Ice Chips & Canoe Quips

Island community sports leader passes

This past Saturday I learned of the passing of elder Donald ‘Scotty’ Fisher Odjig at the age of 94. Don, when I knew him, was the consummate sportsperson. I first met him as a hockey coach. He was one of the pioneer coaches to bring Wiikwemkoong teams to try their luck against Sudbury teams. He organized countless exhibition games against AA teams. He started out playing squads lower in the standings and eventually would challenge them all. His coaching style of promoting fitness, hustle and simple systems brought home many tournament trophies, coaching into his 70s.

Scotty also became a community role model with his running. Only starting out when he turned 50 he became a legend at races all around Northern Ontario. He ran countless Wiky Road Races and was running between 50 and 70 kilometres a week into his 80s.

In his earlier days, Donald was a paratrooper in the airborne division and dropped into Belgium on D-Day. His father, Dominic was also a veteran but of World War I.

It was nice to know you, Don. Your community will greatly miss you. Baa maa pii.

From the desk of Dad!

Thanks, once again, to my father who has brought forward some more great memories of athletes from the past. 

We are all aware that the Island has developed many outstanding athletes, even Olympians. Our Island athletic luminaries often come from a string of well-known families. Among them are the Strains, Greens, Lockeyers, Gjos’ and McCullochs of Little Current; the Kings, Corrigans, Loves and McDermids of Mindemoya; the Cranstons and Pearsons of Providence Bay; the Thibaults, Dumonds, Baileys of Gore Bay; the Corbieres, Debassiges, Beaudins of M’Chigeeng; the Madahbees, Abbotosaways, Assinewais of Aundeck Omni Kaning; the Cases, Fields and Moggys of Manitowaning; the Simons/Mishibinjimas of Sheguiandah; the Endanawas’ of Sheshegwaning; the Assinewais, Peltiers, Ominikas, Manitowabis of Wiikwemkoong. 

This list is far from complete and I mean no offence to families that are not mentioned. We are so good at producing athletes that it would take a week of Wednesdays to recognize everyone. However, today, I would like to examine the Eshkawkogan families of Wiky. I choose this family simply because I have been involved with many of them through teaching, hockey and/or running programs. These athletes come from two families: those of Clement (Doas) ba, Ivan ba and Lorne ba. Bon, Jay, Darren, Cecil, Steven and Eugene are sons of Ivan. 

All were hockey players at some point and a number were good runners. Bon was an excellent sniper in hockey but the one that I am most connected to is Eugene, also known as “Snuffy.” There are still marks of his presence at Pontiac School, mostly on the ceiling tiles in dark brown spots. Eugene is a happy-go-lucky type of guy with a sly smile plastered to his face. 

He was a power forward in hockey with a heavy slapshot that burned many a goalie. In a bantam tournament in Durham he blasted his first three shots into the opposition goalie’s pads. His coach at the time, frustrated with this lack of success told him in a strong manner to try to score another way, because his slapshot wouldn’t work. On the very next shift ‘Snuffy’ got a partial breakaway. His coach closed his eyes when he saw Eugene raise his stick high for another slapshot. Snuffy put all his muscle-power into the shot and though the goalie seemed to have his pads closed the puck punched through and hit the twine. The glow from Eugene’s smile lit the arena all the way to the bench where the coach bowed his head and turned his back to his misbehaving player. Eugene was also a hoot at Pontiac School, a hilarious guy!

Clem’s offspring were no less characters. Most of them were known for their running prowess (including the girls Bonita and Bernadette) as well as their hockey. The boys were Jerry, Josh, Mike, Jeff, Mark and Peter. All were good on the ice and at least four were gifted runners. These included Mike, Jeff, Mark (aka “English”) and Peter. Somewhere in Wiky there is a truckload of Eshkawkogan running medals as these boys collected them anywhere they went. Most are still involved in running.

I had Peter in school, running and hockey. He was an amazing athlete. He was not only a power-forward in hockey but also a power runner. He could fly. His main competition at the time was a character named Eddie George. They were close in speed and made each other better as a result of their constant rivalry. Eddie has a ton of medals also. 

There are many stories about these lads but my last, best memory of Peter was him being named to the International Midget All-Star team in Sarnia in 1987. Although the announcers were unable to pronounce his name he impressed the All-Star selectors with his speed, wily moves as well as his hard and accurate shot. He was no flower in the corners either. He was so hard to play against. He picked up so many points that the announcers finally gave up trying to pronounce his last name. By the championship game they would simply say, “Manitoulin goal by Peter E.” There are a multitude of great stories from these two families that I could write a book!

If you have some info on a Manitoulin sports family, send it this way!

A good sport is good for sports.