Remembering more great Ukrainian-Canadian athletes


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/04/2022 (414 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the two previous columns about Ukrainian sports people in Manitoba, more than 50 Manitoba athletes and builders have been recognized. The majority have been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and/or individual sports shrines in our province. Several were honoured as the Manitoba Ukrainian Sportsman of the Year.

Many readers have recommended others who deserve to be remembered.

Former Sport Manitoba CEO Jeff Hnatiuk, soccer’s Peter J. Manastyrsky, and hockey’s Murray Balagus, Julian Klymkiw and Don Kuryk have also been named Ukrainian Sportsman of the Year by the St. Nicholas Men’s Club. The current president of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, Kuryk also played football for the Canadian senior football champion St. Vital Bulldogs.

Hockey’s Murray Balagus also won sportsman of the year honours for his contribution to the game.
Hockey’s Murray Balagus also won sportsman of the year honours for his contribution to the game.

This columnist wants to remember George Konik, his high school friend from the north. Born in Flin Flon, Konik played for the 1957 Memorial Cup champion Bombers and was an all-star catcher and batting champion in the Polar Baseball League. The defenceman later was an All-America hockey player at Denver University and served as captain of the U.S. team at the 1972 world championship.

Former St. Boniface Canadiens junior goalie Don Shalley checked in from Saskatchewan with several names. A member of the 1959 Memorial Cup champion Winnipeg Braves, Jerry Kruk was the Hockey HOF vice-president when he died in 2012. It seems as if Stan and Nick Shaley were involved with every aspect of the Canadian Ukrainian Athletic Club (CUAC). Nick was the first president while Stan’s playing and coaching earned him induction into the Manitoba Baseball HOF and his coaching into the provincial softball Hall.

Wally Kormylo was involved in sports at CUAC before he moved to Chicago in 1949. Since then, he has coached hockey and instructed power skating to more than 50,000 kids. In 2010, he received USA Hockey’s most prestigious William Thayer Tutt Award for his dedication to the grassroots game. Kormylo celebrated his 95th birthday in December.

The sporting legacy of Canadians of Ukrainian descent during the 20th century was covered in an 887-page tome called Their Sporting Legacy: The Participation of Canadians of Ukrainian Descent in Sport, 1891-1991 by Wsevolod Sokolyk. It names more than 50 individuals with a connection to our province; they came from 11 Manitoba communities and competed in 20 different sports. Many of their accomplishments may now be forgotten.

The author speculates that Manoly Mihaychuk was one of the first, if not the first, Canadian of Ukrainian descent to compete in an officially sanctioned sports event. He finished third in the pole vault at a Manitoba vs North Dakota intervarsity track meet in 1914. After he became a dentist, Dr. Mihaychuk became a proponent of organized sport for Ukrainian youth and taught a course for Ukrainian teachers on the historical development of Ukrainian sport and physical education.

In the 1920s, Harry Olensky was a prominent businessman and dog musher in the north. In 1927, he started the four-day, 160-mile Saskatchewan Dog Derby with eight dogs, but was down to four when he crossed the finish line in first place ahead of fellow The Pas racer Emile St. Godard, who was considered to be tops in the world.

Roy Kepron won the shot put, discus and triple jump at the 1936 Canadian junior track and field championships. In golf, he won the Manitoba amateur in 1953. Transcona-born Paul Dyzandra was the Canadian amateur middleweight boxing champion in 1939. Steve Kozak was a pro wrestler in the 1940s and George Gordienko wrestled from the mid-1940s until 1975. Bud Korchak was a Western all-star at flying wing with the Blue Bombers in the early 1950s. The place kicker, who led the West in scoring in 1953, was also an all-star senior soccer goalkeeper.

Jeff Hnatiuk, former CEO of Sport Manitoba, is a past winner of the Ukrainian Sportsman of the Year award, presented by the St. Nicholas Men’s Club.
Jeff Hnatiuk, former CEO of Sport Manitoba, is a past winner of the Ukrainian Sportsman of the Year award, presented by the St. Nicholas Men’s Club.

Dot Kozak was a multi-sport athlete whose greatest success came on the track. In the 1954 Commonwealth Games she was member of the Canadian 4 x 110-yard relay team that won bronze and in the 1956 Olympic Games she competed in the long jump as well as the relay. Johnny Gawryluk was an outstanding soccer goalkeeper with ANAF Scottish who played for Canada in an international tour in 1960. He died of leukemia in 1965 at age 25.

Snooker pro Bill Werbeniuk represented Canada in the World Cup of Snooker and climbed as high as eighth in the world rankings in the 1970s. Ed Alexiuk played volleyball for Canada in the 1975 Pan Am Games and the 1976 Olympics while Donna Baydock, who played in the 1978 World Championship and the 1979 Pan Am Games, captained the national team in 1980. Bill Sawchuk, who was born in Roblin, swam to four individual medals at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and won three more in the relays. Lynn Lake-born Kendra Kobelka competed on the international ski slopes from 1984 to 1991.

To complete this series about Ukrainian sport in Manitoba, top teams from baseball, basketball, softball, hockey and soccer will be remembered.

T. Kent Morgan

T. Kent Morgan
Memories of Sport

Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email:

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