Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/4/2013 (3070 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brandon’s Russ Roney got an early start as a basketball referee, beginning a 44-year love affair with the game.
"I was probably in Grade 8 when I started (officiating games) in school … and just kept on going," said Roney, after being announced Tuesday as one of this year’s inductees into the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame. "I started filling in for people and pretty soon I was a regular."
Roney quickly became a fixture at basketball games in Brandon, working as an official for 44 years, from 1946 to 1990, founding the Westman Basketball Officials Association in 1968 and working as the officials supervisor and head clinician from 1968 to 1989.
As it turned out, Roney proved perfectly equipped for the role as a referee.
"You’ve got to have pretty thick skin," said Roney, an 83-year-old retired teacher. "Making a call against the home team, you’ve got to have a pretty thick skin. … But I had a lot of experience very quickly when I was younger, so it didn’t bother me."
While he worked many memorable games, one of Roney’s favourites was the Brandon University Bobcats’ infamous "Stall Game" in 1971 when a Gary Howard coached team tried to hold off a powerhouse Manitoba Bisons team by playing a little keepaway. Playing without a shot clock at that time, the overmatched Bobcats slowed the game to a crawl, and actually held an 11-10 half-time lead before falling 14-13 on Angus Burr’s shot with three seconds left.
"There wasn’t much running it, I’ll tell ya," Roney said, with a chuckle. "It was unique and it was a lot of fun because the University of Manitoba had a really strong team and the Bobcats were not the strongest team and they came up with this plan. … So it was an interesting game."
Roney, whose wife Marjorie was inducted back in 1991 as a member of Brandon’s 1950 YMCA Queens senior women’s basketball team, will be joined in this year’s Hall of Fame class in the builders category by Clyde Perry as well as players Dan Becker, Norm Froemel, Joey Johnson and Anne Smith. Also slated for induction are the Vincent Massey Vikings 1969, 1970 and 1971 varsity boys basketball teams that won three straight provincial AA high school championships.
"It’s always special to win a provincial championship, no question," said Brandon’s Dwight Kearns, a member of the 1969 Vikings. "… It’s kind of neat. It’s been, what, 45 years since we played? So it’s been a while and we had a pretty good team."
Kearns was a point guard on that team, and pointed to coaches Barry Diller and Terry Little for turning them into a championship squad.
"Barry Diller coached us and then Terry Little came along and he added his input as well," Kearns said. "Of course we had good athletes, but it always comes down to coaches and how much time they want to put in and they put a lot of time in it."
By winning the provincial AA title that year, the Vikings — led by 6-foot-5 star centre Joe Burgess, who would go on to play for the University of Winnipeg — earned a berth in the AAA championship and gave the No.1-ranked team in the province a huge scare before fading down the stretch.
"The thing I remember most was playing our first game in Winnipeg against the (top-ranked) Westwood team and we were supposed to get blown out and as the game went on, people started coming into the gym and they were shocked as we got 15 up and 20 up," Kearns said. "We were up 23 at the half, but then we ran into a little foul trouble. … But that was the year when we started being able to compete with the Winnipeg schools."
This year’s Hall of Fame class will be inducted in Winnipeg on Oct. 5.