Blair, Rose #1974

ROSE MAY SIMPSON BLAIR was born in Winnipeg in 1934. Rose was the only daughter born to William Simpson Barron and Mabel Dorothy Phillips. She had two older half-brothers (Bill and Bob), two younger brothers (Alec and Jim) and, later on, a half-sister (Mary).  Rose May Simpson Barron met John Crawford Blair, an Irishman and brand new aviator in the Royal Air Force. They were married at the Registry Office in John’s hometown of Larne (Northern Ireland) before moving to Duxford, a military air station in England.  In 1958, the couple and their first child moved to Winnipeg where John joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and Rose raised their growing family. The family was posted to several air bases in the central and eastern parts of Canada.  The Blair family grew to four children over the next nine years and became enamoured with the game of hockey.  While living in Bagotville, Quebec, it was not unusual for the three Blair boys to each be playing on two or more teams in a hockey season.  Skates were often left on and laced up to expedite the movement of these young players from one rink to another for the next game or practice.  

In 1973, the family moved to North Bay and settled in the West Ferris area, known for its strong hockey program in an area known as South Zone.  The family’s enthusiasm for the game continued as the Blair family became an active part of the West Ferris Minor Hockey Association.  In her pathfinder way, Rose elected to coach and became a well-respected house league hockey coach.  Rose coached through the leagues as high in age as Midget-aged boys.  She took great pride in how her players developed both on the ice and as young citizens in North Bay. Rose completed what was then known as Level IV Coaching in Canada, and was one of just three women to achieve this level in those days.  Her love of the game and her desire to imprint the fundamentals of hockey on young players (boys and girls alike) resulted in the development of a program she called Hockey For Beginners.  Hockey for Beginners began at the West Ferris Arena and for the princely sum of $35 dollars, each child participated in on-ice sessions every Saturday morning all season long. The program was free for families that could not afford the fee.  Each boy and girl learned how to skate forwards and backwards, how to start and stop, how to turn and do crossovers.  All of these skill development lessons were created by Rose, written on small cue cards with schematic drill diagrams, then delivered by a group of teenaged hockey players (including her daughter) who all followed her regimented lesson plans.  To maximize the use of ice time, the ice surface was divided into three sections teaching different skills and drills; with players switching sections on the sound of Rose’s whistle. It was not unusual to count fifty young boys and girls working through the drills and participating in activities and relay races.  By the Christmas timeframe, pucks were introduced and young players could use their sticks for more than just support!  Hockey for Beginners grew in popularity and became a hockey staple in the city. The program quickly expanded to the Peter Palangio Arena (known as Doublerinks in the 1970s).  

This leaf recognizes the contribution to the game of hockey made by Rose Blair in North Bay.  John and Rose Blair were well known in hockey circles of 1970s through 1980s and were deeply involved on boards and as convenors for activities such as the annual West Ferris Atom Tournament, the Golden Puck Tournament and later recognized for their contribution to hockey as winners of the Judge Harold (Harry) Reynolds Award. Rose and John Blair’s picture can still be seen in the Sports Hall of Fame at Memorial Gardens.  This leaf is proudly placed by her children – Butch, Bruce, Glenn and Kathleen Blair.