Frank McKinnon did a lot of work to promote sport in Manitoba and Canada without the expectation of getting recognized for his efforts — but they kept coming to him.
During his life, the 80-year-old was a teacher and principal, served on the executive of the Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association, now Hockey Manitoba, and as the first chairman of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, now Hockey Canada. He also served as a director for the Sports Federation of Canada, as vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Association and commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
As time went on, so came the recognition. He became a life member of Hockey Canada, the Canadian Junior Hockey League and Hockey Manitoba, and he has been inducted into the province’s hockey, sports and high school sports halls of fame. This year, he has received one of the biggest honours in the country by being appointed to the Order of Canada for his role in fostering amateur sport in Manitoba.
"I just celebrated my 80th birthday, and it has to be a culmination of many years of sport," McKinnon said. "That’s probably something that really hits home with you and you think about things that have happened in sport when I was back in Manitoba. That’s why it’s really a big thrill for me."
McKinnon was born in Wellwood, just outside of Carberry, and spent a lot of time playing baseball, fastball and hockey. His dream of playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings became a reality, and he also played hockey for the Brandon College Caps before earning his teaching certificate and going off to teach in Hamiota.
Among all the things he did in sport, one of his proudest moments came in Hamiota.
"One sport that I didn’t play in school was basketball," he said. "When I got my teaching certificate, I went to Hamiota and they were involved in basketball in an old gym and I took the game up (as a coach) and we won about two or three provincial championships."
From there, McKinnon went on to a long career of volunteering and working in sport.
He spent five years as president of the Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association and helped create the Centennial Cup, now known as the RBC Cup, in 1971.
He was also a member of congress of the International Ice Hockey Federation and was part of the committee that organized the first world junior hockey championship in 1974.
He served as the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association from 1979 to 1982, and it didn’t take long for him to make his mark on that organization as well.
"I went to a Hockey Canada meeting and I had my first meeting and was surprised to learn that women’s hockey was not included, so I jumped in there and said ‘Hey, equal rights,’" McKinnon said.
"The other thing that I was really proud of, because it has produced some great leaders in Canada, is when I came the chairman of Hockey Canada, we had no full-time president and I said ‘We can’t really become a great organization until we become a corporate organization where you can have a volunteer chairman of the board, but you need someone to carry out the policy.’ The volunteer chairman of the board is too busy looking after his own business or whatever."
McKinnon then hired Murray Costello to become the organization’s first president.
McKinnon left Hockey Canada in 1985, and in 1992, he became the commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League — a post he held for 10 years.
Now retired in Calgary, McKinnon is very proud of all that he has accomplished and the join the Order. He plans to attend the ceremony in Ottawa to honour all 86 new appointments to the Order, although a date has not been set.
He also hopes that others continue to volunteer and that they get recognized for their efforts as well.
"Some people say they’re doing this for (recognition), but there are piles of people out there that probably never get recognized, but they do tons of work, whether it’s organizational or sitting at home and doing something at the kitchen table," McKinnon said.
"It’s a real pride when you’re named like that, but you’re hoping down the road that some of those people who have just worked year after year will get recognized in some time."