Memories and heroes

By Kris Kotarski

I remember the halcyon days of the Red Gym, when we used to pack 2,000 fans in,” said Dinos Sports Information Director Jack Neu-mann with a grin. “People were lining up hours before to get in–not just fans, but people who would have never gone to another basketball game.”

Jack was describing Karl Tille-man’s final game in a University of Calgary uniform–a painful memory for Dinos faithful. It was Tilleman’s last game before a home crowd and the turnout was incredible.

“Tilleman was something like an idol here,” Neumann continued with a slight chuckle. “We had a spotlight, we had his jersey all ready on a pulley–we had that thing hemmed up like you wouldn’t believe. We must have planned all this for a year.”

The game never took place. In a bitter dispute about officiating, coach Guy Vetrie of the visiting University of Saskatchewan didn’t send his squad out to play the game.

“It broke our hearts,” said Neumann.

“The most meaningful game was the game that never happened,” remarked Dr. Dennis Kadatz, the University of Calgary’s first football coach in 1964 and Athletic Director in 1966. “Imagine having to take the mike and telling 2,000 rabid Dinos fans in the Red Gym that the game was not going to be played.

“After all these years, I still bleed red and gold.”

The Dinos are an important part of the U of C’s fabric. Some of the most memorable moments on campus have been games–games where students, faculty, support staff and the community came together as one. Dr. Kadatz retired from the U of C in 1985 to lead the Canadian Olympic Development Committee in preparation for the 1988 Olympic Games.

Neumann started with the Dinos in 1978. Between them, they’ve seen all there is to see–a few wins, a few losses and even the odd tie.

“It all blends together now,” said Neumann. “But some things you can’t forget.”

Jack listed some of greats from the past: Richard Bohne, Janis Paskevich, Greg Vavra. Dr. Kadatz listed off his fair share too, but the essence of what the Dinos mean to this campus can’t be explained with such ease. The names trigger the memories–that’s all they can do. It’s hard to describe the excitement of “The Shot,” when Bohne won a game at the buzzer with fans lining the running track at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium. It’s just as hard to describe 1988-89 when the Dinos had everything going their way and won five national championships in one season. And what about the 1998 women’s soccer championship?

“Do you believe in miracles?” said Neumann with a twinkle in his eye. “They got to the playoffs on the last day of the season and won a national championship.”

The Dinos have been on campus since before the University of Calgary gained autonomy from the University of Alberta. Since the 1960s, the program has changed from a small upstart school to a contender in every sense of the word.

“We only had about 1,800 students back then,” reminisced Kadatz. “I had more students than that in high school in Edmonton.”

“Hockey and football came in first in the same year,” he added. “We had a lot of help from Calgary’s business community.”

The Dinos grew together with the university and as times changed so has the nature of the program.

“We’ve had great growth in women’s sports,” said Neumann. “I remember when the women’s volleyball season was just a couple of tournaments.”

Today, women’s sports enjoy respect and crowds just like the men–a sign of the changing attitudes of Dinos fans.

With each year, new memories and new pages are added to the Dinos’ legacy.

“We have second generation Dinos now,” said Neumann with a smile. “Someday we’ll have third generation athletes too.

“We’ve had some great ones come through here,” he continued as he looked out the window of his Kinesiology office. “I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them come in as boys and girls and leave as men and women. I’ve been at a lot of weddings, and a couple of funerals too.”

Happiness and mourning–just like any other family.

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