This goes back to my recent post about renaming things or otherwise honouring famous citizens.....
Jacob Penner Park, has quite the history. Founded in 1894 as Notre Dame Park, it was home to the city's first greenhouses and nursery. If you like the old elms that Winnipeg is famous for, this is where where tens of thousands of them got their start. In 2000 it was renamed in honour of long-time communist city councillor Jacob Penner, who has quite the history himself. (For a history of the park see my Winnipeg Downtown Places post.)
Aside from a tablet saying that the park was renamed for Penner, there's nothing in the park that mentions its history, or even Penner's for that matter.
There is one historic marker in the park, and that commemorates the Winnipeg Falcons. It's on Wellington Avenue, next to the parking lot entrance for a city works garage that shares the site. Tucked away and graffitied, you'd hardly notice it.
Pretty much any Winnipegger that has won a major sports award in the 00s, from the Stanley Cup to CFL records to Olympic medals have had a park, street, arena or community centre named for them. But what about the Falcons ?
They won what many consider the Holy Grail of Canadian sports: the Olympic gold medal in men's hockey. They were the very first team to do so when the sport debuted at the 1920 games in Antwerp. It is something that will never be repeated as it is now specially created national teams, not existing local ones, that compete for the gold.
What makes this feat more astonishing is that in its early years the team was barred from playing in any city league due to discrimination against its mostly Icelandic makeup. Their big break came only when senior leagues were so desperate to survive during World War I that they accepted any club that could put a roster of grown men on the ice.
I'm about to embark on a frustrating - and have been warned likely fruitless - journey through the city bureaucracy to at least have a new plexi cover put on the sign and have it moved somewhere a bit more prominent in the park. (Too bad this wasn't done last year when the park underwent a huge renovation.)
With the centenary of their feat only a few years away, it would be ice to think that the city and other organizations could get together to perhaps look at something a bit more significant. After all, its what we've been doing at a rapid rate for our present-day sports stars.
1920 Winnipeg Falcons Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame
Frank Frederickson Hockey Hall of Fame
Frank Frederickson Manitoba sports Hall of Fame
Falcons bound for Olympic Hall of Fame Globe and Mail
Long Shot: How the Winnipeg Falcons won the first Olympic hockey gold
Falcons Gold: Canada's First Olympic Hockey Heroes (Listen to my interview with the book's publisher Mackenzie Kristjon Jenkyns here.)