The history of the Winnipeg High School Football League history can be traced back to 1933. Daniel McIntyre, Gordon Bell, Kelvin and St. John’s, all schools within the boundaries of the city at that time, were the original four teams. Kelvin won the first championship.
This season, 42 teams from the various school divisions across the city. as well as teams from high schools in rural Manitoba and Dryden, Fort Frances and Kenora in Ontario, competed in seven different divisions.
The WHSFL has compiled a list of close to 100 former players who went on to play in the Canadian Football League. Of the original four schools, Daniel Mac and Kelvin each produced 14 future pros, St. John’s nine, and Gordon Bell eight. The Daniel Mac alumni include Lorne (Boom Boom) Benson and Harry Langford, who were inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame primarily for their football exploits, and Danny Summers, a pro hockey player who went into the provincial shrine in the multi-sport category.
The Kelvin list is headed by ex-Blue Bomber and Toronto Maple Leaf Gerry James (Sports HOF 1982) and Paul Robson, the former Bomber general manager who will enter the provincial HOF next April in recognition to his contributions to sport in various capacities. Kelvin product Bud Irving is believed to be the oldest living Blue Bomber.
Chris Walby (Sports HOF 2006), who spent 15 seasons on the Bombers offensive line, played for St. John’s. Another grad, Norm Hill, played for the Bombers and Calgary Stampeders before becoming one of our city’s most prominent surgeons. Larry Fleisher became a Winnipeg city councillor.
Jeff Nicklin played for Gordon Bell before joining the Bombers in the mid-1930s. He served in the Second World War, rising from private to lieutenant colonel but was killed in action in March 1945. Nicklin was inducted into the Sports HOF in 2004. Gordon Bell grad Frank Mathers (Sports HOF 2009) played for the Bombers before embarking on a pro hockey career that saw him reach the NHL with Toronto and serve as the GM and president of the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Bombers linemen Ray Ash and Stan Mikawos also attended Gordon Bell.
St. Paul’s High School has produced the most CFL players, with 15. The list includes Bombers Ron (Pepe) LaTourelle, Roger Hamelin and Kas Vidruk, who had one of the WHSFL’s current divisions named in his honour. Th e St. Paul’s alumni include Neil Payne, who became a referee and the director of officiating for the CFL.
Jamie Kraemer and Garry Slobodian from Sisler, Ken Lazaruk of Kelvin, Ritchie Miller from Sturgeon Heights, and Bud Ulrich were also CFL referees. Ulrich quarterbacked Tec Voc to the 1957 and 1958 high school championships.
The high school crew with the current Bombers team starts with team president Wade Miller from Sturgeon Creek and includes Oak Park alumni Andrew Harris, Nic Demski and Brady Oliveira.
Rick Henkewich, who has served as a WHSFL coach and commissioner, said the league will be setting up system on its website where former players can register. The purpose is to recognize anyone who has played in the league.
"This is a legacy thing we are trying to create," Henkewich said. "We want grandkids to know their granddad played and they also can be part of this great institution."
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: email@example.com