William John (Danny) McLeod
Born: November 5, 1921 (Medicine Hat, Alberta)
Died: January 14, 2014 (Kingston, Ontario)
Medicine Hat (Alta.) Sports Wall of Fame (2011)
Kingston (Ont.) and District Sports Hall of Fame (2001)
Canadian Forces Sports Honour Roll (1989)
Danny McLeod, a decorated veteran of the Second World War, was the driving force behind the creation of the governing body now known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
He was also the founding athletic director at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., a two-time coach of the year in the Ontario Hockey Association, and the NHL’s supervisor of officials.
McLeod’s impressive sporting credentials came later in a life already notable for a military career of distinction. He dropped out of high school and left the family farm to enlist in the South Alberta Regiment immediately after Canada declared war on Germany in 1939, and during the conflict that followed he was promoted from trooper to lance corporal to corporal to lance sergeant to sergeant to acting warrant officer. He would retire from the Canadian Army in 1971 with the rank of major.
In 1942, he became the first Canadian to be posted to the famed Sandhurst Military Academy for military training, graduating first in his class.
McLeod fought in the liberation of occupied France, Belgium and Holland, and fought on into Germany. It was during a brutal tank engagement with the enemy where an outgunned McLeod managed to fend off a Germany assault, earning a Military Cross. McLeod was in British Columbia training armoured units for an assault on Japan when the war ended.
He then served as a peacekeeper in Indochina and was posted in Europe in the late 1950s. In 1960, by now a major, McLeod was posted to the Royal Military College at Kingston, Ont. He was the college’s first athletic director, coaching the hockey team while also coaching the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League and the senior Kingston Aces. The Aces represented Canada at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland, where they won a silver medal under his cpaching.
Soon after arriving at the military college, he also began organizing the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union, now known as the CIS, becoming the group’s founding secretary-general. He was Canada’s chef de mission at the International Student Games in 1968 at Turin, Italy.
In 1971, he became supervisor of officials for the NHL, a position he held for eight years. He was responsible for training all the on-ice officials used in the famed 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. (He had mixed results. The Canadians were so infuriated by the refereeing of the games played in Moscow they referred to German referees Franz Baader and Josef Kampalla as “Baader and Worse.”)
The retired major received many honours late in life. The Major W.J. (Danny) McLeod Award is presented to the most valuable player in the CIS hockey championships. The NHL Officials Association presented him with its Birchall Leadership Award in 2007. In 2011, the CIS awarded him the Austin-Matthews award for outstanding contribution to interuniversity sports.
On his 90th birthday, the residents of Canada Lane in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, gathered to congratulate the milestone achieved by their liberator.
Finally, his old school district presented him with an honorary diploma 68 years after he dropped out to join the war effort.