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Father of athletics at RMC, Danny McLeod dead at 92
Posted: January 14th, 2014 @ 7:50pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
The father of athletics at Royal Military College, and a man who continued to embody the spirit of the college long after he retired from the Canadian Forces, Maj. Danny McLeod died early Tuesday morning.
He was 92.
"Such a huge loss," Earle Morris, a 1967 graduate of RMC who went on to be one of the nation's top competitive curlers, wrote in an email. "(Danny was) one of a kind, a mentor to so many and an inspiration to anyone who came in contact with him."
Named RMC's first athletics director in 1960, McLeod was the driving force behind the creation of the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union, the first national governing body for university sport in Canada, now known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport. He served as secretary-treasurer for its first 10 years and was its first executive director.
"His unquestionable expertise in the area of sport - his diligence in administrative matters and his undying zeal and enthusiasm for the - greater good of university sport were unmatched among his peers," Carl Totzke, incoming chairman of the CIAU, said in 1971.
McLeod designed the athletics program at RMC in such a way as to prepare cadets for operational leadership. Eventually, athletics became one of the three pillars of officer development, along with academics and military training.
It wasn't easy, Doug Hargreaves recalled.
"Sport was an underdog operation in the military," said Hargreaves, who came to RMC to coach football in the mid-sixties and wound up coaching the varsity basketball team as well.
"It didn't get a lot of support from people in higher echelons. Danny certainly fought the good fight with higher-ups who were not that enthusiastic about (the role of) sport in the military structure.
"He decided that he would do everything that had to be done and he did it. Nothing stopped him doing whatever he felt would be appropriate for sport. He was just a great leader that way.
A farm boy from Medicine Hat, Alta., McLeod joined the South Alberta Regiment of the Canadian Army in 1940. He was the first Canadian member of the Armoured Corps selected to attend Sandhurst, the British Army officer training school, and though he never finished high school, McLeod graduated first in his class in 1943.
A tank troop leader, in the summer of 1944 McLeod entered the war in Normandy and he fought through France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany, where he served until he was wounded for the third time just six days before the end of the Second World War. He is considered the liberator of the town of Bergen op Zoom, Holland, and for distinguished and meritorious service in battle he was awarded the Military Cross.
It's for his efforts on behalf of sport, however, that McLeod is most recognized in Kingston. At the same time as he was coaching the varsity hockey team at RMC, McLeod coached the junior B Kingston Frontenacs and, later, the senior A Kingston Aces.
He took the Aces to the Allan Cup national semifinals in the spring of 1967 and in 1968 to the final of the Spengler Cup tournament in Switzerland, where the Canadian entry lost to a team from the Soviet Union.
McLeod was the driving force behind creating the first national university championship, for hockey, hosted by Queen's and RMC in 1963.
In 1969 he received the charter from the international student athletic federation, FISU, enshrining the CIAU as a fully vested member. McLeod was chef de mission of Canada's first two World Student Games teams, at Turin, Italy, in 1970 and Tampere, Finland, in 1971.
After McLeod retired from the Canadian Forces, he was appointed a supervisor of officials with the National Hockey League. In 2001 he was inducted into the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame as a builder.
"He played a massive role in my career and everybody else's at RMC," Hargreaves said. "It's hard to explain. He was impressive, energetic. He never stopped getting better at what he was doing.
"He was definitely demanding of people to do their job and I think everybody we had at RMC at the time was enthusiastic about that. He was looked upon as a guy who would get things done and he did.
"I had a grand time. The cadets were terrific. You could always count on them to put their best foot forward. I think they got that from Danny."
Bill Oliver was a corporal playing hockey for an Air Force team from Rockcliffe that came to Kingston to play RMC in advance of the Redmen's annual game with West Point in the early 1960s.
"When I came to RMC I was in awe," Oliver said of his first encounter with McLeod. "I introduced myself to him and he took the time after the game to tell me about things at RMC. I said to my wife that my goal was to come back to RMC."
He was delighted, he said, that the next year, when the Air Force team returned for another exhibition, McLeod remembered the young corporal. Such was the professionalism the Major exuded, Oliver said.
"There was nothing wrong with air force bases but the day-to-day discipline, the day-to-day striving for excellence (was apparent at RMC) - and it had Danny's fingerprints all over it," Oliver said. "That was pretty much an eye-opener. It inspired me so when I was going back I stayed on air force bases for the next 10 years - but RMC was always in my sights, basically because of the influence (of McLeod) on those two visits."
Oliver ultimately arrived at the college in 1981, serving as varsity hockey coach, athletics director and later convener of men's hockey in Ontario University Athletics. He said McLeod continued to hold a place of reverence among cadets long after he retired.
"He was a mentor and a dear friend," Oliver said.
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