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Catch You on the Rebound

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From The Beast to The Best: YMM Fort McMurray Sports Awards 2016

Better late than never.

Despite being displaced by the May fires (Fire 9, MWF-009, Horse Creek Fire), which also carried the moniker “The Beast, the world of sports continued on for Fort McMurray and region.

So, here for the inaugural presentation, is YMM Magazine’s Fort McMurray sports awards for the year 2016….hence titled “CYOR Awards 2016.”


CYOR Male Athlete of the Year

Jordan Socholotiuk, Football

In only eight games of U Sports Football, Socholotiuk, a compact 5-foot-8, 190-pound running back, amassed an impressive 1,056 rushing yards for the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

Averaging 132.0 yards per game in 2016, the third-year powerhouse had a breakout game versus archrival Acadia Axemen with...get this...223 yards!

Having suited up for Holy Trinity Catholic High School Northern Knights for his Grade 12 year, Socholotiuk has a good chance at being the first-ever, to our knowledge, local player to be drafted by the Canadian Football League (C.F.L.).

“We are hoping he has a great performance next season (2017) and gets drafted, which would be a huge accomplishment not only for him, but for the city also,” says his high school coach Kwame Osei, also a St F.X. alumnus, who was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in 2011.

Osei is from Rexdale, Ontario.

A graduate of Father Patrick Mercredi Community High School Trappers football program, Leroy Fontaine (St. Mary’s University) attended a CFL combine a few years ago.


CYOR Female Athlete of the Year

Naomi Slee, Swimming

The Fort McMurray Mantas Swim Club has produced countless international and national caliber swimmers during the last 45 years.

One young swimmer now making waves is Naomi Slee.

At the 2016 Alberta Summer Games she touched the wall first in three races while silver status came twice and bronze three times.

Six gold medals were earned at the Silver Cup Invitational in Edmonton while a silver swim was recognized in the 800 metre freestyle at the Alberta Age Group Championships


CYOR Coach of the Year

Connor Brady, Soccer

Connor Brady guided Keyano Huskies Men’s Soccer to their second consecutive Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) championship, advancing them to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championships.

This was the third consecutive appearance for Huskies soccer at the CCAA level.

Quite impressive when you consider the CCAA boasts 92 post-secondary schools.

This time around the Huskies were on home turf at Shell Place’s SMS Equipment Stadium.

Against a powerhouse Humber Hawks side from Ontario, the Huskies claimed a silver medal.

“If I thought I was proud to be part of this program before today after everything we have accomplished…. Today is just 10 fold, 10 fold,” said Brady to this writer after the game. “These guys go down a man early and they battled. They refused to quit on each other. We have guys limping around...broken...and the amount of heart and courage this team’s motivating.

“It’s everything this sport is about and what sports in general is about. Building of good people, being there for family and team and school and city.”

It was the Huskies first-ever CCAA team medal having entered the ACAC in 1985.


CYOR Team of the Year

Fort McMurray Monarchs, Football

Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Hockey

Fort McMurray Monarchs claim the Canadian Major Football League (CMFL) national title by defeating, defending champion Greater Toronto Area All Stars 59-45 at Shell Place.

“This (Monarchs) is one of the most talented teams I have ever played on,” said player and founding member Jesse Maddox. “Our team is explosive.”

Amazingly this was only the Monarchs third year competing.

Fort McMurray Oil Barons head coach Tom Keca rejuvenated the storied Junior A hockey franchise, coming back from their second worst team record since 1981 (10 wins in 2015-2016); returning to the top of the Alberta Junior Hockey League standings entering 2017.


CYOR Inspirational Story of the Year

Nate Bedord, hockey

Bo Cooper. MMA

Former Keyano Huskies men’s hockey coach Nate Bedford lands the head coaching gig for the Battleford North Stars in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Bedford had only prior received a double whammy, losing his coaching job as Huskies hockey was dropped from the ACAC with a Keyano College budget cut in April.

Then the May forest fire claimed his home in Abasand Heights.

May 23, 2014 Bo Cooper made his North American MMA debut with a second round TKO on punches against Neil “The Steel” Dotty at Unified MMA 19 in Edmonton.

Four years prior he had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

He had beaten the odds. He became known as Bo “The Unbreakable” Cooper.

The disease would return several times with Bo each time, beating the odds.

The community and Canada rallied around him. He was a symbol of hope.

Unfortunately Bo died in early November at the age of 37.


CYOR Lost Story of the Year

Chris Phillips, Hockey

After 1,179 National Hockey League (NHL) games wearing the Ottawa Senators jersey, Fort McMurray’s Chris Phillips retires with little fanfare.

His achievements in the sport could fill several pages: No. 1 pick in 1996 NHL draft; Western Hockey League Rookie of the Year and Top Defenceman; two gold medals at the World Junior Hockey Championships and two silver at the IIHF World Hockey Championships and whereas he could have gone straight to the WHL, he stayed on home ice and played for  the Fort McMurray Oil Barons from 1993-1995.


Catch you on the rebound!


Photos opposite page, left to right: Jordan Socholotiuk (courtesy Nick Pearce), Connor Brady, Chris Phillips (courtesy NHL), Nate Bedford (courtesy Erwin Kuhr)



Curtis J. Phillips has been a sports journalist in print/electronic mediums since 1976. A strong advocate of volunteerism, he is a founding father of numerous local events and organizations including the Challenge Cup and Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Phillips is also recognized internationally as a sports historian.