Bill Danychuk, Harry Steele join NOTL Sports Wall of Fame
By Wayne Creighton
Jun 29, 2007
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE -- Former big league manager Leo Durocher is credited with coining the phrase 'nice guys finish last.'
Obviously, Durocher never met Harry Steele or Bill Danychuk.
Saturday evening at the Meridan Credit Union arena in Virgil, Steele and Danychuk were added to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sports Wall of Fame and by all accounts it couldn't have happened to two nicer or more deserving guys.
Danychuk spent 11 years as an offensive lineman with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, winning three Grey Cups and was named to the CFL all-star team 10 times.
Born in Timmins, Danychuk and his family moved to Lachine, Que. and later to Niagara-on-the-Lake when he was 13 or 14. After attending Niagara Falls Collegiate for a year, Danychuk was part of the initial class at Niagara District Secondary School in 1957 and that's where he was bit by the football bug.
In the final game of his senior year, Danychuk recalled that there were only 12 players left on the roster so coach Roy Crysler went into the school and recruited anybody that looked like a football player.
"He went up to anybody that had some size and asked them if they wanted to be a football player for a day," said Danychuk. "When we went out to warm up we had about 30 players, but it didn't take long for the other team to realize that we weren't making any substitutions. Believe it or not, we beat Collegiate that day."
After his graduation from Niagara District, Danychuk headed south to play for the University of Tennessee where he had the misfortune of playing against Joe Namath's Alabama teams.
"He beat our butts," laughed Danychuk.
Danychuk's CFL career began with the Tiger Cats and Montreal Alouettes battling over his rights. He signed originally with Montreal, but when the team sent out a press release announcing the deal it declared his hometown as Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was Tiger Cat territory in the days before the draft.
CFL commissioner Sidney Halter declared that Danychuk belonged to the Tiger Cats and the rest, as they say, is history.
Danychuk played for the Tiger Cats from 1964-1975 and won the Grey Cup in 1965, 1967 and again in 1972. Last year his name and number were added to the Tiger Cats Wall of Honour at Ivor Wynne Stadium along with the likes of Angelo Mosca, Rocky DiPietro, Tommy Joe Coffey, Bernie Faloney and Garney Henley among others.
Coffey, a CFL Hall of Famer, was in attendance Saturday to congratulate his former teammate.
Now 66, he'll be 67 in August, Danychuk said he is humbled by the accolades.
"It's just a great, great honour," said Danychuk.
Steele was acknowledged as the 'father' of softball in Niagara-on-the-Lake and was one of the founders of the town's minor softball association. As well, he was involved in just about every other sport the town had to offer and his barbershop served as the place to celebrate victories and commiserate over losses as well as a storage facility for balls, bats, catcher's masks and just about anything else you might need to get a ball game together on short notice.
As his only daughter in a family of five children, Debbie Dutton has fond memories of her dad, who passed away five years ago.
"He was always involved with kids," said Dutton. "Baseball, hockey ... he helped kids build their cars for the Soap Box Derby. He played golf and got his grandchildren involved with golf. Any sport, my dad loved kids and he loved sports."
Dutton said her dad was a 'nice' man and well-liked by everyone.
"He wasn't a hard coach and he enjoyed having fun with the kids," she said.
Her dad would have been tickled pink by Saturday's award said Dutton.
"He would have been so happy," said Dutton. "It's a great honour for our family."