Nov 9

Remembrance Day

Did you know there are more than 100 Athletes & Builders of sport in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame that served in the military? Today, we highlight a few of these extraordinary individuals and share more about their journey.

Herman Smith-Johannsen
Sport: Cross Country Skiing
Inducted: 1982

Herman Smith-Johannsen was almost single-handedly responsible for elevating the popularity of cross-country skiing in Canada. Originally from Norway (where he had served in the military, including winter warfare training), he blazed many ski trails throughout Canada, including the Maple Leaf Trail. He organized races, officiated events, and served as a guide, coach, and consultant for numerous skiing organizations, many of which he helped to found. He continued to ski well past the age of 100.

Gérard Côté
Sport: Athletics
Inducted: 1956

Gérard Côté was a marathon runner in the summer, but when the weather turned cold he strapped on snowshoes and continued running, winning several competitions. He had served in the Second World War running physical fitness programs for the army in Montreal. He continued competing until well after the war. 

Conn Smythe
Sport: Ice Hockey
Inducted: 1975

Awarded the Military Cross for bravery during the First World War and wounded by shrapnel during the Second World War, Smythe's leadership and commitment to public service as owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs remain legendary.

Learn more about Hall of Famers that served in the military:

Daryl Seaman
Sport: Ice Hockey
Inducted: 2012

Daryl ‘Doc’ Seaman was a special man, a war hero, a pioneer in the oil and gas industry, one of the premier players in bringing the Olympic Winter Games to Calgary in 1988, and an immense contributor to the Calgary Flames.

He served in the RCAF in World War II, flying 82 combat missions, was wounded in North Africa, and after being discharged played baseball with military veterans.

‘Doc’ had a number of fundamental first principles and one of those was to leave it better than you found it. He was a visionary who saw the big picture and had the courage and self-confidence to chase his dreams. ‘Doc’ Seaman’s many legacies have a lasting impact on generations of Albertans.

Phil Marchildon
Sport: Baseball
Inducted: 1976

A dynamic Major League pitcher, Phil Marchildon served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, as the tail gunner in a Halifax bomber.

He successfully completed 25 missions over Europe before being shot down. Captured by the Germans, he survived nine months of imprisonment in Stalag Luft III, the infamous site of the "Great Escape".

Marchildon remained a captive until the camp was liberated by the Allies on May 2, 1945.

Winnie Roach-Leuszler
Sport: Swimming
Inducted: 2015

In 1944 Roach-Leuszler was named Canada's all-round athlete of the year by a sports reporter, and that same year she was one of 150,000 women to join the pioneering Canadian Women's Army Corp (CWAC).

Facing a hostile public opinion, these were the first women - other than nurses - to make a significant contribution to the military alongside their male counterparts. Prior to this time, women's roles in Canadian society had typically been at home and in care-giving occupations, but service in the CWAC was the first time these traditional roles began to change.

Paul Rowe
Sport: Football
Inducted: 1975

Football championships boosted morale during the Second World War, inspiring a military team, St. Hyacinthe - Donnaconna Navy, to capture the Grey Cup in 1944. The same year, Canadian soldiers beat their American rivals and claimed the international 'Tea Bowl' championship in front of 30,000 spectators in London, England with inspiring performances from enlisted professional football players including Denis Whitaker and Paul Rowe.

Paul Rowe began his career as an all-around athlete but ended it as one of the best fullbacks in Canadian football history!

Alex Decoteau
Sport: Athletics
Inducted: 2015

Alex Decoteau made a name for himself by winning races across Alberta and smashing records along the way. In 1911, Alex broke another barrier by joining the City of Edmonton’s police force, becoming Canada’s first Indigenous police officer.

Taking a leave from the Edmonton Police Service in 1916, Alex enlisted with the 202nd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Later transferring to the 49th Battalion, Alex used his athletic abilities, serving as a dispatch runner in the trenches during the First World War.

Click the image to learn more about Decoteau's story through the Indigenous Sport Heroes Education Experience:

Photo Credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta A15005

Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada – PA-001479

Tom Longboat
Sport: Athletics
Inducted: 1955

Very few athletes create a legacy that touches the hearts of multiple generations; Tom Longboat is such an athlete.

Often considered by many to be one of the best long-distance runners, gifted with speed, agility, and endurance, Longboat also served in the military. He took the oath of service in 1916 to serve his country during the First World War as a dispatch courier with the 107th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Click the images to learn more about Tom Longboat:

Joseph Keeper
Sport: Athletics
Inducted: 2015

Joseph Keeper enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and within the year was appointed to the rank of Corporal and transferred to the 107th Battalion known as the Timber Wolf Battalion. The 107th was unique in that as many as half of its men were of Indigenous descent.

A runner, carrying out the dangerous job of couriering dispatches to and from the front line, Keeper performed his job with focus and distinction, earning the Military Medal in 1918 for Bravery in the Field.

Click the image to learn more about Keeper's story through the Indigenous Sport Heroes Education Experience:

Photo Credit: Family of Joseph Benjamin Keeper

Lionel Conacher
Sport: Athletics
Inducted: 1955

Lionel "Big Train" Conacher was an extremely versatile athlete, excelling at football, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, and boxing. Too young to serve in the First World War, Conacher served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. After the war, he became a member of Ontario's Legislative Assembly. Conacher died doing what he loved best - while coming in to third base at a baseball game at the age of 54 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

Click the images to learn more about Tom Longboat:

Myrtle Cook
Sport: Athletics
Inducted: 1955

Myrtle Cook competed for Canada at the 1928 Olympic Games held in Amsterdam. This was the first Olympic Games where women were allowed to compete in athletics. Myrtle was part of the female track team "The Matchless Six" who won gold for Canada at the 4 x 100 metre relay race. During the Second World War she trained new recruits in track and field in the Montreal area, as part of her move to promote physical fitness in Canada. She became known as "Canada's First Lady of Sport."

Percy Molson
Sport: Football
Inducted: 1975

Percy Molson came from a prominent Montreal family (notably owners of the Molson Brewery), and was named McGill University's best "all-round" athlete for three successive years. Molson set a world record in the long jump in 1900, and competed in Track and Field in the 1904 Olympic Games. He was acclaimed for his sense of fair play. He became an officer in Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry during the First World War, earning the respect of his men as well. Molson was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in 1916, but unfortunately was killed the following year. His legacy lives on in McGill University's Percival Molson Stadium, funded in part by a bequest from his estate. 

Click the image to learn more about the brave men and women who served in the military: