BRIEF HISTORY OF SOCCER IN THE YUKON
Sources: the Yukon Archives' newspaper microfilms, and Dave's memory. We would like this history to be as complete and correct as possible. Please let the soccer office know of any additions or corrections you may have: email@example.com
Several practice games were held before the first official league game was played on Sunday, May 27th. The Midnight Sun Pipe Band entertained the crowd before the ceremonies and Commissioner Gordon Cameron performed the official kick-off at 2:00pm. The opening game was between 918 Construction and Howard Firth Insurance (Firth Canucks), and was refereed by Derek Irons from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The five teams in the league battled for the trophy donated by Cal Miller and Carlings Ltd. 918 Construction were the league champions, while Firth Canucks won the playoff cup by beating Taylor & Drury 5-2 in the final.
The first season proved to be a great success, with an excellent brand of soccer being played and as many as 200 spectators watching the games. It was not without its problems, however. The field at Selkirk was gravel and hard on the knees and elbows when the going got rough, the ethnic rivalries caused problems for the two officials, Derek "Dawson Festival" Irons and Norm "I-bin-robbed" Chamberlist. Negotiations with the Territorial Government secured a better piece of land at F.H. Collins school and the league discipline committee banned ethnic teams.
A real highlight of the year was the visit of an all-star team from Elsa in which Whitehorse was soundly beaten 5-1. On the Labor Day weekend, two Whitehorse teams traveled to Elsa for a re-match only to lose both games they played. Taylor & Drury team lost to Calumet 4-2, and Firth Canucks bowed to Elsa 5-1. On this occasion, the United Keno Hill Mine Manager, A.E. Pike, announced that the mine would donate a trophy for competition for all teams in the area. Plans were now underway for a Yukon Northern B.C. competition in 1963.
In 1964, under the presidency of Norm Chamberlist, the first Disciplinary Committee was formed, made up of Bert Whybrew, President of the Senior Hockey League, Gerry Ball, President of the Baseball League, and Norm. Having people from outside the soccer fraternity made it easier to shift the blame for decisions made by the committee. Discipline was often a problem with the many ethnic groups from Europe playing, and on one occasion, Norm sent off John Gerencer (nicknamed Coca-Cola), but failed to notice that he did not get off the field. John ended up remaining on the field through to the end of the game.
In 1964, there was also talk of a referees school and the formation of a Junior League for boys aged 8 16 years. An All-Sta r team from Whitehorse, Elsa and Columet played an exhibition game with B.C., and Whitehorse players chartered Canadian Pacific Airlines to fly them to Elsa and Cassiar for games. A registration fee of $2.50 was levied for the first time and although no charge was made for watching the games, a hat was passed around and as much as $28 was collected at some games.
In 1969, Anchorage visits Whitehorse, and plans are made to expand Northern League to N.W.T., Elsa, Whitehorse and Cassiar.
In 1973, Ron Beecham was elected President. Youth league had a year of difficulties and sagging interest which led to the early demise of the soccer season. In 1977 some attempts were made to form a Territorial association.
The Mens League continued to operate, and with the migration of University students looking for summer work, was able to run five teams. There was some childrens activity in these years, but it was not well developed until 1977, when an official league began to operate. Despite not having very many players, the Yukon did send a team to the 1973 and 1977 Canada Games.
While not having official representative teams, the organization of travel teams began, and Whitehorse players traveled to Juneau, Alaska for friendly games. Several teams also made an annual trek to the Midnight Sun Tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska. In the early years, Whitehorse teams were very successful in these ventures, but in recent years this has not always been the case. In 1985, regular soccer exchanges with Juneau and Fairbanks began.
In 1988, the four Arctic Winter Games coaches were dismissed following a supervision problem at the Trials in Faro. Despite the change in coaching, the U16 Girls soccer team wins a Gold Ulu at the 1988 Arctic Winter Games.
In 1995, the Yukon Youth Soccer Association was incorporated by Societies as the Yukon Soccer Association, with the affiliation of the Whitehorse Womens Soccer Association and the Whitehorse Mens Association. Following this incorporation, the Yukon Soccer Association became a member of the Canadian Soccer Association.
Soccer continued to grow rapidly and while the organization was improving, it could not keep pace with the expansion. Recruitment of coaches was a major problem for the Representative Teams and the maintenance of the fields was a constant headache. With a stable executive made up of Dave Stockdale (President), Jan Kulicki (1st Vice President), Kim Houde (Treasurer), Pat Westberg (Secretary), Bill Sim (2nd Vice President), and Paula Stoker (Sport Administrator), the organization became more professional. Major strides were made in policy development, financialaffairs were put in order and sanctioning of Representative Teams took on a new significance. Growth around the Territory was not always easy, but affiliations were made with Mayo, Dawson City, Beaver Creek and Watson Lake. In recent years, Atlin B.C. and Ross River have been involved in our activities.
In 1997, Yukon Soccer Association signs a Three Year Coaching Development Plan with Sean Fleming and Paul Kelly. The hard work of our coaches and athletes paid off at the 1998 Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife, at which all four teams earned medals. The U16 Girls won Gold, U14 Boys earned Silver, and the U16 Boys and U14 Girls received Bronze Ulus. This is the first time that all four teams have come home with medals. This year also saw the renewal of the Interschool competition at the Grade 6 & 7 level, with a September outdoor tournament.
Efforts still continue to promote soccer throughout the Yukon. Our Whitehorse affiliate continues to grow and this season registered over 1,100 outdoor youth players, and over 500 indoor participants. The McDonalds Outdoor Yukon Championships and the NorthwesTel Indoor Yukon Championships are our major events of the year. Ninety-eight teams participated in the outdoor event in 1998 and sixty-two teams participated in the indoor event in early 1999. Facilities are being stretched to the limit, and talk of developing an indoor facility is becoming common. While finding coaches for Representative teams will always be a challenge, the ones we do have, have done an excellent job over the last 6 7 years. Regular coaching locally, and work with visiting coaches has produced a very good level of soccer which has been reflected in tournaments in B.C. and Alberta. This dedication by both players, managers and coaching staff has lead to our decision to send a Mens and a Womens team to the 2001 Canada Summer Games after an absence of 22 years. May of 1999 also saw the first ever visit of the Canadian Soccer Association President, Jim Fleming, to the Yukon.
Soccer continues to grow in the Yukon, even with the constraints of a very short season and our isolated location. This is a great credit to those who began the organization almost forty years ago, and a testament to those who have promoted the game in more recent years.
Posted 17 December 1999