In May 1994, the National Sports Act of Canada formally recognized and declared the game of ice hockey to be this country’s national winter sport. And before this raises any eyebrows or stimulates a debate among sports aficionados, it would only be fair to note that lacrosse was recognized and declared to be our national summer sport at that same time.
Long before any official decree however, hockey has been the lifeblood of Canadian winters for many generations of players, organizers, and sports fans alike in communities large and small from coast to coast. This is especially true for residents of the Town of Whitby, as its hockey history can be traced back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Throughout this rich history, Whitby-based teams have enjoyed considerable success on the ice, capturing numerous championships at the local, regional, provincial, or national levels. Perhaps the most distinguished of any and all titles occurred at the international level, when the Whitby Dunlops senior men’s team won the 1958 World Ice Hockey Championship in the global tournament held that year in Oslo, Norway. That team, known as the Dunnies, was managed by Wren Blair, who went on to become the first coach and general manager of the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars; its roster also boasted several past and future NHL executives and players like Harry Sinden, Syd Smith, Roy Edwards, Charlie Burns, and Connie Broden.
All members of the 1958 Whitby Dunlops were the first inductees to the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame; the team was honoured at the Hall’s inaugural gala in May 1997. Since that time, the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame has acknowledged the careers of many local hockey players who went on to enjoy successful careers at the professional level; these inductees are: Ross Lowe (1999), Keith Primeau (2007), Joe Nieuwendyk (2008), Dunc Wilson (2009), Gary Roberts (2010), Adam Foote (2012), Wayne Primeau (2012), and Jamie Allison (2015).
In 2002, the Hall added a second Whitby team to its membership with the induction of the 1945-46 Ontario Junior C Champion Whitby Red Wing club. The team derived its nickname from its sponsor, Red Wing Orchards, and one of its star players was forward Doug Williams who subsequently added an international championship to his career resume as a member of the 1958 Dunlops senior team.
In addition to the individual athletes and teams representing ice hockey among the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame’s inductees, there are a group of past and present Whitby residents who have been recognized for their contributions to the sport in an executive capacity at either the amateur or professional levels. Those honoured by the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame in the Builder category for hockey include: Jack Goddard (1999), Mike Keenan (2002), Clifford Johnston (2005), Gordon Hawes (2007), Steve Cardwell (2015), and David Branch (2016).
With almost 60 inductees, the sport of hockey certainly has deep roots in the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame. The individual biographies for each of the Hall’s 230+ inductees are posted and can be viewed at www.whitbysportshalloffame.com