Football festivities celebrate 50 years
Golden anniversary for football in St. Albert
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 12, 2012 06:00 am
It was fitting that 50 years of football in St. Albert was celebrated in grand style at Riel Recreation Park
The first-class facility is the home field for 180 atom, peewee and bantam players in the Capital District Minor Football Association and 450 junior and senior high school players in the Metro Edmonton High School Athletic Association.
Mayor Nolan Crouse saluted the leaders of the past for making the future of St. Albert football very bright.
“Without those people there might not be football today in St. Albert,” Crouse said during Saturday’s ceremony. “Their vision was ultimately to have this field, a proper scoreboard, some bathrooms and a spotter’s box but we have two more pieces of the vision that is not yet complete. We have to do something with the practice field and that’s still on everyone’s radar. The next phase of this development is to make sure we have a clubhouse. That is a big ticket item but as we have fundraisers and as we work together between the community, the city and the football association we’ll ultimately have a clubhouse.”
Kyle Porter, president of both the St. Albert and Capital District associations and a SAMFA alumnus, recalled practicing with the bantam Palmer 49ers on the St. Albert Catholic High School field.
“It wasn’t like what we have today,” Porter said. “I remember getting the equipment from a wood shack that managed to keep out the rain and snow.”
Porter, his twin brother Kevin, along with Adam Cassidy, Dave Granoski, Mark Barber and Nick Ternovatsky are SAMFA coaches who played minor football in St. Albert.
“We had great coaches back then and that tradition has carried on to today,” Kyle said.
Saturday’s guest speaker was Larry Olexiuk, head coach of the legendary 49ers who also helped coach the Storm, the first high school football team in St. Albert, and later on the Bellerose Bulldogs.
The 49ers were sponsored by Queenie Palmer in memory of her husband, who fought in the First World War with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, 4th Battalion, 49th Rifle Regiment. Her husband died in the 1960s, before Olexiuk became the head coach of the 49ers in 1968 when they were located in east Edmonton.
“Every year I would drive to her home and pick up a cheque for $500, which was her sponsorship fee,” Olexiuk said. “I remember we picked up our equipment every summer from a guy’s garage on the south side of Edmonton where it was stored.”
The Edmonton & District Minor Football Association eventually transferred the 49ers to St. Albert as a bantam team in the 1980s.
SAMFA, which was incorporated on March 12, 1975, already had the Standard General bantam team operating in St. Albert but had too many players. At that time every player east of the highway played for Standard General and everybody west huddled up for the 49ers. The Willowbrook Warriors were a peewee team that operated out of Grandin and they became the 49ers’ feeder team.
The origins of high school football in St. Albert started after the 49eres lost the 1983 city championship.
“That didn’t stop the Edmonton high school teams from recruiting heavily from St. Albert minor football. The next year nine players went to play football at Ross Sheppard and seven players went to play football at O’Leary. Kyle and his brother Kevin were the starting backfield at O’Leary that year,” Olexiuk said. “In those days if you were not a resident of Edmonton and you transferred from St. Albert you had to pay a $600 fee to play football.”
As a result of those 16 players transferring to Edmonton to play football, a committee comprised of Olexiuk and 12 parents made a presentation to the Kinsmen Club of St. Albert and the Kinsmen donated $10,000 to their cause. The seed money allowed the committee to go to the Alberta Sports Council for a matching grant of $10,000. Another $32,000 was raised by the committee and local businesses for a total of $52,000.
The St. Albert High School Football Association was then established and the Storm was born. The Storm eventually joined the metro Edmonton league in 1988.
“Now it just gives me no amount of pleasure to see three high school teams in St. Albert and such a wonderful minor football association,” Olexiuk said.