Janine Helland credits 2 older brothers who played soccer and a soccer coach father for her choice of sport at a time when women’s soccer wasn’t as well covered as it is now. During her career she represented Edmonton, Alberta, and Canada at the highest levels.
“Edmonton was good at promoting and covering soccer, so I was lucky to be here. But we’d still only play a few games a year.”
The situation changed when the United States hosted the women’s World Cup of soccer in 1999, the year Helland retired from competitive play. Those who played with and coached her agree her skill and leadership as a player are in a category of their own. Helland was “one of Canada’s most intelligent players. She led by example on the field while showing compassion and leadership off the field,” one said.
Playing for the University of Alberta Pandas, she helped lead the team to a national title and won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1990. She was nominated three times as the U of A’s top female athlete and won the award in 1992. Helland represented Canada 47 times and competed for Edmonton and Canada in two World Cups, in 1995 and in 1999.
“A lot of the individual awards I’ve won are humbling. I was playing on a winning team. We had six or seven great players on that team. Looking back, maybe we were exceptional.”
Helland’s leadership was recognized by FIFA and she continues to be involved in the sport as a member of Canada soccer committees.
“All I wanted to do at the end of the day was to win. And you need supporting players around you to win. I probably had high expectations of the players around me.”
Terry Jones considers himself one of the luckiest sportswriters ever. Not because he won an essay contest in Grade 7 and talked his way into his first sportswriting job at the Lacombe Globe. But because he never found out until over a decade later he was the only entrant in the contest. In the interim he had become an established, successful sportswriter.
Now, after more than 50 years writing sports in Edmonton, he still can’t wait to start his next column. He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, has won several sportswriting awards, and was inducted for lifetime achievement by Sports Media Canada. He’s covered 45 Grey Cups, 26 Briers, 21 Super Bowls, 16 Olympics, and 20 World Figure Skating Championships. The list goes on.
Jones has written 14 books including early-in-his-career and end-of-his-career books on Wayne Gretzky as well as historical books on the Oilers, Eskimos, and curling in Edmonton.
“I love the variety. I’ve covered more major games than any other Canadian and enjoyed bouncing from sport to sport.”
Jones was a goalie in hockey and a catcher/first baseman in baseball in his early years, but knew from Grade 7 he wanted to be a sportswriter. After high school, he started at the Edmonton Journal in 1967 and moved to the Sun in 1982. His column now appears in both papers.
“I’ve travelled all over the world covering sports, but I took a great deal of pride in bringing it home to Edmonton readers by featuring local athletes with their international triumphs. I’ve been spoiled. I’ve never thought about working anywhere else.”
“I’ve always believed that Edmonton is the greatest sports city in Canada, and for most of my career I’ve had the best sportswriting job in Canada.”
Jennifer A. Kish
When she was a young kid, Jennifer Kish’s dream had been to play for Canada and go to the Olympics. But at age 8 she put her dream on hold. She found herself playing football on the boys’ team in high school when a coach suggested she try rugby.
Kish started with the Edmonton Rockers rugby club when she was 15, played with Rugby Alberta that same season, and quickly jumped to Canada’s U-19 team. She went to one Fifteens World Cup, then made a switch to Rugby Sevens in 2011, and has participated in nearly every Sevens Worlds since then.
In Sevens, the game runs 14 minutes with seven players per team and two seven-minute halves.
“It’s an explosive, exciting game. It places a high demand on the body. 6 games played over 2 days. And mistakes are costly: there is no hiding in Sevens.”
She captained Canada’s Sevens team from August 2012 to 2016, and led the Canadian team to bronze in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Kish has been described as “arguably the most recognizable female rugby player in the world because of her tattoos and aerial skill set.”
Kish has had a very successful career, on and off the pitch, winning awards like Global’s Woman of Vision and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) Most Influential Athlete of 2016.
Retiring this year, Kish will shift her focus to fitness training, fitness boot camps, and motivational talks, among other options.
“My plan is to give back to rugby. The sport and the people in the sport, changed my life.”
Ronald Lee Minor
Ronald Lee Minor has won numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals in sports ranging from swimming to track and field to slalom, even to arm wrestling. But he is best known as a wheelchair basketball player and coach.
Minor was disabled at age 2 by polio. “As I grew up I was always a sports-minded person. I took swimming lessons, played floor hockey, and weight lifted. I was 1 of 9 kids in the family, so my whole life was a competition.”
He moved to Edmonton at age 18 with $64 in his pocket and took a job with an engine rebuilder. He was also training and competing: swimming, shot put, track and field. “The more events you could do, the more your chance of being selected.”
Minor was selected for the Canada Olympic team and won 7 medals at the 1984 Olympics. In total, he competed in 5 Paralympics. Meanwhile he worked at several jobs and retired after 30 years with Service Canada.
Minor maintained a gruelling daily exercise routine and took part in wheelchair races with friend and co-competitor Rick Hansen. He was the fiercest of competitors but “as soon as the game was over he’d become everyone’s best friend in the sport,” according to one nominator.
“As Ron went about his business of exceptional volunteering, he has become a powerful example of the value of giving back to the larger community,” said another.
Minor has been a member of Alberta Northern Lights Wheelchair Basketball Society almost since its beginning in 1976. Retired now, he coaches wheelchair basketball and is involved in fishing and hunting with his 2 adult children.
“If somebody said I couldn’t do something, I’d prove them wrong.”