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.
After great debate Jordon Tholl of the Regina Thunder has been named the 2020 Past Commissioner Award winner for outstanding community service. Jordan has gone above and beyond to help with several organizations within Regina and certainly hasn't let the pandemic slow him down.
Congratulations Jordan Tholl.
Here is the original nomination:
Defensive lineman Jordon Tholl of the Regina Thunder would have played in his fifth and final CJFL season here in 2020, however the pandemic stopped him from that goal.
Despite the cancelled season, that did not stop Jordan from giving back to his community. He has demonstrated incredible leadership off the field volunteering in several charitable events and organizations.
He is the Prairie Conference “Al Park Community Award” winner and is a nominee for the CJFL Past Commissioner Award which is given to a player that has shown a commitment to make a valuable contribution within the community.
Jordan talks with Ryan Watters below about some of the inspiring organizations he volunteers with.
Here is Jordan’s official nomination put forth by the Thunder and Prairie Conference:
Jordan is a fifth year player with our club and has demonstrated leadership on & off the field. He is admired and respected by his teammates and coaches always leading by example. He has completely bought into the concept of “winning on and off the field” and is an active member of the community and shows great commitment to the Regina Thunder football program all year round. Jordan was a strong leader for our rookies during the COVID 19 pandemic through his work as co-creator of “SaskMasks,” a social enterprise that manufactured and designed masks for the pandemic response. This initiative raised over $50,000 for local charities. Jordan was able to take a difficult and stressful time in the pandemic to demonstrate to his teammates that you can take a difficult situation and lend your efforts to make a difference.
Jordan is a student athlete enrolled in Business Administration at the University of Regina. He has managed to balance a strong commitment to his team, his community, and his studies.
He is a dominant player on the field but truly has a heart for children, people in need and those socioeconomically disadvantaged. Jordon is a two-sport elite athlete with a passion for football and wrestling.
With all the demands of working and performing as a student athlete, he still finds time to be an active two sport mentor and coach. This year Jordan continued his coaching at O’Neill high school. He has also coached a minor flag football team, was a coach for the Regina High School Leboldus wrestling team and guest coached at Regina’s Martin Collegiate spring football camp.
Jordan identified a local not-for-profit agency that he has become passionate about. Carmichael Outreach, a community-based organization advocates on behalf of and provides services to people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. Carmichael fosters empowerment through dignity, respect, and advocacy, as well as engaging the community in its work to end poverty and homelessness. During the start of COVID, Jordan was an active volunteer in the meals preparation program at Carmichael, where the center saw a huge growth in its clients needing meals, especially children and youth who were unable to receive their school nourishment or lunch programs due to the closure of schools.
He was also a participant for the “Five Days for the Homeless” initiative for Carmichael Outreach. This annual fundraiser is held each year at the University of Regina in conjunction with the Business Student’s Society at the Paul J. Hill School of Business. Jordan was one of five participants who slept outside for five nights, giving up many luxuries such as cell phones, clean clothing, showers, and regular access to meals, in an effort to open the conversation about the causes of homelessness while raising funds for the day-to-day operations at Carmichael. The 2018 Five Days for the Homeless was another roaring success, surpassing their goal of $50,000. This is the most raised by any school in the nine years that Five Days has been around.
Jordan’s involvement with Carmichael also included time as a dedicated volunteer who spent countless hours painting the inside and outside of the Shelter and facilities to ensure that the necessary renovations were completed to “brighten up the days for the residents.”
Jordan is a mentor for his teammates and also for his fellow students at the University. He volunteered as a UofR Ambassador and has been a regular volunteer for the Regina Thunder Acts of Kindness Program including the production of a poster story board video entitled “No One Fights Alone.” This campaign presented three Regina Thunder Brothers, suffering from terminal illnesses with support and outreach for their fights with their respective diseases. Jordan was an active participant and organizer of this event. He has also volunteered to visit children in the hospital and has delivered game tickets to families and children fighting illnesses in our community.
Perseverance, discipline, kindness are all terms that come to mind when describing this young man. The Thunder knows he will continue to accomplish great things! He is a unanimous choice for the Regina Thunder for this award.
The only Canadian Bowl that needed overtime was the 1997 game in Kelowna when the Regina Rams beat the Okanagan Sun 23-20 in an absolute classic.
Coming into the game the Rams were a perennial powerhouse winning three Canadian Bowl titles in four seasons; winning in 1993, 1994 and 1995. The Sun meanwhile were a powerhouse in the BC Conference in the 90’s and had faced the Rams in the national semi-final game in 1995 and lost 11-8.
The 1997 Canadian Bowl was played in front of 6200 screaming fans at the Apple Bowl and featured two very talented offensive players in Jason Clermont of the Rams and running back Terrance Huston of the Sun and both played a major factor during this game.
After a scoreless first quarter the Rams piled on 17 points in the second quarter and led 17-3 at the half. The score stayed that way entering the fourth quarter when the Sun offensive finally came alive. They scored 14 points in the final frame to tie the game and force overtime.
Nothing was settled in the first overtime session, so the teams who, were tired and banged up were forced to play a second session. The Sun worked the ball all the way down to the three yard line but couldn’t punch it in with 1:20 left on the clock. Instead they had to settle for a Derek Korstrom 10 yard field goal to give them the lead for the first time in the game. Overtime in the CJFL is not sudden death.
The Rams then had 75 seconds on the clock to get into field goal range themselves to potentially tie it starting at their own 35 yard line. After a couple of pass completions the Rams were down to the Sun 45 yard line. Quarterback Chad Ehman who had a very strong game then threw two incompletions to set up third down and 10 with 28 seconds to go. Instead of trying a 50+ yard field goal the Rams went for it and it paid off. Ehman found Clermont who was wide open on a dump pass, then scampered 42 yards all the way down to the Sun three yard line. On the very next play Clermont punched it into the end zone for the game winning score and their fourth national championship in five seasons.
Offensively Ehman finished with 17 completions for 231 yards finding Clermont three times for 70 yards. The future CFLer also rushed five times for 13 yards including the three yard game winning touchdown. Speaking of rushing, running back Ikenna Njoka was outstanding with 19 carries for 115 yards and a five-yard touchdown run.
On the other side of the field the Sun did most of their damage on the ground behind Ron Arnold. He was punishing with 25 carries for 244 yards and a 30 touchdown sprint. Huston was held to 48 yards on the ground but he returned seven punts for 125 yards.
These two teams showed their dominance the following season meeting again in the 1998 Canadian Bowl, however this time in Regina with the Rams winning 36-13.
The 1997 game remains the only Canadian Bowl to be decided in overtime. Its remains a CJFL Canadian Bowl Classic that you can relive below.