In over 80 years of participation in a variety of sports including boxing and rodeo riding, Danny McLeod has truly brought Canada’s national sport, hockey, to thousands of participants across the country at all levels from Pee Wee to the National Hockey League.
Born November 5, 1921, Danny was raised on a farm on what was then the outskirts of Medicine Hat. The oldest of four boys, he learned the value of hard work and the importance of doing things right the first time. These early days held a glimpse into Danny’s future as an innovator. By damming up Ross Creek each fall, Danny and his friends were able to create a natural ice rink when the creek froze, while a potbelly stove inside a hut on shore gave the “creek rats” a cozy place to warm up between periods. Now that’s smart thinking!
The early years of Danny’s life focused on working on the farm and playing sports wherever he could. He was the official Mascot of the Medicine Hat Junior Tigers from 1936-37, played Minor Hockey for the Medicine Hat Playdowns and competed for Junior Championship Alberta playing on both the Tigers and Bombers teams.
At the outbreak of World War II, Danny left the farm to serve his country in The South Alberta Regiment, which he did with distinction, rising from the rank of Private to Captain, becoming the first Canadian to graduate (first in his class and winning the Sword and Belt of Honour) from Sandhurst, the historic home of British Officer Training, leading troops in battle. He participated in every major campaign from Normandy, through Belgium, Holland and Germany. As a result of a tank engagement, Danny was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in action.
Danny remained in the army after the war, achieving the rank of Major. Much of his career included leadership training, and he was selected to serve as an exchange Officer with U.S. Forces and as a Canadian UN Observer in Vietnam. Danny's final military posting in 1960 was as the founding Director of Athletics at Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario. At RMC, he was tasked with developing their Physical Training and Athletic program and he did it in such a way that leadership skills blossomed in the young participants. By developing a comprehensive program that featured inclusiveness, individual sport, team sport and contact sport participation along with periodic physical testing, Danny set the standard. He was innovative and mentoring and produced numerous subordinates who came to prominence in their own right.
A driving force behind the creation of CIAU, now called Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), he was the organization’s founding secretary-treasurer, a position he held until 1971 when he retired from RMC. He also became one of the founding fathers of the Canadian Athletic Union (Canadian University sports programs). Next Danny was in on the development of The Federation of International University Sports. This led him to serve as Chef de Mission of the 1968 International Student Games in Torino Italy.
During these years as a respected and successful hockey coach, Major McLeod simultaneously coached the RMC team, the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League and the Kingston Aces (Senior A), who represented Canada at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. He was twice named Ontario Hockey Coach of the Year.
Following his retirement from RMC, he joined the National Hockey League as Supervisor of Officials in the expanded 12-team league. This involved training and supervising referees and linesmen in the NHL and AHL. He also trained all on-ice officials on international rules for the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR. He also did on-ice training of the NHL officials for the 1972 Olympic Series with Canadian and foreign officials from Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Germany.
Today Danny McLeod lives in Kingston, Ontario with his wife Sheila and remains a part of intercollegiate hockey and sports related issues.
In 2004, Major McLeod received an Honorary Doctorate of Military Science from RMC.
The NHL Officials Association honoured him in 2007 with the prestigious Birchall Leadership Award.
The trophy awarded annually to the MVP of the CIS men’s hockey championship, the University Cup, is named in his honour (Major W.J. ‘Danny’ McLeod Award).
He was inducted into the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Major McLeod was voted to the Canadian Forces Sports Honour Roll in 1989 as a builder of intercollegiate athletics.
In 2011, Canadian Interuniversity Sport awarded Major McLeod the Austin–Matthews Award presented annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to Interuniversity Sport.
In 2007, the Medicine Hat School District No. 76 honoured Major McLeod by presenting him with an Honorary Alberta High School Diploma. He had dropped out of school to join the South Alberta Regiment and go to war. This honour now prevents him from referring to himself as a “high school dropout” although he claims he is probably the oldest person to graduate.
2011 Induction Ceremony