Category Archives: Skating


Captain Jim Woolner was born in Collingwood in 1878.

A Master of the steel blades at the turn of the century Captain Jim was a household word and every kid in the Georgian Bay district tried to emulate his style at one time or another.

He had his first pair of speed skates shortly after he had his first pair of boots and he was still skating the year he died in 1938.

For over two decades Jim beat every skater that cared to take up the challenge, and he did it with the confident ease that was his stock in trade.

Unfortunately, Woolner was never attached to an organized skating club, and, as a result, many of his best records are not officially recorded.

In his heyday, Captain Woolner defeated such great Canadian speed artists as Toronto’s Harley Davidson, the fiery Stubby Graham of Fergus, Canadian mile champion, Len Forrester of Fergus.

The crowning point of his career was his victory over Davidson in Collingwood’s old Pine Street Rink in March, 1900.

Davidson had beaten the best skaters of the era at the International Speed Carnival atMontrealand up until that time he had never even heard of Woolner. But Davidson accepted Jim’s challenge and the match race was staged for a cash prize of two thousand dollars-winner takes all.

As it turned out, the race was a walk away for Woolner and an embarrassing memory for the highly touted Davidson.

The following winter, Stubby Graham challenged Woolner to a race in Meaford. Graham was not only beaten by Jim but he was nosed out of second place by another Collingwood skater, Doug McLeod.

Tom Eck, a well known sports promoter and a former trainer of heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, arranged a five-mile race between Woolner and Len Forrester, Then the Canadian champion at five-mile distance.

With ten thousand dollars in bets riding on the outcome of the race, Captain Jim covered the five miles in fourteen minutes and forty seconds, and beat the Fergus star by four laps.

The gamblers refused to bet against him and limited their wagers to the number of laps Woolner would finish ahead of the runner-up.

He won 3 races in Toronto on one Saturday afternoon and was so far ahead in the last race he turned around and skated backwards a full lap from the finish line.

Two years later, the Captain’s great career came to an end under shady circumstances in a return match with Forrester in Fergus.

He won the first heat easily but fell and broke his leg half-way through the second heat. A quick check revealed that someone had laid a fine wire across the ice in Woolner’s Lane.

Jim Woolner never skated again in competition. He became one of the most colourful skippers on theGreat Lakes. Three weeks before his untimely death, he thrilled a big crowd at the annual Collingwood Ice Carnival at the Park Rink. When he made a few graceful turns around the ice and was given a standing ovation.

On March 15th, 1938, Captain Jim Woolner died in a motor crash on Paddy Dunn’s Hill, just north of Barrie. He was returning from a hockey game in Toronto. He was just fifty-seven.


Joanne was one of the original founding members of the Collingwood Blue Mountain
Figure Skating Club. Her hard work and dedication to the sport of skating helped establish the Blue Mountain Figure Skating Club. In addition to designing the clubs crest and pin, she was the clubs first amateur coach. She was also the first Collingwood born member of the club to teach as it’s professional.

Joanne skated as an amateur from 1951-1959. During which time she and Pauline Piitz
were the first club members to pass Canadian Figure Skating Association tests.

In 1956, 1957, 1958 Joanne skated in the ice dance competition in the Western Ontario Sectionals. Skating with Don Pherson, Joanne placed third and had two second place finishes in Senior Dance. This qualified her and her partner for Senior Dance at Canadians. In addition Joanne also competed in the Senior Ladies singles. She managed again to qualify to skate at Canadians.

As well as skating Joanne also was certified as a low test amateur judge in
figures, free skating and ice dance.

Joanne turned professional in 1960 to teach in Collingwood with triple fold test qualifications.

Joanne taught professionally from 1960 to 1977 in Collingwood, Fergus, Stratford, Ingersoll, Tavistock and London.


The Blue Mountain Figure Skating Club has been on of the main attractions in the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena for the past 35 years (as of 1986), and the person almost totally responsible for its foundation was the late Sadie Houghton. She was an enthusiastic and accomplished skater herself and she lost no time in creating interest in the sport when the new arena was built in 1948. She found out the late “Mac” McDermid, the first arena manager, was once a member of the famed Granite Club of Toronto, and she immediately went to work on Mac to help with the formation of a club in Collingwood.

In 1951, the arena staged a benefit night for the General and Marine Hospital and Sadie make sure that several of her top skaters, including her niece, Joanne Houghton, Carol Brophy and Pauline Pitz were on the program. The skaters were an immediate hit with the crowd and The Blue Mountain Figure Skating Club was born with Sadie Houghton as the first president. The group became a member of the Canadian Figure Skating Association and Pauline Pitz and Joanne Houghton were the first two Collingwood skaters to pass the difficult Canadian Figure Skating tests.

Sadie remained as president of the club during its first four years and then was made honorary President for the rest of her life.

She spent most of her free time in the arena and made sure that every child got full opportunity to take part in the ice shows. Sadie died on May 17, 1960, at the age of 58.

Sadie Houghton was inducted into the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.


Pauline Piitz began skating on outdoor rinks in this area in the mid 1940’s, eventually joining the Blue Mountain Figure Skating Club when the new Collingwood Arena was completed in 1947.

Pauline worked tirelessly with younger children at the club, and helped produce the first skating carnival in Collingwood. Skating took Pauline to many competitions and carnivals across Ontario in the years to follow, and in 1954 she placed fourth in the Northern Ontario Figure skating championships held in Sundridge.

As a professional, Pauline skated in many carnivals in the area, with a highlight of her professional career being her skating with the Royal Skating School where she received recognition from the Canadian Figure Skating Association as a silver medalist with five silver dances.

Today, Pauline in Mrs. Doug Simms (a sportsman, hunter and wildlife columnist originally form Collingwood). The couple are retired and live in Truro, Nova Scotia.

Pauline contributed as a Builder in figure skating for this area, with her efforts to organize figure skating clubs and carnivals.


“Men weren’t supposed to figure skate back then”, said Thomas, “I just went about my business and did what I had to do, and what I wanted I wanted to be. I had a wonderful career. I met a lot of wonderful people over the years”.

Thomas was 1955 champion in the Northern Ontario Junior Mixed pairs. He was a 1956 Bronze Medalist for the Northern Ontario Junior Men’s competition. He was also champion of British Columbia Junior Men’s competition and a British Columbia Bronze champion in 1958.

Nationally, he won the Western Canada Silver Junior Men’s Championship in 1958. Thomas started the Stayner figure skating club in 1959 with the Stayner Lions Club. During his 19 year professional career, he spent a lot of time coaching and teaching in several towns. He said somewhere along the line he and his coach decided that mentally challenged children deserved the chance to skate. “We devised a method of teaching them, and it gave them something to strive for” said Thomas, “after being all over it was nice to give something back”.His aunt and cousin are also in the Hall of Fame as volunteer “builders” of sports clubs.

He skated until 1978, long enough to skate in an annual town skating carnival with his two daughters Sheri and Monica. He said that many things have changed since he last skated. He used to take his own luggage onto a Trans Canada (Air Canada) plane. He also said figure skating used to be an art, now it’s a sport!

John Thomas was inducted into the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame June 17, 1994. John was honoured for his figure skating career and his work with the mentally handicapped.


Michael was born in Haileybury, Ontario April 19, 1964, moving to Collingwood in 1970, and at the time of his election to the Hall he was living in Collingwood. Michael’s schooling took place in Collingwood at Connaught Public School followed by Collingwood Collegiate Institute, Oshawa and Preston.

The reasons for naming Michael to the Hall of Fame are many and show strong dedication to his sport of figure skating.

In figure skating, he skated in the free-skate and later as a member of the free skating pairs’ team.  From 1975 to 1978, he represented Collingwood within this region, from 1979 to 1982 h e was in competition at the regional, provincial and national level.  As well as being an outstanding competitor and an asset to the sports community of Collingwood, he also excelled in the Canadian Figure Skating Association’s test system.

He has obtained his gold medal in free-skate, Canadian and American gold in dance, silver in free dance, novice competition, silver pairs and seventh figure test.

To continue his skating he left Collingwood and became a pairs competitor.  He continued to train in both Oshawa and Preston.

– 1980-81 Received a gold medal in the Ontario Sectional event and qualified to go                    Ontario Divisional’s where he and his partner qualified for the Canadian        Championships in Halifax.  They finish ninth overall.

– 1981-Michael was named to the City of Oshawa’s Outstanding Achievement Award.

– 1982-Michael and partner went to the nationals again and this time finished 7th.

At the time of his induction into the Hall, he was still active in his sport as a professional coach, coaching in and around Collingwood.  He also served as the area’s senior dance coach.  Because of his dedication to the skaters in this area, they did not have to leave home to train and progress at the senior dance level.

Michael was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame on June 20, 1992, in the players’ category.