western Front, a 1,000-kilometre network of trenches stretching across Belgium and northern France.
Low-lying and flat, the region was a difficult battleground to begin with. When the autumn rains came early in 1917, it turned into a vast sea of muck, the enemies facing each other across a no man’s land of barbed wire, bombed-out bog and artillery fire.
The Canadians — more than 100,000 of whom would take part in the assault on Passchendaele, sometimes called the Third Battle of Ypres — were shocked at the conditions when they arrived in Flanders in mid-October to relieve troops from Australia and New Zealand.
Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, soon ordered the fresh arrivals to drive the German forces from Passchendaele ridge. Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Corps, objected, fearing an unwinnable slaughter.
Having no choice but to attack, Currie prepared carefully for a phased series of battles. On Nov. 10, the ridge was captured. But much as he feared, 15,654 Canadians were dead or wounded.
When the war began, there had been no official policy in Canada on the recruitment of Aboriginal people, but they were initially discouraged from enlisting, and sometimes turned away.
High casualty rates and the need for troops soon led to new attitudes. By 1915, restrictions were relaxed and Indigenous men recruited. They enlisted at roughly the same percentage as non-Indigenous men, and in some areas in higher numbers.
“They emptied the reserves,” said former Red Pheasant chief Gerald Wuttunee.
Members of Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, Ont., provided more soldiers than any other Canadian First Nation, with about 300 soldiers fighting on the front. Every man between 20 and 35 from the Head of the Lake Band in British Columbia signed up.
If anything the number of Indigenous volunteers was likely underestimated as Canadian records seldom took into account Inuit and Métis.
Indigenous men brought valuable skills, including the well-honed patience, stealth and marksmanship acquired in hunting. Many became successful snipers and reconnaissance scouts.
For all that, they were treated on their return — as Indigenous people were — as if they “weren’t even human beings” in Canadian society, said Wuttunee.
When Decoteau enlisted, according to his military records, he was five foot 10, 160 pounds, with brown hair, brown eyes and a tattoo of unspecified design on his left arm. (His descendants suspect it was eagle feathers.)
An Edmonton Journal sports editor of the day wrote that Decoteau was still improving as a runner when he “answered his country’s call.” On Nov. 24, 1916, he sailed from Halifax for England aboard the SS Mauritania.
While stationed in England, Decoteau won several sports competitions and once — when a trophy was misplaced — was presented by King George V with his own gold pocket watch as a prize.
Decoteau reached France in May 1917 to serve with the 49th Battalion of the Canadian infantry.
He was killed in action by a sniper at Passchendaele on Oct. 30, while running a message.
The sniper who killed Decoteau reportedly looted his body and took that prized gold watch. But the dead soldier’s friends located the sniper, shot him, and retrieved the prize, ensuring it was mailed back to Decoteau’s mother in Edmonton.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the story of Alex Decoteau “shatters, absolutely shatters, so many stereotypes” derogatory to Canada’s Indigenous people.
The community has taken up the story with pride and it’s “become an important part of our reconciliation dialogue,” Iveson said. “It’s very empowering for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike.”
Now, generations after his death, Decoteau continues to be honoured.
In 1967, thanks to Donaghey, Alex he was inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame. He entered the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame a year later.
In 1985, Mottershead, the Edmonton police and Red Pheasant Cree organized a powwow and ceremony at Red Pheasant to “bring his spirit back,” said former chief Wuttunee. “It was one of the biggest powwows ever.”
In 2004, Mottershead published a book on her great-uncle’s life. Ten years later, Charlotte Cameron, an Edmonton native, wrote a one-act play titled Running: The Alex Decoteau Storyfor young readers.
The most recent contribution to Decoteau literature is perhaps its most popular among young people: a comic book created by the police service titled Alexander Decoteau Legacy of Heroes.
On the cover, that famous gold watch Decoteau was given by a king is held in his left fist, brandished like a glittering symbol of what’s possible, even against long odds.
In September, an Edmonton park was dedicated in Decoteau’s honour.
Chris Buyze, president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League, said the organization had been working to get a park in the area. When it was suggested it be named after Decoteau “it made perfect sense given his contributions to Edmonton and to Canada,” he said.
“Where the park is located is where his downtown beat would have been.”
The park is highlighted by a sculpture by Toronto artist Pierre Poussin titled Esprit, a work whose ethereal flow captures the sense of an accomplished runner’s movement and whose title speaks to the ethos of Decoteau’s military background.
Poussin told the Star he hadn’t heard of Decoteau until he answered an open call from the Edmonton Arts Council for design proposals in 2016.
“I started researching pretty intensely,” he said. “His love of sport really spoke to me, and his love of community.”
For its part, the police service saw an opportunity to tell his story as a way of honouring one of its own and building trust with Indigenous and other diverse communities.
Const. Lisa Wolfe, a Métis, former member of the Canadian armed forces and one-time aboriginal recruitment officer for the Edmonton Police Service, hosts an annual “Alex Decoteau Run” for local schoolchildren.
At the run, she and other officers continue “to teach them about who Alex Decoteau is as a role model, a mentor, a war hero.”
The police museum and archive hold a number of his personal and military trophies and awards, on loan from Decoteau’s heirs, including his participant medal from the 1912 Olympics.
In fact, Charlotte Cameron said it was on a visit to the museum about 20 years ago, when she was a teacher in Edmonton, that she first learned of Decoteau and began the study of his life that would eventually lead her to write her play.
“I was just swept away,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe that we didn’t know more about him.’’
For the mayor, the life and death of Alex Decoteau helps Canadians understand the scale of loss to the country at Passchendaele “when so many people perished, among them really extraordinary people.”
A century on, the mayor said, “we can only imagine what else might he have done.”
ASHFM Honoured Member Jack Neumann Gives Back to the Dinos
Article from Calgary Sun: Neumann continues as Dinos' key supporter
There may be no bigger booster of the University of Calgary Dinos football program than one Jack Neumann.
As the school’s Sports Information Director between 1978-2007 and director of alumni until 2012, Neumann has always bled the Dinos’ red and gold. Now he’s going to make sure those colours will be synonymous with Dinos football for years to come.
On Wednesday, Neumann was feted by the university for his unique and significant living and legacy commitment to the program, with his donation coming in the form of jerseys for the team.
“I’m a traditionalist as everyone knows,” Neumann began. “You don’t see the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers changing their colours. I wanted to leave a legacy gift that was something unique. Every team needs jerseys, as long as they’re scarlet and gold, as long as there’s no black in it. I just wanted to leave a little gift so I set up the endowment.”
Neumann, who has been awarded Order of the University of Calgary and is in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, didn’t want to go public with his generosity but hoped that by doing so it would spur other individuals to do likewise for other Dinos athletics programs.
“We’re all admirers of Jack — I can’t get that much press out at anything I do,” said university president
Dr. Elizabeth Cannon of a strong throng of media members attending the news conference. “He is relentless in promoting our Dinos — in fact, I think he’s our biggest booster. Jack was really seen as a leader in sports information, had leadership roles in that community and as someone who elevated the profession.
“We rely on people like Jack to invest their time and their energy and their passion, day-in and day-out, to say how great the University of Calgary truly is. Jack wears it on his sleeve, wears it on his heart …”
As the Dinos prepare for their 10th consecutive Hardy Cup game on Saturday afternoon against UBC, Neumann was asked how cool it would be to see the team win a Vanier Cup in those jerseys.
“Pretty darn special,” Neumann said with a grin. “We were so close last year in them, but those factors are beyond my control.”