Friday, 13 November 2009

The Winnipegger Who Pulled the CFL Together

For a more detailed version of this post, read my October 2014 Winnipeg Free Press story here !

Hall of Fame Card (courtesy, Reese Halter)

G. Sydney "Syd" Halter had a huge impact on the local and national sports scene, though most sports fans wouldn't recognize the name. Here's the story of the Winnipegger who pulled the CFL together !

Winnipeg Tribune Feb 17, 1942

Halter was born in Winnipeg on April 18, 1905 and graduated from the faculty of law at the U of M in 1927. His interest in sports administration came early as he managed the U of M Hockey team while a student there.

Soon after graduating, he was involved in the reorganization of the Winnipeg Football Club and from 1935 to 1942 held many positions on its board, including treasurer and president.

November 28 1938, Winnipeg Free Press

Between 1931 and 1946 Halter also had stints as president of the Winnipeg Amateur Athletic Association and the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, both the Manitoba branch and the national body. As national president at only 33 years of age, he was portrayed as the young upstart who was coming in to modernize an antiquated body for a new era.

Winnipeg Tribune September 9, 1942

During World War II Halter served with the Royal Canadian Air Force.. Upon his return, he re-established his corporate law career and soon, it was back to sports. In 1953 he was elected commissioner of the Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) in which the Blue Bombers played.

Halter felt that it was time “to organize Canadian pro football" and that "... all matters pertinent to it at this time can be handled on a national basis under the jurisdiction of a single central office” and he set out to create a single Canadian Football League. 

In January 1958 the deal to establish the Canadian Football League was finalized at Winnipeg's Royal Alexandra Hotel on Main Street and its driving force, G. Sydney Halter, was chosen as its first commissioner. He guided the league through its formative years, 1958 to 1966. (That made him the man with the tough decision to halt play at the 1962 'fog bowl' Grey Cup game and resume play the next day!)

After his retirement as commissioner, Halter dedicated himself to the sport of horse racing, serving two stints as chair of the Manitoba Horse Racing Commission. Under his tenure Assiniboia Downs expanded its thoroughbred racing season from 42 to 120 days and a rural harness racing circuit was created.

Winnipeg Stadium

After Halter's death on October 24, 1990
there was a push to have Winnipeg Stadium renamed the G. Sydney Halter Memorial Stadium. Winnipeg Enterprises, however, stood firm in its practice of not naming sports facilities under their administration.

For his life's work Halter was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (1977) and has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame including: Canadian Sports; Canadian Amateur Sports; Manitoba Sports; Canadian Football; Canadian Jewish Sports; Canadian Horse Racing and Canadian Olympic.

When you sit down to watch the CFL playoffs this weekend take a moment to remember the Winnipegger who pulled it all together !

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