So many sports – so little time (and space)! In team sports, hockey predominated in winter, football in autumn, and baseball in summer. Fortunately, books about Saskatchewan sports abound.
Acknowledging Saskatchewan athletes and sports builders
Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (Regina) includes displays of portraits and artifacts as well as the archives of curling, football, gymnastics, athletics (track and field) and so on.
Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame (Battleford).
Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame (Saskatoon).
Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame (Swift Current).
Saskatchewan Powerlifting Hall of Fame (Saskatoon).
Softball Saskatchewan Hall of Fame (Regina).
University of Regina Sports Hall of Fame (Regina).
University of Saskatchewan Athletics Wall of Fame (Saskatoon).
Area sports halls of fame (Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon and Yorkton).
Gold medalists in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame
Earl (Tommy) Thompson (Birch Hills): hurdling, 1920 Summer Olympics, Antwerp, Belgium. Inducted in 1974.
William Beattie Ramsay (Lumsden): ice hockey (with the Toronto Granites), 1924 Winter Olympics, Charmonix, France. Inducted in 1985.
Ethel Catherwood (Saskatoon): high jump, 1928 Summer Olympics, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Inducted in 1966.
George Abel (Melville): ice hockey (with Edmonton Mercuries), 1952 Winter Olympics, Oslo, Norway. Inducted in 1993.
George Genereux (Saskatoon), trapshooting, 1952 Summer Olympics, Helsinki, Finland. Genereux was inducted in 1966. He was also Saskatoon Citizen of the Year in 1952.
Richard (Rick) Reelie (Saskatoon): discus, javelin and shotput, 1988 Summer Paralympics, Seoul, South Korea. Inducted in 2011.
Catriona LeMay-Doan (Saskatoon): speedskating, 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano, Japan; and 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, Utah. Inducted in 2006.
Sandra Schmerler (Biggar), Jan Betker (Regina), Joan McCusker (Yorkton) and Marcia Gudereit (Moose Jaw): women’s curling, 1988 Winter Olympics, Nagano, Japan. Inducted in 2001.
Lucas Malowsky (Regina): speedskating, 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver, BC. Inducted in 2017.
Haley Wickenheiser (Shaunavon): gold medals for women’s ice hockey at the 2002 (Salt Lake City), 2006 (Turin), 2010 (Vancouver) and 2014 (Sochi) Winter Olympics, as well as a silver medal fir women’s softball at the 2002 Summer Olympics, Sydney, Australia. She was inducted in 2018.
Saskatchewan-born “original six era” (1942 -1967) hockey players in the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame. Over 500 past and current NHL players were born here, more per capita than any other Canadian province.
Gordie Howe, known as “Mr. Hockey”, is considered the most complete player ever and holds the record for most NHL games played. Born in Floral in 1928, Gordie played twenty-seven seasons, the first twenty-five with the Detroit Red Wings (1947 to 1971 when he was a six-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy for most points in a season), played on twelve All Star teams and won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player six times. His style of play created the “Gordie Howe hat trick” — a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game.
Sid Abel, nicknamed “Old Boot Nose” played several seasons with Gordie Howe on the Red Wing’s “production line.” Born in Melville, he played from 1940 to 1944, and after two years of war service, 1946 to 1952 with Detroit. He was awarded the Hart Trophy in the 1948-49 season.
Doug Bentley, born in Delisle, was sometimes called “Peanut” because of his small size. During the twelve seasons (1939 to 1951) he played with the Chicago Blackhawks, then one (1953-54) with the New York Rangers, he won the scoring title twice before the designation of the Art Ross trophy and was named to four All Star teams. in Chicago, he played on the “Pony line” with his younger brother, Max.
Max Bentley, also born in Delisle, was labelled the” Dipsy Doodle Dandy” because, though small, he was fast and an “artist” with the puck. He played five seasons (1942 to 1947) with the Chicago Blackhawks, six with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1948 to 1953) and then the 1953-54 season with the New York Rangers. He was awarded the Hart Trophy once, won the Art Ross Trophy twice and played on four All Star teams with the NHL.
Bert Olmstead, born in Sceptre, known as “Dirty Bertie” for his tough, physical play, played 1949 to 1951 with the Chicago Blackhawks, 1952 to 1958 with the Montreal Canadiens and 1959 to 1962 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, twice leading the League in assists.
Johnny Bower was known as the “China Wall” because of his effective poke-check style of goalkeeping. Born in Prince Albert in 1924, he played the 1953 to 1959 seasons with the New York Rangers, then from 1960 to 1969 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, during which he twice received the Vezina trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the season.
Glen Hall, (“Mr. Goalie”), was known for his butterfly style of net minding. Born in Humboldt, he played the 1955-56 season with the Detroit Red Wings, for which he received the Vezina Trophy, then from 1958 to 1967 with the Chicago Blackhawks playing on several All-Star teams and again receiving the Vezina Trophy.
Emile Francis was nicknamed “the Cat” for his speed and agility in goal keeping. Born in North Battleford, he played the 1948-49 season with the Chicago Blackhawks and from 1950 to 1955 with the New York Rangers. He is known for introducing a baseball type of catching glove in goal.
Gerry James, “Kid Dynamite”, is best known for having played professional football and NHL hockey at the same time. Born in Regina, he was with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL from 1952 to 1964 while also playing from 1954 to 1960 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so his name was engraved on the Stanley Cup in the 1958-59 season and the Grey Cup in 1959.
Also legendary during that era — though not in the Hall of Fame – are:
Freddie Sasakamoose, nicknamed “Chief Running Deer” by his teammates during the single (1953-54) season he played with the Chicago Blackhawks. Born on the Ahtahkakoop Reserve, he is best remembered as the first indigenous player with treaty status in the NHL.
Clarence Campbell, originally from Fleming, was an NHL referee from 1933 to 1939. After a couple years of war service, he became president of the League in 1946 until 1977. Possibly best known for his controversial decision to suspend Maurice “Rocket” Richard during the 1954-55 playoffs — leading to a riot in Montreal — his primary feat was expanding the NHL to a twelve-team league in 1967.
NHL stats on players from Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan hockey players have left a giant footprint in the NHL. A Facebook video (possibly based on a quanthockey.com post) determined that historically 516 NHL players had been born in Saskatchewan. Other Saskie statistics: 137,000 games played, 21,000 goals, 34,000 assists, 28,000 wins, 56,000 points scored, 61 NHL awards and trophies. A total of 141 towns, cities or villages in Saskatchewan have sent players to the NHL, and 87 players have helped win 171 Stanley Cups, more than any other province, American state or European country, it said.
[Heritage Classic 2019, seen on Facebook; https://www.quanthockey.com/nhl/province/nhl-players-born-in-saskatchewan….]
Grey Cup lore
Four times the Roughriders won and two times they “almost won” the Grey Cup
In 1966 the Roughriders defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders 29 to 14 in Vancouver — the first Grey Cup win in Saskatchewan history. George Reed, the teams star running back, was named most valuable player.
In 1972 the Saskatchewan Riders led until the last minute of the game, when an unlucky defensive mis-cue allowed the Ottawa Rough Riders to score a winning touchdown.
In 1989 the Roughriders defeated the Hamilton Tiger Cats 43 to 40 in Toronto. With the score tied 40 to 40 in the dying seconds in the 4th quarter, Saskatchewan’s kicker, Dave Ridgway, booted a 35-yard field goal to win the game.
In 2007 the Roughies defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23 to 19 in Toronto. Saskatchewan corner back James Johnson made three interceptions, while receiver Andy Fantuz caught the game-winning touchdown.
In 2009 Saskatchewan led 27 to 25 with seconds to play in the fourth quarter when the Montreal Allouette kicker missing a potentially winning field goal. Then, lo and behold, the Roughriders were called for having too many men on the field! Unfortunately, the Montreal kicker didn’t miss the second time.
In 2013 the Roughriders defeated the Hamilton Tiger Cats 13 to10 in Mosaic Stadium; the first ever Grey Cup win by the Roughriders on their home field. This victory somewhat lifted the burden the team and its fans had been carrying since the loss due to an embarrassing too-many-men-on–the-field penalty four years earlier.
More Rider lore
Origin of the “Roughriders” name: First known as the Regina Rugby-Football Club, the team was renamed the Regina Roughriders in 1929 in honour of the RCMP officers who tamed broncos while training at the Regina depot. In the 1940s “Regina” was replaced in the name by “Saskatchewan” to reflect widening support
Origin of the Green and White team colors: The team had historically worn purple and gold, then red and black sweaters until 1948, when a Roughrider official bought two sets of new, bargain-priced, green and white sweaters in a Chicago surplus store.
Old Taylor Field: Constructed in 1929 as the home of the Roughriders, it was renowned for its power outages, outdated plumbing and sections of bench seats, steep aisles and crowded concession areas, plus small, dark and leaky dressing rooms for the players. Yet, when it was demolished in 2016 after the adjacent new, larger, state-of-the art Mosaic Stadium) was completed, nostalgic fans lined up to get signs, benches and even urinals, as souvenirs.
Eyeball in the grass: The 1929 field had been named for “Piffles” Taylor, a Great War veteran, who had a glass eye. It is said that he once lost the lost the eye during a tackle and the game was delayed while he and his teammates searched for it in the grass.
The Roughriders’ ”Thirteenth Man”: Despite the relative smallness of old Taylor Field, Roughrider fans generated so much noise that visiting players could not hear the signals being called. This, it was claimed, gave the Roughriders an advantage— like having an extra player on the field.
Section Twenty-eight: This was a seating area in the east side bleachers of Taylor Field. It was usually occupied by loud, rowdy University of Regina students who heckled opposition players on their designated bench and their fans in the adjacent visitor stands.
The Flame: A nickname for an enthusiastic fan in the 1990s who, whenever the Roughriders scored a touchdown, shot a flame into the air from a device atop the green helmnet he wore.
Watermelon helmets: A practice introduced by a few fans to raise the spirits of fellow members of Green Nation when their team was struggling in the late 1990s. They are said to be hot and wet to wear but really do draw attention at home and away games.
“Roughies” whose numbers were retired; they were inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame
#23 Ron Lancaster, quarterback (1963 to 1978), known as “the Little General”, led the Roughriders to their first Grey Cup win in 1966.
#34 George Reed, running back (1963 to 1975), recognized as “the greatest running back in CFL history”.
#36 Dave Ridgeway, kicker (1982 to 1995), described as “one of the best placekickers in the Canadian game”.
# 44 Roger Aldag, offensive lineman (1976 to 1992), twice named the CFL’s outstanding offensive lineman.
Gene Makowsky is the most recent Saskatchewan-born Roughrider football player (1999 to 2011) named to the CFL Hall of Fame. Alumnus of the WMCI Marauders in the Saskatoon High School football program and the U of S Huskies football team, he starred as an offensive lineman for the Roughriders.
Saskatchewan’s proud junior football tradition
The Saskatoon Hilltops and the Regina Prairie Thunder (successor to the Regina Rams since 1999), have dominated the prairie conference of CJFL (Canadian Junior Football League). They have taken the CJFL championship 36 times (Hilltops – 21, Rams 15, Prairie Thunder 1) since the inception of the league in 1947. The Rams’ national championship record (under the direction of Frank McCrystal for fifteen years) included repeats in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998; after which they represented the University of Regina in Canadian Intercollegiate Sport. The Prairie Thunder won the CJFL championship in 2013.
In 2017 the Hilltops (directed by twenty-year head coach Tom Sargeant), were the first four consecutive season Canadian Bowl champions in the history of the CJFL. After its third “threepeat” in 2016 (defeating the Westshore Rebels 37 to 25 in Langford B.C.), the Hilltops went on to an historic “four-peat”, defeating the Windsor AKO Fratmen 56 to 11 on November 11, 2017 in Windsor, Ont.
Calamities etched in the collective memories of Saskatchewan sports fans
December 9, 1956: Saskatchewan Roughriders players Melvin Becket, Mario Demar, Gordon Sturtridge and Ray Syrnk, returning from an all-star game in Vancouver, were killed—along with the other passengers and crew on TCA Flight 810–when it crashed into a mountain near Chilliwack, BC. To honour them, their sweater numbers were retired and they were listed in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
December 30, 1986: WJHL Swift Current Broncos players Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff were killed on when their team bus flipped after skidding off an icy highway overpass just east of Swift Current. A monument memorializing them was erected near the site in 2008.
April 16, 2018: SJHL Humboldt Broncos players, Logan Boulet, Adam Herold, Jaxon Joseph, Jacob Leicht Connor Lukan, Logan Schatz, Evan Thomas and Stephen Wacht, plus Dayna Brons (therapist), Tyler Bieber (announcer), Mark Cross (assistant coach), Glen Doerksen (bus drivers) and Darcy Haughan (head coach) were killed when their bus collided with a tractor trailer at the intersection of highways #35 and 335 between Tisdale and Nipawin.
Two Saskatchewan-born players currently in the Detroit Tiger minor league system are pitcher Dustin Mollekin from Regina and right fielder Cole Bauml from Maryburg.
Nine baseball players from Saskatchewan played in the National and/or American baseball leagues since WWII—eight of whom were pitchers!
Ralph “Buck” Buxton (Weyburn) pitched first for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1938, then the New York Yankees in 1949.
Aldon “Lefty” Wilkie (Zealandia) pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1941 and 42 seasons, then again in 1946.
Ed Bahr (Rouleau) pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1946 and 47 seasons.
Joe “Stubby” Erautt (Vibank) pitched for the Chicago White Sox in the 1950 and fifty-one seasons.
Dave Pagan (Nipawin) pitched for the New York Yankees from 1973 to 1976, then briefly for Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1977.
Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current) pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1969 to 1973, the Boston Red Sox 1974 to 78, then briefly for the Texas Rangers before finishing with the Milwaukee Brewers 1979 to 81.
Terry Puhl (Melville), though drafted as a pitcher, was moved to the outfield to take advantage of his hitting ability. He went on to play fifteen outstanding seasons (1977-90) with the Houston Astros, before ending his professional career with the Kansas City Royals in 1991.
Andrew Albers (North Battleford) who debuted as a relief pitcher with Minnesota Twins in 2013, then briefly with the Mariners and Blue Jays—before going on to ply his skills on the mound in South Korea.
Pros in skirts
Saskatchewan stars who played in the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL)
Fifty-some Canadian women baseball players were recruited for the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL) that, from 1945 to 54, had franchises in ten midwestern American cities. Three are the subjects of a 2016 play by Saskatchewan playwright Maureen Ulrich, titled Diamond Girls. (Ulrich was born in Saskatoon, graduated from U of S in 1980 and now lives in Lampman). Notable among the twenty-seven players from our province were:
Velma Abbott (Regina), an infielder known for her speed on the base paths, played for the Kenosha Comets and Peoria Redwings.
Mary “Bonny” Baker* (Regina) played from 1943 to 1951 with the South Bend Blue Sox. Known as an All -Star catcher, “Bonny” also served as a model for league promotions.
Catherine Bennett (Regina) a pitcher, played for the Kenosha Comets and South Bend Blue Sox.
Genevieve ”Gene” George (Regina) catcher, played for the Muskegon Lassies.
Thelma Grambo (Domremy) catcher, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks.
Christine Jewett (Regina) outfielder, played for the Kenosha Comets and Peoria Redwings.
Margarite Jones (Regina) pitcher, played for the Minneapolis Millerettes and Rockford Peaches.
Daisy Junor* (Regina) a skilled outfielder and speedy baserunner, played with the South Bend Blue Sox 1946 to 1948, then after a brief stint with the Springfield Sallies, finished the 1949 season with the Fort Wayne Daisies.
Arleene “Iron Lady” Noga*: (Ogema) was a fearless infielder and power hitter, first with the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1945, then with the Muskegon Lassies from 1946 to 48.
Ethel McCreary (Regina) infielder and pitcher, played for the Kenosha Comets.
Mildred “Millie” Warwick (Regina) infielder, played for the Rockford Peaches.
Elizabeth Wicken (Regina) outfielder, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks.
Elsie Wingrove (Saskatoon), outfielder, played for the Fort Wayne Daisies and Grand Rapids Chicks.
Odds and sods
Saskatchewan sports factoids
Freddie Sasakamoose, born on the Ahtahkakoop Reserve, was the first Indigenous player with treaty status in the NHL. His teammates called him”Chief Running Deer” during the single (1953-54) season he played with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Clarence Campbell, originally from Fleming, was an NHL referee from 1933 to 1939. After his war service, he was president of the League from 1946 to 1977. Possibly best known for his controversial decision to suspend Maurice “Rocket” Richard during the 1954-55 playoffs—leading to a riot in Montreal – his primary feat was expanding the NHL to twelve teams as in 1967.
The home course of PGA tour golfer Graham DeLaet — where he learned his craft as a boy – was at Weyburn.
The last Canadian golfer to win the Canadian Open was Pat Fletcher in 1954, then club pro at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club.
The Rush, Saskatchewan’s professional box lacrosse franchise (Saskatoon) in the National Lacrosse League since 2016, won the NLL league championship in 2016 and again in 2018.
Brendan Rooney of Saskatoon helped the Yale Bulldogs
lacrosse team win
it’s its first NCAA
championship in 2018.
David Newsham (1948-1983) was instrumental in the development of soccer in Saskatchewan, now the fastest growing team sport in the province??
Tony Cote, from the Cote First Nation, founded the Saskatchewan Indian Summer Games in 1974.
Mark McMorris from Regina won the bronze medal in Men’s Slope Style at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, despite a near-fatal snowboarding accident but months earlier.
Blair Morgan of Prince Albert was an international motor cross and snow cross champion until an accident in 2008 left him paralyzed.
The longest downhill ski run in Saskatchewan is in the Duck Mountain Ski Area, about 35 km east of Kamsack. It is 1600 metres.
Joan Phipps of Saskatoon, who first rode a thoroughbred to victory during a New Zealand race in 1977, now mentors young women aspiring to become jockeys.
Among the 2018 inductees
in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame was Lisa Franks, who earned seven medals, six of them gold, in wheel-chair racing at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Paralympics.
Twenty-eight hockey players aged eighty and over in the Saskatoon Sixty Plus Hockey League, were inducted into the Canadian Eighty-Plus Hockey Hall of Fame In 2018.
Hundreds of elementary school students have competed each year alongside some of the top international track and field athletes during the K of C Indoor Games in Saskatoon since 1965.
The Canadian Championship Sleddog Race, alonga route similar to that used by early trappers and NWMP patrols between Prince Albert (more recently the Elk Ridge Resort) and Lac la Ronge, has been held most winters since the late 1990s.
[Cote: Eagle Feather News, June 9, 2018. Eighty Plus: Saskatoon Express, October 15-21, 2018, 4]
Adventure sports and recreation
Intrepid individuals, rather than teams, test their solo prowess
Hanging, gliding and soaring aficionados have their own clubs in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. At the provincial level the Saskatchewan Hang Gliding Association and the Saskatchewan Soaring Association cater to such interests as does the Aviation Education Centre at Saskatoon airport and perhaps elsewhere. It is said that gliders can remain aloft for hours.
Hot-air balloons operate by filling the balloon-shaped sac with hot air from a propane burner below, making the craft lighter than air. There is at least one such enterprise in Saskatchewan that offer rides (at a price) in Saskatoon and Regina, and perhaps elsewhere. In Weyburn a certified balloon pilot owns her own multicoloured balloon, and sometimes takes up passengers. She says it takes four people to launch the balloon, and four to pack it away on descent. As well, advertising balloons sometimes float above communities if atmospheric conditions are right.
If jumping out of planes is your thing, skydiving in Big Sky country can be experienced in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw. Contact the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association or Saskatchewan Tourism for more information. Much safer than parachuting experienced by World War II air crew who bailed out after their aircraft were shot down, and who faced the danger of capture by the enemy.
If you don’t want to go all the way to the Rocky Mountains, rock climbing can be experienced in facilities such ss Saskatoon’s Grip-it Climbing.
To practice your shooting skills, shooting ranges are offered by the Saskatoon Gun Club, Prairie Storm Paintball in Moose Jaw, and Wascana Pistol club in Regina. Come to think of it, there’s the great outdoors. Wild game hunting is also still a popular pastime.
Wild boar hunting is not for the faint of heart. These fierce feral pigs go grunting around at night in thirty-seven states and four Canadian provinces, including Saskatchewan, where they were brought in the 1990s to diversify agriculture. They broke loose and ensconced themselves mostly in the eastern part of the province. The CBC has an online map showing their haunts.
Paintballing is offered by various commercial enterprises.
Parkour, a lesser-known but dynamic activity that came about through firefighter training in France in the 1980s, is gaining in popularity world-wide. It involves much leaping, running, jumping and climbing through or over obstacles. Various parkour gyms exist in cities around the province, but you can do it on a lawn!
People also play underwater hockey in this province. There’s the Saskatoon Underwater Seals Hockey Club (they have a Facebook page) and a likely possibility that the YMCA is involved.
With a boat you can waterski or wakeboard on lakes and waterways throughout the province (perhaps not so extreme, but thrilling all the same). There’s a Saskatchewan Waterski and Wakeboard Association, one in Saskatoon and possibly other regional ones.