With 2019 inductee Bill Johnston that impact goes well beyond the borders of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and even Canada.
We’ll let Harvey Parker, who nominated Johnston for the honour, explain.
“He was always on the go,” Parker said. “Even when he was over in Japan teaching officials (in 1984), he was watching a game where the refs only called one penalty. So he officiated a game and the Japanese referees watched him and he called 22 penalties. They were just amazed. Then after he was done, they went out there and were calling penalties all over the place, and with authority. Before that, they were reluctant to call one or two penalties.”
That’s right, Bill Johnston – one of the people behind the formation of the Highway Hockey League (mid-60s), Saskatchewan Junior ‘B’ Hockey League (1992) and the man who helped officially form the Western Major Baseball League (2000) – even played a hand in building up the then-nascent Japan Ice Hockey Federation, now ranked 23 in the world.
“He’d be tremendously honoured to be a part of this,” said stepdaughter Jana Garinger. “I didn’t realize how much hockey and how many activities Bill was involved in. I wasn’t a big sports fan at that time, so I can’t speak to the details, but he was always doing something to try and help others.”
Johnston was part of a group of five athletes, builders and teams announced as the 2019 inductees during an announcement ceremony on Thursday morning.
He’ll be joined by Wayne Cormier (builder, powerlifting), the Terry McGeary senior men’s curling team, Larry Tollefson (athlete, baseball) and Roy Thiessen (builder, curling) when they’re enshrined during the 2019 induction ceremony and banquet at Mosaic Place.
Cormier played an integral role in the development of Special Olympics powerlifting in Moose Jaw, creating a team that would dominate meets and win titles every time they stepped on the platform. Over 100 athletes passed through his tutelage, winning provincial, national and even international competitions.
“I’ve seen a lot media stories on Wayne and Special Olympics, just years of helping people out and being involved in that program, especially getting things off the ground and building the Special Olympic powerlifting program into what it became,” said Hall of Fame president Larry Graham.
The Terry McGeary curling team – which included Clare Ramsay, Don Berglund and Hillis Thompson – won the 1980 Canadian Senior Men’s Curling Championship in dramatic fashion, rolling through the round robin with a 9-2 record, including wins in their final two games, to edge Manitoba for the title.
“They played a lot of games, it was a 12-team round robin and you can imagine how busy it was,” Graham said. “And just the pressure over those last four games and especially to win the last two and the championship. That’s just fantastic, especially at the national level.”
Larry Tollefson emerged as one of the best players to ever suit up for the legendary Moose Jaw Regals teams of the 1960s. Described as a tough, fiercely competitive athlete who commanded the respect of his teammates and opponents alike, he played 13 years in the Southern Baseball League, leading the Regals to seven league titles while being named the top catcher and a league all-star six times.
“I unfortunately never had a chance to see him play, but I knew him as a coach and friend and I’ve heard the stories about the kind of competitor he was,” Graham said. “He was one of those guys who was fun to watch and an incredible player, too.”
A career educator, Roy Thiessen was heavily involved in coaching from the late-50s right into the early 80s, working with volleyball, track, golf, cross-country and softball programs. He was mostly known for his work with curling, with many of his players and teams putting together impressive results at the high school and provincial levels.
“He was a long-time educator in Moose Jaw and back in the days when those guys were teaching physical education, he coached everything, organized everything and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he was a referee, too,” Graham said. “And then he also wrote four books on curling. So that kind of shows how involved he was in the sport.”
The 2019 induction ceremony and banquet takes place on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Mosaic Place. Tickets are $50 each at the Mosaic Place box office, online at www.mosicplace.ca and by phone at 306-624-2050. Tickets are available until 6 p.m. on Oct. 12.