Cricket in Gimli, Manitoba I was watching a troupe of folk dancers celebrating Canada Day on the edge of the local cricket field, which also happened to be the 125th anniversary of the founding of Gimli, Manitoba. I had by coincidence been to this same spot for the 100th anniversary celebrations. At that time there was no cricket field.
The community was founded as a result of Prime Minister John A. MacDonald learning of the catastrophic circumstances in 1875 which had destroyed a fishing community in Iceland. These fisher folk had seen their homes, land and boats, overrun by a volcanic eruption. MacDonald had learned of this and had assured London that Canada would welcome these refugees of a natural disaster.
It is a strange quirk of history that now reconnects Gimli with the 1st Prime Minister of Canada who had declared cricket was to be Canadaıs national sport.
The town is situated on the western shores of Lake Winnipeg, with a harbour originally used mainly for commercial fishing. The cultural influence of Iceland is everywhere, so how is it they have a cricket field in the town park. We know that there are two cricket clubs in Iceland, but they are a fairly recent development. That is true also for Gimli.
The driving force for the development of junior, school, and club cricket in Gimli is Colin Heathcote. He has also introduced soccer to the community. I had to make many phone calls to track him down, because he is a man in continual motion, but as soon as I mentioned the word cricket everybody knew who I was looking for. As we walked and talked around hisı ground and viewed the nets and pavilion he reflected on the assistance he had been given by John Lovelace, the quiet dynamo driving the development programmes of cricket in Manitoba.
The cricket field has an almost English pastoral setting, as perhaps my photographs may illustrate. The cricket and soccer is not gender specific, and many of the games are played with both boys and girls, (or should that be girls and boys). This initiative may well see Manitoba break some new ground for womenıs cricket in Canada. Certainly it is on John Lıs agenda.
In Gimli the plans are to develop another cricket field, as the existing field has short boundaries. While this is ideal for junior cricket, it is somewhat hazardous for others using the park What is clear is the planning, the setting of goals, the development of strategy and the management of implementation. The model, the template, already exists.
A few days after I was in Gimli, I was prevailed upon by John L. to assist in loading a cricket mat onto a truck. This mat was headed west to Virden, close to the Saskatchewan boundary. That club has now produced two young women cricketers, who have already been on their first international cricket trip and are likely to go on their second in the summer of 2004. This illustrates the ongoing and continuing development program in Manitoba.
For me Gimli and cricket was like being in Valhalla, for my visit included fishing with some First Peoples from their nearby (200 miles north) reserve. That is another story. I wonder if there is some correlation between the stories that cricketers and fishermen tell. Is it that there always has to be a positive spin?