As a boy in Brandon, Man., Frank McKinnon was as likely to be found on the diamond as on the ice. His accomplishments as a player, coach and umpire and contributions as an executive led to his induction into the province’s baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.
Incredibly, McKinnon would leave an even more indelible mark in hockey, and thanks to his efforts to make the game better over the last 60 years, the hockey lifer has been made a Member of the Order of Canada.
McKinnon played minor, junior, intermediate and college hockey in Brandon, and was later inducted into the Brandon University Sports Hall of Fame.
After graduation, he found his way to Hamiota Collegiate, then to Carman Collegiate as a principal. He wasted little time getting involved in the sports community, becoming a founding member and the first treasurer of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association (MHSAA) in 1962. Today, an award named in McKinnon’s honour is given to a volunteer who demonstrates the same commitment to high school athletics.
At Carman, McKinnon was both principal and coach. Wanting players to be bound by the same rules of behaviour expected in the classroom, McKinnon was instrumental in starting a hockey program at the school in 1968. In the early 1980s, he coached and – at least one time – benched a young Ed Belfour. He would win four provincial championships as a coach, in three different sports (hockey, baseball and basketball).
McKinnon served two decades on the executive of the Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association (now Hockey Manitoba), including five as president in the 1970s. He was also president of the Carman-Dufferin Minor Hockey Association.
He also left his mark beyond his province. As a trustee, he helped create the Centennial Cup (now RBC Cup) in 1971. He was a member of the congress of the International Ice Hockey Federation and part of the committee that organized the first IIHF World Junior Championship in 1974.
In 1979, McKinnon became the first chairman of the board of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (now Hockey Canada), a post he would hold until 1982. His contributions to growing the game at the grassroots levels weren’t unnoticed. In 1981, he was awarded the Gordon Juckes Award for efforts in developing amateur hockey at the national level. Two years later he was named Hockey Canada’s Volunteer of the Year. He received a third award from Hockey Canada, the Order of Merit, in 1991.
McKinnon also made a difference beyond hockey, serving two years as director of the Sports Federation of Canada and four years as vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Association.
But his heart never left his home province, and in 1992 he became commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL). There, he introduced an improved stats system for scouts and increased media attention at games. The MJHL became involved with the federal government’s Stay in School Program – a lifelong educator, McKinnon wanted players to be active role models in the community. A scholarship in his name annually rewards a student as accomplished in the classroom as on the ice.
In 1993, McKinnon was named a Life Patron of Hockey Canada.
He’s also been made a Life Member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League and Hockey Manitoba, and been inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association Hall of Fame.