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Catch You On Then Rebound

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Fort McMurray and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) have shown the required enthusiasm and expertise in hosting major sporting events.

Ranging from the 1980 Canadian Black Powder Federation Championship to the 2016 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championships, we have and will continue to excel.

But where we really shine, resetting the bar for future hosts, is in the multi-sport events.

Be it the 1985 Alberta Summer Games, 1992 Alberta Winter Games, 2004 Arctic Winter Games, 2015 Western Canada Summer Games or the upcoming 2018 Alberta Winter Games...Fort McMurray has the energy.


2015 Western Canada Summer Games (August 7-16)

It was January 31, 2015 that Mayor Melissa Blake affixed the seal from the RMWB and signed her signature to a proclamation announcing “The Year of Sport” for our region.

“Wood Buffalo has a history of hosting sporting events, but this year is looking very exciting,” said Blake in a news release. “We have provincial, national and international events coming up in 2015. The eyes of the sporting world will be on us throughout the year. Our state of the art facilities will be on display, but more importantly our tremendous community spirit will be in the spotlight!”

The 2015 high-profile events included: Tim Hortons Canadian Ringette Championships, Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup and Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Syncrude Elite 10.

The $125-million SMS Equipment Stadium at Shell Place showcased a Canadian Football League exhibition and regular season game and two North American Soccer League FC Edmonton regular season matches.

But the crown jewel was the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, which to date, has been the largest sporting event in the region’s history.

Phase 1 August 7-11 highlighted the sports of artistic gymnastics, athletics, basketball, beach volleyball, canoeing/kayaking, cycling road, cycling cross country, tennis and wrestling.

Phase II August 12-16 showcased the sports of badminton, baseball, golf, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming, triathlon and volleyball.

Fort McMurray’s Calle Inkster, Allison Mulhall and Shaela Welte were members of Team Alberta artistic gymnastics, bringing home silver and two bronze medals.


2004 Arctic Winter Games
Photos courtesy of Foto Source Photography

The RMWB included six rural communities in the hosting of sports and cultural activities; Anzac, dog mushing; Fort Chipewyan, basketball, Arctic Sports; Fort McKay and Janvier, Dene Games; Saprae Creek, Alpine skiing, snowboarding with Conklin, Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan, showcasing culture.

More than 2,000 athletes from Alaska, Canada (Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik Quebec, Yukon), Finland , Greenland, Norway (Sami), Sweden (Sami) and Russia (Magadan, Sami, Yamal Nenets) competed in this 18th annual circumpolar sporting event.

Alan Kanukov of Team Magadan set an Arctic Sports junior male triple jump record with an 11.09 metre distance. Unfortunately, half of Team Magadan was unable to attend the 2004 AWG due to visa problems.

Fort McMurray athletes earned gold Ulu in various team sports and individual competition.

Ulu gold winners included:  Spencer Chaulk, Alex Harding, Lisa Turley in Alpine skiing; Stuart Lodge, biathlon; Ashley Blackmore, Jessica Royer in figure skating; Jennifer Bell, Arctic Sports one-foot high kick and Vanessa Hang in junior female badminton singles.

Three 2004 participants would go on to represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games:  Calgary’s Roz Groenewoud in Freestyle Halfpipe along with Banff’s Heidi Widmer and Fort McMurray’s Graeme Killick in cross-country skiing.


1992 Alberta Winter Games

The 1992 Alberta Winter Games (AWG) were viewed across Canada thanks to Bob Lamb, owner of Alberta Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which is now under the Shaw banner.

Lamb wanted Canada to see Fort McMurray up close.

In order to do so, more than 300 local volunteers along with staff and volunteers from other provincial community stations, were able to man seven mobile trucks and seven roving news cameras to bring live daily television feeds along with a national one-hour evening highlight show hosted by Guy Boutilier and five-time Canadian Olympian and Lou Marsh Trophy winner Susan Nattrass of trap shooting fame.

Calgary’s Kyle Nissen would use these games as a springboard to the 2006 Olympic Winter Games where he competed in freestyle skiing aerials.


1985 Alberta Summer Games

The opening day of these ASG had enough human drama to fill several pages.

A few hours prior to the official ceremonies at Corless Field, the triathlon was held.

Local triathlete star Howie Ewashko collapsed 50-metres from the finish line and had to be taken to the hospital.

“He is asthmatic and he was oxygen starved,” said his mother at the time.

Ewashko recovered quickly, reciting the athlete’s oath later that night as nearly 3,300 athletes and coaches were led out by the Northwinds Marching Band.

Jody Weller, 12, a local hockey sensation, lit the torch at Corless Field.

A special moment of the games was when Ina Matson, 12, captured the under-18 triathlon in a personal best time of 2:46.35.

It was only a week prior that her twin brother Yves was injured during training for the ASG.

A vehicle had crashed through a group of cyclists 20 kilometres northwest of Calgary, killing three teenage girls and injuring five other people, including Yves.

Of her brother not competing, Ina replied: “I think he would have gotten the gold.”

Local athletes Dace Guss, Greg Inkster and Larry Schulhauser won the triathlon team event, with a clocking of 1:49.00.

Future two-time Canadian Olympian Christine Nordhagen would compete in these games in the sport of canoeing. She would go on to become a world-class amateur wrestler winning six world titles.


Catch you on the rebound!


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.