Tony Golab


Anthony Charles Golab
Born: January 16, 1919 (Windsor, Ontario)
Died: October 16, 2016 (Ottawa, Ontario)
Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1964)
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1975)
Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame (1981)
Canadian Armed Forces Sports Hall of Fame (1994)
Ontario Sports Hall of Fame (1997)
Order of Canada (1986)

Tony Golab was called the Golden Boy for his blond hair, sunny disposition, and youthful success on the football field. A big-boned runner and kicker, he won a Grey Cup championship in 1940 at age 21, soon after trading his football jersey for an air force uniform.

A Spitfire pilot who engaged in reconnaissance and harassing attacks, Mr. Golab survived being shot down twice during the war, once by his own side. He suffered serious arm and leg injuries, yet revived his professional football career with the Ottawa Rough Riders after the war. On his return, he was dubbed the Golden Bomber by sportswriters.

tony-golab-rcaf-dress-jpgMr. Golab, who has died in Ottawa at 97, was named Canada’s male athlete of the year in 1941. He would later be inducted into five sports halls of fame, despite having spent two of his prime playing years battling the Nazis.

Anthony Charles Golab was born in Windsor, Ont., on Jan. 16, 1919, to Polish immigrants Marcella (née Nowosielska) and Michael Golab. His father worked as a labourer in the automobile industry.

At Kennedy Collegiate, young Golab was keen to follow the example set by his older sister Genevieve, who starred at track, softball, and basketball. Tony Golab was a regional discus and shot put champion, who also helped the school’s Clippers football team to a 19-game unbeaten streak and two regional titles. In basketball, he played right guard for the school’s boy’s team, which won the Ontario title in 1938 by one point with a last-minute basket against Glebe Collegiate of Ottawa. The guard scored six of his team’s 24 points with centre Joe Krol recording 14. The basketball teammates would be professional rivals on the football field, as Mr. Krol became a star with the Toronto Argonauts.

After leaving school, Mr. Golab joined the Sarnia Imperials of the Ontario Rugby Football Union. The rookie was expected to be eased into action, but wound up replacing popular Ormond Beach, an Oklahoman who died at age 27 a week before the start of the season in an explosion at the refinery at which he worked.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Golab quickly earned a reputation for ferocious, bone-jarring tackles, as well as fearless plunges into the opposing line while carrying the ball. He also handled punting duties. Both the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Ottawa Rough Riders tried to lure him during the offseason, while the Imperials sought to keep their newfound star. In the end, he opted for the nation’s capital.

The “pile-driving Pole,” as the Ottawa Journal described him, earned his first of five all-star selections in 1939, when he was named the top fullback in the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, known as the Big Four. His played helped take the Rough Riders to the Grey Cup championship game against the visiting Blue Bombers, who surprised the favoured Ottawa team to eke out an 8-7 victory.

tony-golab-football-jersey-no-72The following season, Mr. Golab suffered a severe back injury after a hard tackle by Eddie Zock of the Toronto Argoanuts. His season was at first thought to be over, but he recovered to help the Rough Riders defeat Toronto’s Balmy Beach team in the only two-game, total-points Grey Cup showdown ever played. The Rough Riders claimed the Dominion football championship with an 8-2 victory in Toronto followed a week later by a solid 12-5 win in Ottawa. Nursing two injured ribs and wearing a special brace, Mr. Golab made a key interception of a Balmy Beach pass in the second game, evading a half-dozen tacklers to return the ball 25 yards.

With war raging overseas, Mr. Golab enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was posted to Ottawa, so continued playing for the Rough Riders, enjoying the best campaign of his short career, winning the coveted Jeff Russell Trophy as the league’s outstanding player.

“What can a fellow say, except that I’m thrilled to death about it,” the athlete said.
Asked for reaction, his coach, Ross Trimble, said, “Just say that Golab is not only the greatest football player I’ve ever seen, but the finest boy a coach ever had to handle.”

The Rough Riders again defeated all Eastern teams to qualify for a Grey Cup showdown against the Blue Bombers. Ottawa took an early lead when Golab kicked the ball high in the air, dashing downfield to grab it in on the bounce. He eluded a tackler before running into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. Ottawa lost the title, by 18-16, when a last-minute place-kick failed to go through the uprights.

Days after the game, Mr. Golab left for pilot training. He spent the 1942 season playing for the Uplands Flyers, an air force team, which won the Ottawa Senior City title with a 9-0 victory over his former team, the Rough Riders. Mr. Golab accounted for eight points on a 65-yard gallop for a touchdown (worth five in those days) and a 23-yard field goal (worth three).

By January, 1943, the pilot officer was posted overseas. On a reconnaissance mission over the Egyptian desert, he had his Spitfire damaged by aerial fire from behind. He bailed out, later learning he had been shot down by an inexperienced American pilot.

Later, he flew missions over Sicily from a base on Malta. He followed the Allied forces north up the Italian boot. In January, 1944, he failed to return from a mission, the news about his being missing in action garnering headlines in the newspapers back home. Days later, his wife, the former Frances Audrey Ryan, who worked as a wartime typist in the federal transportation department, got word that an injured Golab had made it back to his unit.

His aircraft had been struck behind the cockpit by German anti-aircraft fire and he was once again forced to parachute to safety, this time with shrapnel wounds in his arms and legs. He landed behind enemy lines, further injuring a knee when he landed in a ditch, as he told the Ottawa Citizen in 2004. He soon after encountered a civilian. “I had my revolver ready to shoot my way out of the place like it was the Wild West,” he told the Citizen. Instead, the man guided him past a German outpost and safely through the front lines to rejoin Allied forces. “They got me back to the hospital and I was there for three weeks recovering and driving all the nurses and doctors nuts because I could see the war was going on.”

(Meanwhile, a brother, Frank Marion Golab, was in a Japanese prison camp after being captured in the fall of Hong Kong. He survived four years of captivity.)

The recuperating pilot was posted as an instructor in Egypt, returning home after the war to rejoin the Rough Riders in time for the 1945 campaign.

“Anthony Golab looked as terrific as ever,” the columnist Jim Coleman wrote about his comeback game against the Argos. “It was unfortunate that he chose the Air Force as his service, because the Army certainly could have used him as a high-speed tank.”

Mr. Golab scored a career high nine touchdowns in the 1948 season, earning all-star honours as a flying wing (flanker). The Rough Riders lost the Grey Cup game to the Calgary Stampeders by 12-7. It was his fourth and final Canadian championship game.

He retired as a player following the 1950 season, though he remained on the sidelines as a coach, first with the intermediate Hamilton Panthers and, later, the school team at Royal Military College at Kingston, Ont. A two-season stint as general manager of the Montreal Alouettes in the late 1960s brought him back to professional football, though he resigned after the team failed to make the playoffs during his brief tenure.

Mr. Golab re-enlisted in the RCAF after the war, juggling gridiron duties with military responsibilities. He retired as a wing commander.

After leaving the air force, he worked as a vice-principal and sold insurance.

Mr. Golab was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1964), Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1975), the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame (1981), the Canadian Armed Forces Sports Hall of Fame (1994), and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame (1997). He was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1986 for his “valour, sportsmanship and sterling example to Canada’s youth.”

He died on Oct. 16 at the Perley-Rideau Veterans Health Centre in Ottawa. He leaves a son, a daughter, four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, who died in 1970.

A testament to Mr. Golab’s importance to Ottawa sports fans can be found on the pages of the defunct Ottawa Journal. In 1947, he returned home to Windsor to bury his father, whose funeral took place on the morning of a day when the Rough Riders were scheduled to play in Toronto. The star player’s plan to bid farewell to his father and to take to the football field had been in the news all week. On game day, the front page of the late edition of the evening paper carried a large banner headline reading: BAD WEATHER GROUNDS GOLAB AT WINDSOR. It was as if the world had ended.


Photo above and top from Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.


John Saunders

John Saunders football card

John Peterson Saunders
Born: February 2, 1955 (Toronto, Ontario)
Died: August 10, 2016 (New York City, New York)


At the conclusion of ESPN’s SportsCenter highlights show on Wednesday night, the camera showed the darkened set of The Sports Reporters, a lone spotlight shining on an empty host’s chair.

Each Sunday, the chair was filled by John Saunders, a versatile, amiable and urbane broadcaster who was one of the most familiar faces in American television sports.

The network announced the death of Mr. Saunders, at 61, earlier in the day. No cause was given, though he had a number of health problems, including diabetes. His family said in a statement that “John wasn’t feeling well physically in recent days.”

His sudden death also brought renewed attention to his forthcoming memoir, which details a lifelong struggle with depression.

The Toronto-born broadcaster was hired as an anchor for ESPN’s SportsCenter in 1986. In three decades with the network, he worked as a play-by-play caller for college basketball, as well as anchoring studio coverage for hockey’s Stanley Cup playoffs, baseball’s World Series and college basketball’s Final Four. He was the on-air and on-field host to the postgame trophy presentation for college football’s national championship.

In 1995, he was hired to handle play-by-play calls for the expansion Toronto Raptors, serving as the television voice of the National Basketball Association franchise for six seasons.

John Saunders as a Western Michigan BroncosHis sudden death deeply affected his colleagues at ESPN, including television personality Stephen A. Smith, who considered Mr. Saunders a mentor and who broke down on air. Fellow broadcaster Hannah Storm struggled to maintain her composure when announcing the news of his death live on SportsCenter from Rio de Janeiro, where she was covering the Olympics.

In a statement, ESPN president John Skipper praised the late broadcaster’s “friendly, informative style,” which “has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades.”

His charity work was cited in tributes, although less notice was paid to his important role as a black broadcaster in an industry in which he was considered a pioneer. Just days before his death, he served on a panel at a conference in Washington of the National Association of Black Journalists, an advocacy group that is the largest organization of journalists of colour in the United States.

With his calm demeanour and crooked grin – an “understated smile,” in the description of his ebullient colleague Chris Berman – Mr. Saunders became an avuncular figure on television over the years. In a business where ego and schtick can build a career, Mr. Saunders was content to let others be the focus of attention.

His accomplishments were all the more impressive considering that he launched his career at small radio stations in Ontario.

John Peterson Saunders was born at Grace Hospital in Toronto to Jacqueline (née Courtney) and Bernard Saunders on Feb. 2, 1955. He grew up in Châteauguay, a Montreal suburb, where he played football and hockey, including a stint on a junior-B team with his younger brother, Bernie, under the tutelage of a young coach named Jacques Demers, who would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens before being named to the Canadian Senate.

The Saunders brothers went to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich. Bernie, a forward, became a top scorer for the university team before going on to play 10 games with the Quebec Nordiques in the NHL.

John Saunders skated in only two games on defence for the univerity team, the Broncos, before transferring to Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now University), in Toronto. He starred with the school’s Rams hockey team for two seasons and graduated with a psychology degree in 1977. He was inducted into Ryerson’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.

While still in college, he filed news and sports reports to radio station CHOO in Ajax, Ont., where he also spun country records and, on Sundays, rolled tapes of paid religious programs.

In 1978, he became news director at CKNS, a two-year-old station in Espanola, Ont., near the northern shore of Georgian Bay. (The station’s final two call letters stood for North Shore.) He soon after moved to television at CKNY-TV in North Bay and then to ATV in Moncton.

After two years as the sports anchor for CityPulse in Toronto, he was spotted by a corporate headhunter and recruited for WMAR-TV in Baltimore as sports anchor. He handled three daily broadcasts and served as host of Baltimore Colts preseason football games and a baseball pregame program called Orioles on Deck.

At ESPN, he hosted RendezVous ’87, a two-game hockey showdown between NHL allstars and the Soviet national team. In addition to his work on hockey, football and basketball games, he also contributed to ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

In December, 2001, he became host of The Sports Reporters, a Sunday morning roundtable show in which journalists discussed hot topics of the day. He served as a calm, rational figure amid sometimes outrageously opinionated colleagues. His signature was a minute-long editorial known as the “Parting Shot,” which he delivered in a measured, authoritative tone.

In 1996, he criticized CBS commentator Billy Packer for referring to college basketball star Allen Iverson as a “tough monkey.” He acknowledged Mr. Packer was referring to the athlete’s tenacity, but did so by using a slur without being sensitive to “the many African Americans who have been treated as second-class citizens in every day of their lives.”

A serious broadcaster, Mr. Saunders was not above having fun when circumstance permitted. In 1989, he and SportsCenter co-host Chris Berman aired a show in which they managed to work 23 Bob Dylan song references into their broadcast as a tribute to the singer, who was performing at an amusement park near their studio in Bristol, Conn.

Though his move to the United States brought him fame and riches beyond what he could have achieved in Canada, he remained wary of his adopted land.

“Everybody feels they need a gun and you never know who is carrying one,” he told Ken McKee of the Toronto Star in 1992. “The police have so much power. It bothers me that racism is so prevalent.”

He was not without humour about his identity. On Twitter, the sports broadcaster Keith Olbermann, who is white, recalled the time he told Mr. Saunders about having been mistaken for him. An incredulous Mr. Saunders deadpanned, “But you’re not Canadian!”

A close friend of basketball coach and broadcaster Jim Valvano, who died of bone cancer in 1993, Mr. Saunders served as a founding board member of the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Mr. Saunders, a resident of the riverside village of Hastings-onHudson, N.Y., leaves his wife, Wanda Saunders, as well as daughters Aleah and Jenna, and brother, Bernie.

His memoir, titled “Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair,” is scheduled to be released in April, 2017, by Da Capo Press. The book, which took five years to complete and is co-written with John U. Bacon, is billed as a candid and revealing look at the broadcaster’s depression.

Al Howie




Arthur John Howie
Born: September 16, 1945 (Saltcoats, Scotland)
Died: June 21, 2016 (Duncan, British Columbia)
Member: Greater Victoria (B.C.) Sports Hall of Fame

Al Howie ran the length of Great Britain and the breadth of Canada. He ran into the record books and then ran off into obscurity.

Mr. Howie, who has died at 70, scampered across deserts, jogged through prairies, scuttled over mountain passes. The Scottish-born athlete — one of the greatest runners in Canadian history — belonged to the small fraternity of ultra-marathoners, runners who competed across vast distances for hours and days at a time.

Mr. Howie’s feats were outlandish, the distances covered so outrageous as to be comical. He won six-day foot races in California and seven-day races in New York. He once completed a marathon in Edmonton only to run the 1,500 kilometres to Vancouver Island to compete in a marathon in Victoria. He also ran from Winnipeg to Ottawa, competing in marathons in both cities. Most famously, he ran across Canada for two gruelling months in 1991. Still, his feats rarely earned more than a brief paragraph in the daily newspapers.

Had his specialty been the 100-metre dash, or the marathon — a mere jog in the park for Mr. Howie at 26-miles, 385-yards (42.195 kilometres) — he would have been a household name in his adopted land. Instead, he spent much of his running career in near-penury, a workingman who earned his daily bread in the woods of British Columbia and whose weekends were spent in a pitiless pursuit.

Mr. Howie stood out as an eccentric even in the offbeat world of road runners. He was called the Spartan Tartan, known for wearing a toque over long, flowing blond hair, his face covered by a bushy red beard. A T-shirt hung loose over a sinewy, 5-foot-8, 130-pound frame, while wee shorts decorated in a Union Jack motif revealed legs more spindly than powerful. He looked like a skinny Rob Roy, sounded like Scotty from Star Trek, and had the prickly temperament of Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons. He liked to drink beer before a race, a habit that infuriated some of his lesser competitors, and was known to have more than one afterwards. The beer helped ease the pain from blisters, he explained.

At times, his special skill seemed more curse than blessing.

“I have to admit,” he told the New York Times, “there are days when I wish I was good at something a little easier, like darts or pool.”

While other sports attracted corporate sponsors and large salaries, or offered fame worthy of an Olympic champion, ultra-marathoning remained the purview of the indefatigably obsessed. Sponsorships and prize money were scarce. Competitions featuring runners going in circles around a track for a week do not make for good television.

“I run on resentment, angrily pounding the blacktop,” he once wrote. “Why must I run on empty? Who do I get no support from my hometown? Mostly, I plod on because I have committed myself to this asphalt insanity and I simple don’t know how to quit.”

For his part, Mr. Howie felt less like he was helping to popularize a fringe sport then that he had been born a century too late.

“From 1870 to 1890, six-day races were the thing,” he told the journalist Jody Paterson. “The top prize was $40,000, which would have been an incredible amount back then. If I’d have been alive then, I’d have been rich, a Gretzky.”

Arthur John Howie was born in the Scottish coastal village of Saltcoats at war’s end on Sept. 16, 1945, to Mary Armour (née Lochead) and Arthur John Ewing Howie, a mariner who later served as chief steward for a shipping line. Before marriage, his father had been an amateur boxer, his mother a club champion swimmer. Family vacations included walking tours of the Scottish countryside, the boy racing ahead of his siblings to place a valley rock atop the cairns that grace Caledonian hilltops.

Young Arthur became known as Alfie when a new boy at school mangled his name. The nickname stuck until the Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis composition “Alfie” became a hit in 1966, forcing a shortening to Al to avoid answering the inevitable, tiresome question, “What’s it all about?” Scoring good marks at Ardrossan Academy, a secondary school, with little effort, Mr. Howie eschewed university for more hedonistic pursuits as a hippie enjoying the pleasures on offer in the late 1960s.

He worked for a time in a German factory, which provided enough income for an idyllic life in a Turkish fishing village until funds ran out.

A brief marriage to an American woman left him the single father of a son. When custody of the boy was challenged, Mr. Howie and a woman with whom he then had a common-law relationship moved to her Toronto hometown. Mr. Howie adopted an assumed name until a settlement was reached with his wife. He worked in a foundry in winter and as a stonemason in summer.

A daily three-pack habit of cigarettes proved difficult to quit. One day, frustrated by cravings, Mr. Howie, on impulse, began jogging in street clothes. He travelled about 16 kilometres before stopping. “I took up running to get rid of my aggression,” he once told the sportswriter Gare Joyce. A daily running regimen eased the symptoms of tobacco withdrawal.

One day, when his factory mates argued how long it would take a horse to travel from Toronto to Niagara Falls, Mr. Howie insisted he could do so in a day. They scoffed, yet he soon after successfully completed the 125-km run.

He became a father again, this time to a daughter, though the relationship with her mother foundered. Mr. Howie moved to the West Coast, where he again adopted an unstructured life of whim and poverty.

After getting a job operating a crusher at a copper mine on Vancouver Island, he commuted the 20 km between town and mine pit by sneaker.

In time, Mr. Howie’s escapades earned notice in British Columbia newspapers. When other people might drive, fly, or travel by bus between far-off cities, Mr. Howie ran because it was cheap. He often slept under the stars. In 1978, he ran 500 km from Victoria to Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island to raise money for charity. In 1979, he ran from Victoria to Prince George to race in a marathon. (Another competitor was an unknown Terry Fox, running his first marathon on an artificial leg just eight months before launching his cross-Canada Marathon of Hope. Rick Hansen raced in his wheelchair at the event, six years before the start of his Man in Motion world tour.) In 1980, Mr. Howie finished third in the Edmonton marathon before running to Vancouver Island, where he finished 14th in the Royal Victoria Marathon.

In 1983, he ran from Winnipeg to Parliament Hill on Ottawa, enduring black fly bites outside Wawa, Ont., that caused his face to swell. A sponsoring brewery covered $100 in daily expenses and provided free samples of their product in exchange for the runner wearing a promotional T-shirt and cap. A company official estimated Mr. Howie consumed 18 bottles of their product daily. “Not that much,” Mr. Howie insisted. That same year, he won a 100-kilometre race in Toronto in 7 hours, 30 minutes, 31 seconds, nearly 90 minutes faster than the previous record. His strategy in an endurance race was to go out at a blistering pace for the first mile to dispirit his competitors.

In 1987, he completed 1,422 laps on the track at Centennial Stadium at the University of Victoria to break a Swedish runner’s mark for distance covered in a continuous run. Mr. Howie needed 104 hours, 29 minutes, 48 seconds. Told the record was his, he ran another 18 laps to cover the possibility of any miscalculation.

He ran from John O’Groats in Scotland to Land’s End in Cornwall in 11 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes in 1988, bettering the previous mark by more than 22 hours. The record has since been eclipsed.

In 1989, he became the first runner to complete the New York Sri Chinmoy Ultra-Marathon, an unforgiving 2,100-kilometre endurance race with an 18-day time limit. Mr. Howie finished in 17 days, eight hours, 25 minutes, 34 seconds. After more than a fortnight of sleeping less than four hours each night, he allowed himself the indulgence of a six-hour nap, waking in time to greet the second-place finisher.

On June 21, 1991, Mr. Howie was joined at Mile 0 in Newfoundland by the mayor of St. John’s, who ran alongside for the first kilometre of what would be a 7,295.5-km cross-continent odyssey. Within days, a scorching summer sun caused a severe burn to the skin on Mr. Howie’s upper lip, which turned black and began to peel. Afterwards, he wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, as well as a homemade cardboard chevron over his nose, leaving him looking like a child dressed up as a penguin. A great admirer of Mr. Fox and his thwarted quest, Mr. Howie knew as an able-bodied athlete he needed to do something special to gain attention. He set a pace of running more than 100-kilometres each day, the equivalent of about two-and-a-half Boston Marathons. Every day. For 72 consecutive days.

The grand trek ended to the skirl of bagpipes and the cheers from about 100 spectators as Mr. Howie plunged into the salt waters at the terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway in Victoria. His journey, called the Tomorrow Run ’91, raised $527,400 for the Elks Club’s Royal Purple Cross Fund for Children. Mr. Howie celebrated by downing two beers and glass of champagne. The feat gained him notice in the Guinness World Records book.

Incredibly, just two weeks later, he returned to New York to defend his title, breaking his own standard in the 2,100-km Sri Chinmoy race with a time of 16 days, 19 hours.

In 1993, Mr. Howie won the six-day Gibson Ranch Multi-Day Classic run in California. He completed 180, 120, 111, 115, 107 and 109 kms on successive days on a loop through a county park outside Sacramento. He ended his competitive career in 1999.

Mr. Howie battled health problems in his years as a runner. He said he was diagnosed with brain cancer which he treated with a macrobiotic diet. He also developed diabetes, which he controlled by paying strict attention to blood-sugar levels.

What little money he earned in all his years of running came from labour as a mason, a scallop farmer, and as a tree planter, an arduous, piecework job that rewards singleminded obsessiveness and for which he was uniquely qualified.

“He was socially inept in many ways,” said Claudia Cole, who married Mr. Howie in 1987 and from whom he was estranged. “A lovely man, but he couldn’t get the nuance of human action. Same with dogs. He had to be warned if a dog’s ears were back.”

In recent years, Mr. Howie lived in an assisted-care facility on Vancouver Island.

Mr. Howie died on June 21 in Duncan, B.C. The cause of death is unknown although he was in poor health with complications from diabetes. He leaves Ms. Cole. He also leaves a son, Gabriel Howie, of Ardrossan, Scotland, and a daughter, Dana Corfield, of Mississauga, Ont., and Cusco, Peru, as well as an older sister, Elizabeth Howie, and a younger brother, Ian Howie, both of whom still live in Saltcoats.

In recent years, a journalist and a retired professor in Victoria campaigned to gain recognition for Mr. Howie’s achievements, resulting so far in the runner being inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

Mr. Howie is one of four athletes celebrated along the Dallas Road waterfront in Victoria, where a plaque at Mile Zero commemorates his cross-Canada trek. Nearby, a statue memorializes the great Terry Fox. Others honoured are disabled runner Steve Fonyo and swimmer Marilyn Bell, who conquered the Juan de Fuca Strait. Mr. Howie, the most obscure of the quartet, is among august company.

Lou Fontinato

Lou Fontinato (Canadiens, No 19)

Louis Joseph Fontinato
Born: January 20, 1932 (Guelph, Ontario)
Died: July 3, 2016 (Guelph, Ontario)
Member: Guelph (Ont.) Sports Hall of Fame


Hockey defenceman Lou Fontinato prowled his blue-line like a beat cop who believed the law did not apply to him.

He corralled speedy rivals with illegal holds, administered full-body frisks along the boards, wielded his stick like a billy club.

Mr. Fontinato, who has died at 84, was an incorrigible scofflaw. In his first full season in the NHL, he shattered the record for penalties, becoming the first man in league history to be assessed more than 200 minutes.

Carrying a solid 191 pounds on a 6-foot-1 frame, Mr. Fontinato was a menacing presence on the ice. While his skating and stick-handling were crude, he was not employed as a scorer. He was an enforcer and a strongman who built a reputation as the toughest player of his era. The New York Times called him a “cheerful villain.”

“If I can whack a fellow into the boards often enough,” the defenceman once said, “he starts lifting his head to look for me instead of concentrating on the puck.”

Lou Fontinato bloody noseIn the end, though, he was remembered long after he retired for two incidents. In a 1959 fight, Gordie Howe performed a rhinoplasty on Mr. Fontinato’s prominent proboscis with his knuckles. Four years later, the defenceman’s career ended when he was left paralyzed after a sickening collision with the boards. That he recovered from both was a testament to his ruggedness.

Louis Joseph Fontinato was born on Jan. 20, 1932, in Guelph, Ont., where he was the only boy of six children born to Maria and Liberale Fontinato, immigrants from Treviso, Italy, north of Venice. The parents arrived with only a single suitcase, boarding with Italian families until they could buy a house at 170 Ferguson St. in St. Patrick’s Ward, a predominantly Italian neighbourhood known as The Ward. Liberale Fontinato, a labourer who worked for the International Malleable Iron Company for 40 years, also owned a small acreage on the outskirts of the city that he used as a market garden. In winter, he built a skating rink next to the family home so the neighbourhood boys could play hockey.

“Weren’t we lucky to be born in the Ward,” Lou Fontinato once told the journalist Hilary Stead. “Everyone down there had a work ethic.”

He brought the same attitude to his hockey career, dropping out after Grade 8 to work in a machine shop while skating for the local junior hockey team sponsored by the Biltmore Hat Company, which was stocked with teenaged players whose rights were owned by the NHL’s New York Rangers. In 1952, under coach Alf Pike, a former Rangers forward, the Madhatters defeated the Toronto Marlboros, the St. Catharines (Ont.) Teepees, Porcupine (Ont.) Combines, Montreal Jr. Royals and Regina Pats to claim the Memorial Cup as junior hockey champions. Mr. Fontinato and several of his Guelph teammates went on to NHL careers, prominent amongst them Andy Bathgate.

Before playing a single NHL game, the towering rearguard had impressed Rangers coach Phil Watson at a training camp by engaging in a fist-fight with teammate Ivan (The Terrible) Irwin.

After almost three years of seasoning in the minor-league Western Hockey League, Mr. Fontinato made his NHL debut with the Rangers in October, 1954.

In his first full campaign of 70 games the following season, Mr. Fontinato was assessed fouls worth 202 penalty minutes, shattering the single season mark held by Toronto’s Red Horner (167 minutes in 43 games), which had been the benchmark for felonious playmaking for two decades. The standard lasted seven seasons until Howie Young’s notorious crime spree of 1962-63. It was the first of three seasons in which Mr. Fontinato led the league in penalties.

A brash style seemed reflective of a raucous new sound filling the airwaves, so young Mr. Fontinato was dubbed the Rock ’n’ Roll Kid. That nickname did not stick, nor did Rocky for his rock-hard body-checking, but his histrionic pleading after being assessed a penalty gave birth to Leapin’ Louie, which did.

Though tall, Mr. Fontinato often crouched in the opening moments of the sudden combustion that is a hockey fight. The odd stance might have served to protect his long, horsey face, featuring a prominent, oft-broken nose. From bent knees, he liked to throw long, looping right hands.

His brawling reputation attracted the attention of non-fans in 1958 when a nationally televised game in the United States featured Mr. Fontinato attacking a paying customer. After being sent to the penalty box for slashing Fernie Flaman, Mr. Fontinato was subjected to jeering and catcalls from a patron at Boston Garden. Infuriated, Mr. Fontinato jumped from the penalty box in an unsuccessful attempt to grab the fan. As the New York defenceman began fighting in the crowd, players from both teams joined the melee, as did a dozen Boston policemen.

With only six teams in the NHL and a 70-game schedule to play, rivalries were as intense as a Hatfield-McCoy dispute. One of Mr. Fontinato’s targets was Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings, a superior player who he was often assigned to shadow. The pair had a long history of antagonisms, including some vicious stickwork, when they dropped the gloves during a donnybrook at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 1, 1959. While accounts of the battle are disputed, Mr. Howe clearly caused the greater visual damage, as the defenceman was left bloodied with a nose, now broken for the fifth time, looking like a ski run down the middle of his face.

Mr. Fontinato had recently been the subject of a six-page spread in Look magazine describing him as hockey’s toughest player. Life magazine replied after the game with an article headlined, “Don’t mess around with Gordie,” featuring a photograph of Mr. Fontinato’s bruised and bandaged face. “Howe’s punches went whop-whop-whop,” Life quoted an anonymous Red Wings player, “just like someone chopping wood.”

The fight cemented Mr. Howe’s reputation for toughness. Mr. Fontinato, immune to any suggestion he had been licked, continued his wonton ways, earning a $100 fine for a stick-swinging duel with Toronto’s Frank Mahovlich in an exhibition game. He was also fined $25 by the league for his role in a 1961 game against the Maple Leafs in New York, during which he felled Toronto’s Bert Olmstead with a punch, inspiring the melee to follow.

In 1961, Mr. Fontinato was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Doug Harvey, a defenceman who had fallen foul of Montreal management.

Mr. Fontinato’s hockey career ended — and wit it, nearly his life — in a game against his old team on March 9, 1963. The defenceman served as a one-man posse in gunning for Vic Hadfield of the Rangers, the subject of several long and unresolved disputes.

“I had given him the business earlier in the game, hitting him and elbowing him, trying to put him in his place,” Mr. Fontinato told the Globe in 1986. “The puck was shot in my end. I looked up to see who was coming to forecheck and saw Hadfield making a beeline for me. I had a trick, dropping down to one knee and letting the guy go over me into the boards, and that’s what I did.”

An awkward collision caused the defenceman to strike his head against the boards. He crumpled to the ice at the Forum in Montreal, his unmoving form causing the crowd to hush. A vertebrae in his neck was crushed and partially dislocated, leaving him paralysed. He needed an operation lasting more than seven hours and remained in hospital in a body cast for three months.

In 535 NHL games, he scored 26 goals and 78 assists to go with a whopping 1,247 penalty minutes, meaning he spent the equivalent of more than 20 complete games watching from hockey’s Elba. He also had two assists and 42 more penalty minutes in 21 playoff games.

After recovering from his injury, he coached junior hockey in his home town and in Orangeville, Ont. He became a fulltime cattle farmer on a property near Eden Mills. Two years ago, he suffered minor injuries while trying to rescue equipment from a fire that claimed large implement shed on his land.

He was inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

Mr. Fontinato died on July 3 at a Guelph retirement home. He leaves a son and a daughter. He was predeceased by a son, Louis Gerard Fontinato, who died in 1996. He also leaves three sisters and was predeceased by two sisters.

He outlived his old nemesis, Mr. Howe, who died on June 10, aged 88, by 23 days. Most Howe obituaries noted the fight with Mr. Fontinato, the two to be forever associated for a brief fight of intense ferocity.

Lou Fontinato beaten by HoweLIFE magazine offers some post-fight advice for Lou Fontinato.

Jocelyn Lovell

Jocelyn Lovell training

Jocelyn Charles Bjorn Lovell
Born: July 19, 1950 (Norwich, England)
Died: June 3, 2016 (Toronto, Ontario)
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
Cycling Canada Hall of Fame

Jocelyn Lovell was a cyclist of flawless technique whose cocky, defiant temperament made him a champion on the track.

His nonconformist spirit also made him a target for his sport’s administrators with whom he feuded throughout his career.

Mr. Lovell claimed more than 35 national titles. On the world stage, he competed at three Olympics, claimed a world championship silver medal, and won six Commonwealth Games medals, four of them gold. His medal haul would likely been greater had he not been suspended for a prank involving a box of cookies.

The greatest Canadian cyclist of his generation nearly died in 1983 after suffering catastrophic injuries when run over by a dump truck while training. The accident left him a quadriplegic, forcing him to replace two wheels with four. His prickly nature undiminished, Mr. Lovell became a fierce advocate for finding a cure for spinal-cord injuries, a cause that dominated his life until his death earlier this month at 65.

Jocelyn Charles Bjorn Lovell was born on July 19, 1950, at Norwich, England, to Margit (née Petersen) and Anthony Lovell. The family moved to Canada when the boy was five, living in Saskatchewan, where his father was a schoolteacher, before settling in Toronto.

At age 16, he was named to the Canadian cycling team for the Pan American Games held in Winnipeg in 1967. Just nine days after his 17th birthday, he set a Canadian record in the 1,000-metre track sprint, finishing just 0.78 seconds behind the bronze medal winner.

The following year the teenager competed at his first of three Olympics, finishing a respectable seventh in the kilometre time trial though he was the youngest cyclist in the competition.

Mr. Lovell became a national sporting star with his performance at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh, Scotland, winning a gold medal (10-mile race), a silver (tandem with Barry Harvey), and a bronze (time trial). The gold ended a 36-year drought for Canada in cycling at the competition. The young cyclist, who celebrated his 20th birthday during the games, won the race despite suffering painful cuts and bruises in a fall in a previous race.

Mr. Lovell was a Frisbee-tossing free spirit who marked his triumph at Edinburgh by commandeering a child’s tricycle for a victory lap around the track. He sported tattoos and an earring at a time when such decorations were still associated with deviancy.
He chafed at the dictates of the Canadian team’s managers and a youthful prank gave officials the opportunity they long seemed to desire to rein in their insubordinate star.

Late in 1973, the Canadian Cycling Association suspended the cyclist for six months, ensuring he could not compete at the upcoming Commonwealth Games to be held in New Zealand. The suspension was levied after administrators learned he had pilfered a box of cookies several months earlier while staying a hotel during a training session in France. (His room key opened a storage closet which included small boxes of cookies to be left on pillows as a bedtime snack. Mr. Lovell shared the box with teammates.) Incredibly, the cycling team manager originally demanded a lifetime ban for what became infamously known as “the cookie caper.”

“The Canadian government has spent about $30,000 helping me since 1967,” Mr. Lovell told the Toronto Star’s David Steen at the time. “It’s discouraging to be hung for a box of cookies. They weren’t worth more than 50 cents.”

The association taught Mr. Lovell a lesson, but at a cost. Canada failed to win a cycling medal at the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

On his return, Mr. Lovell accepted the stringent training regimen demanded by team officials, though he found lesser success on the track.

An Olympic title proved elusive at Munich in 1972 and, crushingly so, in Montreal in 1976, where a home audience desperate for a medal was disappointed by a 13th-place finish in the kilometre time trial at the Olympic Velodrome. Mr. Lovell was also part of a Canadian quartet that finished 11th in the men’s team pursuit.

By 1978, Mr. Lovell once again eschewed an established training schedule in favour of a return to his own freewheeling style.

“If I could look back eight, 10 years ago, I was young, green and could do darn near anything I wanted to and no one could hold me back,” he told the sports writer John Korobanik. “I didn’t think about my future at all. I was happy-go-lucky.”

The result was a trio of gold medals before a cheering home audience at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, cementing his reputation as an icon of the sport and undoubtedly inspiring a succeeding generation of cyclists.

Mr. Lovell was on a training run near his home on Aug. 4, 1983, when struck from behind by a dump truck on Britannia Road outside Milton, Ont. He suffered a broken neck, a fractured arm and pelvis, and a deep cut to his scalp. He fought for his life for several days before his condition stabilized.

Less than two years after his accident, Mr. Lovell addressed students at a Toronto nursing school about his own ill treatment in hospital, during which he suffered a broken arm while being turned over roughly by an orderly. He sometimes had to lay in his own excrement for hours at a time and once went more than a week without being given a bath.

No criminal charges were laid in the accident. Four years later, a settlement of a civil suit gave Mr. Lovell a $500,000 award for damages, as well as monthly payments of more than $4,000. His estranged wife Sylvia Burke, a world speed-skating champion, was provided $75,000 and the couple got $100,000 for legal costs.

The financial security provided Mr. Lovell a renewed ability to pursue a cure for spinal cord injuries. He was a critic of campaigns to raise money for rehabilitation, including that of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion, as Mr. Lovell insisted the only worthwhile initiative was in funding research to end paralysis. He led his tireless crusade as a chapter head of the Spinal Cord Society of Canada.

Mr. Lovell lived in a waterfront home in the Port Credit neighbourhood of the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. Some of his cycling medals were embedded in a flagstone path on the property. He was known to give away medals to friends and acquaintances.

Mr. Lovell died in hospital on June 3 after suffering a heart attack. He leaves his second wife, the former Annie Sumner, known as Neil, whom he married in 2000. (Mr. Lovell liked to confound store clerks and repairmen by playing on his feminine first name and his wife’s masculine nickname.) He is also survived by a brother and two sisters.

The cyclist was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1985. Last year, he was part of the inaugural group of nine to be inducted into the Cycling Canada Hall of Fame, which is located at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, a short ride from the site of his devastating accident.

Stevie Smith

Paris Gore Photography

Steve Smith
Born: November 25, 1989 (Cassidy, British Columbia)
Died: May 10, 2016 (Nanaimo, British Columbia)

Stevie Smith was Canada’s greatest downhill mountain bike racer, a fierce competitor whose fearless descent of mountain trails earned him global recognition in a burgeoning sport.

Early in his professional career, a commentator dubbed him the Canadian Chainsaw Massacre for his hellbent style. The rider, an amiable presence on the circuit who was known for a crooked-tooth smile, eagerly adopted the moniker, often shortened to Chainsaw.

Mr. Smith has died at 26 following an off-road motorcycle crash on an old logging road near his home on Vancouver Island. According to Canadian Cyclist magazine, he collided with another motorcycle rider and both injured men were later discovered by mountain bikers, Mr. Smith suffered severe head injuries and died in hospital four days later on May 10.

In 2013, Mr. Smith became the first Canadian to win a World Cup championship in what is known as gravity racing. Injuries, including a broken ankle, hampered his performance for two years. He was on a comeback this season as lead rider for the Quebec-based Devinci Global Racing team.

“Stevie was a fierce competitor, an honest friend and a rider who made me proud on countless occasions,” Devinci team manager Gabe Fox said in a statement announcing the death.

Mr. Smith opened the 2016 campaign on April 10 with a podium finish in a race at Lourdes, France, which has a two-kilometre track with a vertical drop of 477 metres in which riders reach a top speed of 63 kilometres per hour. Mr. Smith finished 2.5 seconds behind defending champion Aaron Gwin of California.

What would be Mr. Smith’s final race was a fourth-place finish at Cairns, Australia, on April 21 on the tour’s second race of the season.

Downhill is an unnerving, bone-rattling discipline requiring strength, concentration, and the ability to make split-second tactical decisions on rough terrain in good weather and bad. It also demands a fearlessness flirting with recklessness.

Mr. Smith learned to ride on the unforgiving mountain trails ofVancouver Island, where exposed tree roots and mossy rocks are more common than grassy berms.

“I like riding anything that is full of rocks and roots,” he once said, “the gnarlier the better.”

Born on Nov. 25, 1989, in Cassidy, B.C., a former coal-mining town south of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Mr. Smith was raised by a struggling single mother. Family lore has it that he got his first bicycle at age five — a second-hand Free Agent BMX — after his grandmother offered to bake a dozen apple pies for the shop owner in exchange for the wheels.

The boy eventually tired of racing on groomed BMX trails, trying dirt jumping, cross-country, and motorbike racing before becoming a force in downhill.

He first gained public notoriety as a 15-year-old when the British Columbia-based biking and filming group known as The Collective included the youth in their 2004 film, “Seasons.” The spectacularly-shot action documentary follows seven elite racers through a year of racing. The director Darcy Wittenburg decided to include the precocious teenager after he finished 21st against an elite field in the infamous Mount 7 Psychosis race at Golden, B.C. The teenager is shown being driven up a mountain for practice runs after school in a beater car by his mother.

His favourite run was a steep trail known as Patchworks on Mount Prevost outside Duncan, B.C. It took his mother 12 minutes to return by car to the bottom of the mountain. In time, the lad could finish the run in about half the time it took his mother to drive.

His ambition, he said at the time, was “not having to work. Just ride my bike as a job. Makes me want to push harder.”

He has hold interviewers his only real job was at a local Tim Hortons donut shop, where an unhappy encounter with a demanding customer led to his being removed from customer service.

He claimed his first national title as a junior in 2005 and was soon after dominating national competitions.

In 2013, he won the final three of six races on the World Cup circuit — at Mont-Saint-Anne, Quebec; Hafjell, Norway; and, Leogang, Austria — to claim the UCI (Union Cycliste International) World Cup championship in a narrow margin over Gee Atherton of Salisbury, England. As he streaked across the finish line in the final race, Mr. Smith spun his bicycle in the air before discarding it to pump both fists in the air.

At the world championship race later that year at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Mr. Smith crashed in the first corner before finishing 63rd among 68 competitors.
In 2010, Mr. Smith thrilled a hometown crowd — and announced his arrival in the sport — by finishing second in the world championship race in slick conditions at Mont-Sainte-Anne. He had suffered a separated shoulder in practice earlier in the week. The racer finished third in the world championship race in 2012 at Leogang.

“I’ve had silver and bronze,” Mr. Smith said after that race, “so hopefully the next one will be gold.”

He leaves his girlfriend, Caily Schenkeveld, as well as his mother, Tianna Smith, and a sister, Kara Harrington. He also is survived by his grandmother Judi, who baked pies in exchange for his first bike. A celebration of life will be held May 21 at the Vancouver Island Convention Centre in Nanaimo.

The day after his death, a legacy fund was launched to assist young athletes. The fund reached its goal of $25,000 in a single day thanks to contributions by more than 200 donors.

Charlie Hodge

Charlie Hodge posed kick save

Charles Edward Hodge
Born: July 28, 1933 (Lachine, Québec)
Died: April 16, 2016 (Abbotsford, British Columbia)

The goaltender Charlie Hodge spent much of his hockey career as an understudy before becoming a castoff.

The diminutive goalie, whose hockey cards described him as the shortest player in the NHL, seemed unable to convince management of the Montreal Canadiens he was worthy of the No. 1 sweater he wore.

Despite doubts about his ability, the goalie managed to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup six times as a player. He also twice won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender.

1964 Charlie Hodge tall boy cardThe reward for his under-appreciated success was to be selected by the expansion Oakland Seals, a woeful club for whom he would see more rubber than a worker at a tire factory. Three seasons later, he was picked by another expansion team, the Vancouver Canucks, once again enduring the unenviable task of being the last defence on a roster staffed by rejects and discards.

Mr. Hodge, a longtime resident of the Vancouver suburb of Langley, died of heart failure on April 16 at Abbotsford Regional Hospital in suburban Vancouver. He was 82. He leaves his wife, Sheila; three sons; six grandchildren; and, three great-grandchildren.

Mr. Hodge had a long second career as a West Coast scout, known as a curmudgeonly figure at hockey rinks in British Columbia. In 2015, a plaque was placed on Seat 8, Row 1, Section 4 of the Pacific Coliseum, the arena that had once been his workplace and the home arena in recent years of the Vancouver Giants junor team. “Reserved for Charlie Hodge,” the plaque read, “Canucks Alumni and NHL scout.”

While there was some playacting in his crusty demeanour, Mr. Hodge nursed ancient resentments. As a young man, he had great success as a paddler and looked forward to competing at the 1956 Olympic Games as a canoe racer only to be rejected for losing his amateur status as a professional hockey player. The snub bothered him decades later.

“I’m still ticked off,” he told Ian MacDonald of the Montreal Gazette in 2004. “What’s the relationship between paddling and hockey?”

Charles Edward Hodge was born in Lachine, a Montreal suburb, on July 28, 1933, to the former Jeanie Bridges and John McLean Hodge, a welder from Scotland. He made his debut in junior hockey at age 16 in 1950, losing two playoff games as a fill-in goalie for the Junior Canadiens, who went on to win the Memorial Cup championship.

After three seasons, he turned professional with the Cincinnati Mohawks in 1953-54, leading the International Hockey League with the lowest goals-against average.

Mr. Hodge got a 14-game tryout with the Canadiens the following season. On Dec. 9, 1954, he blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Montreal Forum for the first of his 24 regular-season NHL shutouts.

The 5-foot-6, 150-pound netminder had the misfortune of being the second-best goaltender in a system in which the great Jacques Plante held top spot. After nine seasons of pro hockey, Mr. Hodge had played only 63 games in Montreal’s famous red-white-and-blue sweater.

His long minor-league apprenticeship included stints with the Buffalo Bisons, Providence Reds, Seattle Americans, Shawinigan Cataracts, Montreal Royals, Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, and Quebec Aces.

Meanwhile, in summer, he wore the red-and-white, barber-pole striped singlet of the Lachine Racing Canoe Club. In 1955, he and partner Art (Herky) Jordan won the North American single blade tandem championship in a regatta at Rivière des Prairies, Que. The pair were also part of the gold medal-winning foursome in the kilometre paddle. Mr. Hodge’s dream to compete at the Olympics in Australia was thwarted by officials.

The Canadiens traded Mr. Plante to the New York Rangers in a seven-player trade in 1963, getting in exchange the roly-poly goalie Lorne (Gump) Worsley. A flopping goalie who guarded his net like a freshly-landed flounder, the Canadiens expected Mr. Worsley to be the club’s top goalie until he suffered a pulled hamstring.

Charlie Hodge with Oakland SealsMr. Hodge made the most of his opportunity, winning 33 games with a fine 2.26 goals-against average thanks in part to recording a league-best eight shutouts. He won the Vezina as top goalie, a trophy he would share two years later with Mr. Worsley.

Even after the formidable shadow of Mr. Plante had been moved, Mr. Hodge suffered the indignity of seeing management tout such prospects as Cesare Maniago and, later, Rogatien Vachon as the team’s goalies of the future.
With the NHL doubling in size to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season, the six established teams were only allowed to keep a single goalie on a protected list. The Canadiens opted to keep Mr. Worsley, exposing Mr. Hodge to the draft. He was taken in the first-round of the expansion draft, No. 6 overall, by the Seals. He provided a yeoman’s effort, but the woeful Seals were the worst team in the league. Mr. Hodge was credited with 13 of the team’s 15 wins. He also suffered an NHL worst 29 defeats.

When the NHL added two more teams in 1970, Mr. Hodge was again left unprotected and the Vancouver Canucks snapped him up. (The goalie had played for a Western Hockey League team of the same name two seasons earlier and was something of a crowd favourite.) Mr. Hodge backstopped the Canucks’ first NHL victory (a 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs) and ended what would be his final campaign with a winning record of 15 wins, 13 losses, 5 ties.

He coached a Vancouver junior hockey team and sold real estate for more than a decade. After the Winnipeg Jets entered the NHL, general manager John Ferguson, a former teammate of Hodge’s with the Canadiens in the 1960s, hired him as an amateur scout. He later filled the same role for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins. After the Penguins won a second consecutive Stanley Cup in 1992, the team’s scouts were included in the engraving. It marked the seventh and final time his name appeared on the Stanley Cup, a feat that eluded his more famous contemporaries — Mr. Plante, Mr. Worsley, Glenn Hall, Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk, all of whom wound up in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Charlie Hodge as boy goalie
Charlie Hodge as a boy goalie in his hometown of Lachine, Que.

Charlie Hodhe in Lachine canoe singlet
Charlie Hodge (far right) as a Lachine paddler in a newspaper clipping.

Charlie Hodge with goalie pads and sons
The goalie with his sons.

Charlie Hodge face mask game save

1955-56 stanley cup engravingStanley Cup engraving for 1955-56.

1968-69-o-pee-chee-78-charlie-hodge-backThe rear of Hodge’s 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee card.

Ellison Kelly

Ellison Kelly All-Star

Ellison Lamar Kelly
Born: May 17, 1935 (Butler, Georgia)
Died: February 11, 2016 (Hamilton, Ontario)

Ellison Kelly, an ironman on the offensive line, helped his Hamilton Tiger-Cats win three Grey Cup football championships in the 1960s.

He never missed a game in his 13-season Canadian Football League career, suiting up for 175 consecutive games before retiring at the end of the 1972 season.

Mr. Kelly, who has died at 80, was known as a quiet, spiritual man both on the field and in the locker room. Away from the stadium, he worked as a substitute teacher in Hamilton during his playing days and later became athletic director at a jail.

He was a perennial all-star in the Eastern conference, winning honours eight times in 13 seasons. He was also named to the league’s all-star team three times.

The Ticats were a powerhouse during his tenure with the team, advancing to six Grey Cup games. The team was known for its stingy defence and the fearsome hitting of such stars as Angelo Mosca.

Kelly EllisonFootball’s offensive line is a front-line trench for large men whose job it is to protect the quarterback and open paths for runners. When guards and tackles fail, a quarterback is sacked, or a running back tackled.

When a play unfolds as planned, all eyes are on the attacking player, not on the anonymous behemoth who executed the perfect block. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Mr. Kelly was a stalwart as both a guard and a tackle with a reputation for having excellent technique. It was his burden that the better he was at his job the less he was noticed by fans.

Twenty years after he retired, Mr. Kelly was at last inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Ellison Lamar Kelly was born on May 17, 1935, in Butler, Ga. He was the first of five children and the only son born to Maggie (née Collier) and John West Kelly, a Baptist deacon. The family later moved to Lake City, Fla., where the boy enjoyed a bucolic childhood despite the lack of electricity and running water in the family home and the occasional run-in with central Florida’s exotic wildlife. One night while visiting the outhouse, he heard a rustling outside. Fearing an alligator, he hid within the outhouse until daybreak, only to emerge to discover his concerned parents had called the police to search for a missing son.

The Kelly family later moved to Sandusky, Ohio, where the father worked on the assembly line of a Ford factory before becoming a supervisor. Young Ellison starred at Sandusky High in the classroom and on the field, earning all-state honours as a tackle for the Blue Streaks. He was also a superb basketball player, boxer and track athlete in the discus and shot put, the latter in which he set a school record that would last 20 years.

A football scholarship took him to Michigan State University in East Lansing, where he played a key rule as a two-way player with the Spartans under coach Duffy Daugherty. He became a first stringer towards the end of his sophomore season before being named to Big Ten all-conference teams at guard in 1957 and 1958. Mr. Kelly also earned academic honours for combining scholarship with athleticism before graduating with a degree in business administration.

The New York Giants of the National Football League drafted the guard in the fifth round (No. 59 overall) of the 1959 draft. He signed an $8,000 US contract with a $1,000 signing bonus and saw spot duty in 12 games for the Giants that season. He roomed with Roosevelt (Rosey) Grier and enjoyed some of the entertainments available for a professional athlete in New York, attending shows at Manhattan night spots, where he met the likes of Tina Turner and Louis Armstrong. He also formed a friendship with the singer Sam Cooke, both men sharing a background as African-American PKs (preacher’s kids) from the South.

The Giants cut Mr. Kelly just before the start of the 1960 NFL season, a decision he felt unfair and the result of an unacknowledged quota on the number of black players on the roster. Four days later, he made his Canadian debut with the Ticats, who were midway through a rebuilding campaign. He became a fixture in the team’s bumblebee livery for the next decade.

“I bleed Black and Gold,” he said when his uniform No. 54 was added to the Wall of Honour at Ivor Wynne Stadium in a 1998 ceremony.

He was named to the league’s all-star team as a guard in 1964 and as a tackle in 1969 and 1970.

In May, 1971, he was traded to the Toronto Argonauts for linebacker Mike Blum. Mr. Kelly played in his seventh and final Grey Cup title game that fall, a contest settled in favour of the Calgary Stampeders after an untouched Leon McQuay slipped, fell and fumbled on the slick Vancouver turf.

Years later, Mr. Kelly testified in a lawsuit by a football player who alleged clubs encouraged drug use among players. He said coaching staffs looked the other way and that “pills were an invisible thing” in team clubhouses. In 1972, Mr. Kelly had told a reporter that benzedrine and dexedrine were common in the league in the 1960s, when “everybody was all bennied up.”

Even after retiring as a player, Mr. Kelly remained a fixture at home football games in Hamilton. He served for many years as one of the judges in the awarding of weekly CFL awards.

Mr. Kelly was a popular figure among inmates at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, as he provided opportunities for recreation and exercise. He loved the job, as the prisoners dared not cross the recreational director for fear of losing their privileges. The former pro athlete spent his working days playing ping-pong with violent criminals while telling them stories about his playing days.

Mr. Kelly died of heart failure on Feb. 11. He leaves two sons, three daughters, a step-daughter, five grandchildren and four sisters. He was predeceased by his first wife Donna (née Bryant), whom he divorced and who died in 1989, and his second wife, Sheila (née Clarke), who died in 2014 at 71.

A memorial service for Mr. Kelly will be held at noon on Saturday at the Marlatt Funeral Home in Hamilton.

In 1964, Mr. Kelly was invited by Vince Lombardi to try out for the Green Bay Packers. Settled in Hamilton with his children in school, Mr. Kelly decided not to take the risk, a decision which haunted him for years. Only his induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame nearly three decades later at long last eased his mind. “The ghost had been released,” he said at the time.

Ian Bruce

Ian Bruce with a Laser

Ian Boyack Bruce 
Born: June 7, 1933 (Kingston, Jamaica)
Died: March 21, 2016 (Hamilton, Ontario)

Ian Bruce, an accidental sailor, built the original Laser, which became one of the world’s most popular racing sailboats.

Mr. Bruce, who has died of cancer at 82, was an industrial designer who became a boatbuilder after taking up dinghy racing as an adult.

The idea for what became the Laser percolated in Mr. Bruce’s head for several years in the carefree 1960s. He had in mind the creation of an affordable sailboat that could fit atop a vehicle roof rack, much as a surfboard atop a California woody.

One day, he talked through his brainstorm while on a telephone conversation with his friend, Bruce Kirby, a journalist and boat designer. Mr. Kirby sketched while Mr. Bruce talked. Danish-born yachtsman Hans Fogh later prepared a sail.

They called the boat the Weekender (Mr. Fogh, a six-time Olympian who died in 2014, had even placed the acronym TGIF in large block letters across the top of the sail) and the craft first raced at the inaugural America’s Teacup Regatta on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin in 1970. A student later suggested the name Laser. The boat was an immediate sensation and the global fleet now numbers more than 200,000 boats in use in 140 nations.

With Mr. Bruce in control of all production, the identical boats proved to be a perfect vehicle for racing, as success would depend on a sailor’s skill, not a craft’s modifications. The Laser was introduced into Olympic competition in 1996.

Ian Boyack Bruce was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on June 7, 1933, to Pamela (née Robison) and William Douglas Boyack Bruce, a chartered accountant. At age 12, Ian was sent to boarding school at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont. He was head prefect in his senior year, as well as serving as school cryer (his shout of “Ye feast-making is begun!” heralded the annual Christmas dinner), a villain in the dramatic society’s production of “The Ghost Train,” and president of the debating society. His vice-president was Charles Taylor, the future philosopher and political theorist. Young Mr. Bruce also played football, cricket and squash, among other sports.

Mr. Bruce was studying engineering at McGill University in Montreal when he received a call from Kirk Cooper, a Bermuda-born friend. As recounted in a story in the Kingston Whig-Standard in 2009, Mr. Cooper was in desperate search for a sailing hand.

“The crew is sick and can’t sail with me,” Mr. Cooper said. “You’re from the islands, you must know how to sail. Ever raced?”

“Kirk,” he replied, “I’m a hell of a spear fisherman.”

Bored by sailing as a boy, he found renewed purpose on the water as a young man, making his debut in an International 14 at a regatta in the Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire.

“It changed my life,” he told the Whig-Standard. “I fell head over heels in love with the sport.”

In 1960, Mr. Bruce represented Canada at the Olympics, competing in a red Finn-class dinghy. He finished third in the opening race and won the seventh and concluding race to finish seventh overall.

He returned to the Olympics in 1972, finishing 12th in the two-man Star class with future business partner Peter Bjorn.

In 1958, he married into what his brother-in-law once described as a “minor establishment family in Ottawa.” The union with Barbara Elize Brittain made the society pages of the newspapers in Montreal and Ottawa (the bride wore a floor-length gown of Chantilly lace over nylon tulle and satin; the couple honeymooned in the Laurentians), and the brother-in-law was Donald Brittain, who would go on to become one of Canada’s greatest documentary filmmakers.

Mrs. Bruce accompanied her husband to Italy for the 1960 Olympics. The couple had met at a yacht club while Mr. Bruce trained on borrowed boats. They sold their household furniture to finance his studies in industrial design at Syracuse University in New York and they sold a 14-foot dinghy to cover fees for the second year. He managed to win scholarships for a third year of studies. “Just as well,” she said. “We haven’t anything left to sell.”

Though he failed to earn a spot on the Olympic podium, Mr. Bruce claimed the prestigious Prince of Wales Trophy in 1967 and 1968 in winning an International Fourteen regatta in Bermuda.

Mr. Bruce was a longtime member of the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club in the Montreal suburb of Dorval. He first tested his Laser prototype on a blustery day in the fall of 1970 on the chilly waters of Lake Saint-Louis adjacent to the club.

Over the years, Mr. Bruce helped designed and build several types of sailboats, including the Byte, which was designed for sailors weighing from 100 to 145 pounds (about 45 to 65 kilograms). The Byte was used in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010.
His Montreal-based company, called PS2000, built such sailboats as the Club 420, the Optimist, the 29er and the Byte. One of its divisions, Montreal Classic Boatworks, produced the Bruce 22, a 22-foot retro-styled 1940s launch.

Mr. Bruce was named to the Order of Canada in 2009 for his development of the Laser, as well as the Byte for younger sailors. He was inducted into Canada’s Boating Hall of Fame by the National Marine Manufacturers Association the following year.

Mr. Bruce died in Hamilton, Ont. He leaves two daughters, two grandsons, and a friend, Lynn Pyfrom Holowesko. He was predeceased by his wife, who died in 2006, aged 73.

Later this summer, Olympic sailors will compete on Guanabara Bay during the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Women will compete aboard Laser Radials for the third Games, while men will compete in the Laser for the sixth consecutive Olympics, a quadrennial reminder of Mr. Bruce’s boatbuilding legacy.

Ian Bruce and Peter Bjorn at 1972 Olympics

Ian Bruce (top) and Peter Bjorn with their Star sailboat prior to the 1972 Olympic regatta at Kiel, Germany.

Vic Peters

Vic Peters

Victor Alvin Peters
Born: March 24, 1955 (Steinbach, Manitoba)
Died: March 27, 2016 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

In a sport known for congeniality, the curler Vic Peters rarely allowed a fierce competitive spirit to trump sportsmanship.

The Manitoba skip, who hailed from a province which asserts its cordiality on license plates, was described as “pleasantly gruff,” “a classy competitor,” and an “all-around good guy.” Though he could not hide the occasional flash of anger on the ice, the gentleman curler maintained a reputation as a good sport, win or lose. He had plenty of experience at both.
Mr. Peters, who has died of cancer at 61, was one of Canada’s top curlers for more than a decade. He won the 1992 Brier in his first of three trips to the national championship.

A small-town curler who moved to Winnipeg to face tougher day-to-day competition, Mr. Peters needed a decade of seasoning at the highest level in his home province before he managed to win his first provincial Tankard in 1992. He repeated as Manitoba champion in 1993 and 1997.

A keen reader of ice and self-disciplined when it came to the tedious task of training, Mr. Peters’ preparations paid off at the 1992 Brier in Regina. On straight ice, he and favoured Russ Howard of Ontario played a dreary, conservative game of draw-peel, draw-peel. Their battle of attrition could have been settled on the final rock when Mr. Peters faced a basic hit and stick for the championship only to have his shooter roll just off the rings. When he faced a similar shot in an extra end, though, the Manitoba skip made it for a 4-3 victory.

His success on the curling sheet was all the more remarkable for his having recovered from a hockey injury that left him with impaired sight in one eye.

Victor Alvin Peters was born on March 24, 1955, at Steinbach, Man., to Margaret (née Klassen) and Jacob J. Peters. Both parents were Russian-born Mennonite immigrants who fled the Bolsheviks for sanctuary in Canada, his mother arriving aboard a coal freighter in 1923 and his father aboard an ocean liner two years later. His mother, a seamstress who was the oldest daughter of 11 children, taught for a year in a one-room schoolhouse in Rosengart, Man., before marrying Mr. Peters, who was also a teacher and who later became a principal and school superintendent in southeastern Manitoba.

Young Vic’s athletic exploits featured frequently in the coverage of his hometown newspaper, as he starred on the Little League baseball diamond and won ribbons in track and field as an elementary student. He later served as the starting shortstop for the Steinbach Steelers men’s softball team and played hockey for his Steinbach Collegiate Institute hockey team. As a quick, but slight 19-year-old centre with hockey’s junior Steinbach Millers, he suffered a bloody injury when he went to block a shot only to have his opponent’s stick shatter, leaving splinters embedded in his right eye. He suffered a detached retina and never regained full vision in the eye. His hockey career was over.

“I was too small anyway,” he told sports writer Randy Turner in 1997. “I got whacked around too much.”

Mr. Peters stayed on the ice, swapping the hockey arena for the curling rink. He got work as the icemaker in Steinbach, taking the chance to test the condition of the ice by throwing rocks. In time, he developed a daily regimen of throwing 64 rocks, honing his touch and ever improving his knowledge of ice.

“Sixteen back and forth twice,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press. “If you do that all winter, the strength in your legs really builds to the point four games a day isn’t any trouble.”
He found in the delivery of a curling stone a motion similar to the flow of a golf swing, a summertime sport at which he excelled. In short time, he became a force in Manitoba curling. After dominating local competition in rural Steinbach, he moved to Winnipeg to join the Granite Curling Club, the oldest in Western Canada.

The Peters rink twice lost provincial finals leading to a team shakeup. Childhood friend Chris Neufeld remained, while Don Carey and Don Rudd were added. The quartet’s victory in the Brier qualified them to represent Canada at the world championship at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where they claimed a bronze medal after being defeated in a semifinal by nervy shotmaking showing “circus originality” by Scotland’s Hammy McMillan. Despite the loss, Mr. Peters was named a tournament all-star skipper.

The Peters rink finished fourth at the 1993 Brier. Four years later, with Scott Grant replacing Mr. Rudd as lead, the team went 11-0 in round-robin play in Calgary before losing the championship game to Alberta’s Kevin Martin. Mr. Peters was presented the Ross Hartstone Trophy in a vote by his peers for best representing sportsmanship, exemplary conduct and curling ability.

Mr. Peters won the Manitoba senior men’s title in 2008.

In recent years, he curled alongside his son, Daley Peters, a two-time Manitoba junior champion.

The Peters’ rinks from 1992 and ’93 were inducted as a team into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame in 2005.
Over the years, Mr. Peters worked as a curling icemaker in winter and as a golf greenskeeper in summer.

As a young man, he had a bout with skin cancer. In 2011, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He died in Winnipeg on March 27, Easter Sunday. He leaves his wife, Debbie; son Daley Peters; and, daughters Kasandra Leafloor and Elizabeth (Liz) Fyfe.

Mr. Peters made what would be his final public appearance earlier this year at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Grande Prairie, Alta., when Ms. Fyfe curled second for Team Manitoba.