Photo courtesy of Louis Christ Photography
CJFL Commissioner Jim Pankovich has demonstrated an incredible amount of leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and has been named the 2020 CJFL Stewart MacDonald Executive Of The Year.
Starting from the very early days of the pandemic, Jim had envisioned the difficult path that was before us and began to strategize and approach to deal with the situation.
Jim’s calm, cool, and measured approach kept the Canadian Junior Football League on track to making a difficult decision based on a tremendous amount of information from multiple sources. The outcome ultimately wound up being the best decision one could make for the safety and well being for the athletes, coaches and entire CJFL.
The Commissioner spent hundreds of hours, talking with experts, politicians, doctors, CFL football executives and a multitude of CJFL members throughout the country in the early stages of the pandemic. Jim had developed a primary plan as well as many multi leveled and layered contingency plans and was able to present these to stakeholders in a matter that had led to the consistent buy in and ownership of all the parties involved.
His in-depth analysis and planning put the CJFL in a place where the league moved methodically forward while maintaining an optimistic view for what was to come. Timelines were developed for primary and secondary strategies, input was requested and documented and thoroughly discussed with all the key stakeholders allowing for educated thought through debates and decisions.
Although the cancellation of the 2020 season and the Canadian Bowl was not the desire of anyone, when it came time to make that decision everyone was confident that the league had viewed and analyzed all angles and the best decision for the safety of the whole was made. Despite the gravity of this decision the CJFL holds the belief that we are still in a strong position to succeed going forward and faith or optimism has not been lost for future seasons. This was accomplished only because Jim’s complete dedication and commitment to ensure no stone was left unturned before a decision was made. His desire and professional, positive attitude was the glue that held the CJFL executive together throughout this challenging time.
The CJFL did not react hastily nor erratically when it came time to cancel the 2020 season. Jim epitomized the old-World War II mantra of “stay calm and carry on.”
Jim has won this award previously in 2015, and it is a testament to his extreme ability to lead our league that he is awarded the Executive Of The Year five years later. Many have discussed that with Jim Pankovich at the vanguard of this crisis, we were never in a position of defeat but in a position of growth and evolution of the game of junior football in Canada.
The Ontario Conference Bill Prest Community Service Award is given to a player each season that demonstrates the desire to make his community a better place.
Despite the 2020 on field season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic several CJFL players continued to make it a priority to serve their community. Hundreds of volunteer hours were accounted for in the last 12 months across all 18 teams.
The London Beefeaters saw a rookie rise to the top of their volunteerism here in 2020 as Dylan Soares not only made statement on the field in practice, but off it in the community as well. The most interesting part of the story is that Soares has never played a down of tackle football in his life, but that didn’t stop him from coaching flag football and helping out with minor football every chance he got. For his tremendous spirit of giving back he was named the Bill Prest Community Service Award winner.
Here is his nomination form submitted by the Beefeaters to be named the CJFL Past Commissioners Award winner.
In August when we found out we wouldn’t be playing the organization was obviously disappointed. A few days following the cancellation the organizer for the London Minor Football Association contacted former Beefeaters’ head coach Jesse Maddox to ask if there were extra players to coach the kids league. Soares saw the opportunity when Maddox posted it on the team group chat, and he immediately contacted in head coach to say he was interested. Soares liked the opportunity to help those who were fortunate enough to still play even though it was flag football and not tackle. That said the opportunity was difficult to pass up and he wanted to help these kids be better. So he put up his hand and began coaching the practices and games in the U12 Division and they even made it to the finals. Unfortunately his team lost the title game but for Soares his favourite part of the season was getting to know the kids and trying to find what coaching style best suited each of them.
Coaching minor football wasn’t the only volunteering Soares did this past year; he again helped in soup kitchens in London as well. He wanted to do even more however it became extremely difficult to do because of the pandemic and other extraneous circumstances in his personal life. He is a full time student, he was practicing with the Beefs and learning the intricacies of the game and working part time.
He speaks with Ryan Watters about why he thinks it’s important to give back.
What a year for sport in Canada in 1976 as Montreal became the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Games in July.
The year was a leap year, which began on a Thursday and the CJFL kicked off with four Conferences and 31 teams. The Ontario Conference itself had three divisions and 13 teams, the Manitoba Conference had four, the Alberta Junior Conference tallied eight and had teams from Saskatchewan and the BC Conference had six strong. It’s interesting to note only one team finished the season undefeated; the Ottawa Sooners were 8-0 but lost in the Conference semi-final.
In the “Year of the Dragon” the road to the Canadian Bowl featured four Conference champions:
Ontario Football Conference – Hamilton Hurricanes defeated the Verdun Maple Leafs in a best of three series.
Manitoba Junior Football Conference – St. Vital Mustangs also beat the Winnipeg Hawkeyes in a best of three series
Alberta Junior Football League – Regina Rams beat the Edmonton Wildcats 62-28
Big Four Football (BC Conference) – Vancouver Meralomas shutout the North Shore Cougars 24-0
During the 1976 playoffs the CJFL featured a pair of Inter-Conference semi-finals to determine who would play for the Armadale Cup (known today as the Canadian Bowl). The Ontario champion Hurricanes pounded the Manitoba champion Mustangs 23-8 to advance, then the Alberta champion Rams dominated the BC champion Meralomas 48-0 to set a date with the Hurricanes.
The national championship Armadale Cup was played on November 13, 1976 in front of an incredible 10,000 fans in Regina. The Rams used the big crowd energy to perfection and crushed the Hurricanes 45-23. The victory marked the second straight season defeating the Hurricanes in the national championship game. In four 1976 playoff games the Rams’ defence pitched a pair of shutouts.
Off the field in 1976 the Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The CN Tower in Toronto opened its doors in June and Rocky was the top grossing movie of the year, knocking out the competition with $55,900,000 earned at the box office.
The first laser printer was also introduced in 1976 by IBM and Wings had the top song on the Billboard Charts with “Silly Love Songs.”
Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister watching the Montreal Canadians sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in four games to win the Stanley Cup. The Toronto Blue Jays were created in ’76, then played their first game the following season.
Back on the gridiron it was a battle of the Roughriders in the 64th Grey Cup when the Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 23-20 in Toronto. Some experts still say this was the most thrilling Grey Cup. Meanwhile down south the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl 10.
That was the year of 1976!