One of the ways in which
we make a considerable impact about our heritage
and our worth as Canadians of Slovak heritage is
through our success in sports.
Now that Slovakia has reached Group A in the
world hockey tournaments, everyone in the world
knows there is a Slovakia, where it is, and what
magnificent athletes the country produces.
What a tremendous impact our handicapped
athletes made at the Special Olympic Games held
in Canada this year when the Slovak team won 30
But what about in Canada in the year 2000?
There was a time when soccer was a popular sport
among the immigrant communities, and Toronto
Slovaks had one of the best teams. While the team
was centered around Sts.Cyril & Methodius
parish, it was known as the "Slovak"
team, and many Slovaks would come to cheer on
their team. It was amateur, everyone volunteered
to keep the team and the league going, and it was
In succeeding years, when the interest in
soccer waned because of the overwhelming
publicity given hockey, football and baseball in
Canada, everyone knew that players like Stan
Mikita, Elmer Vasko and Rudy Migay were Slovak
idols who made it into the National Hockey League
long before the Stastnys and the Ihnaceks.
With the sweep of a puck, the swat of a bat,
and the punt of a football, our athletes do more
to raise the profile of Slovaks in North America
than through any other medium available. The
feats of George Shuba, nicknamed
"Shotgun" for the way he hit home runs
in pinch-hit situations for the then Brooklyn
Dodgers, even in the World Series, George Blanda
in football, and scores of others created a myth
about the wonderful prowess in sports Slovaks
One has only to look at the sports pages,
where politics becomes a minor role player, to
see how Slovakia is recognized -- our hockey team
in its world-wide televised matches with Canada,
the U.S. and Russia, the women's basketball
championships recently played in Myava, all raise
the awareness of Slovaks and Slovakia.
Sadly there is no Slovak soccer team in
Toronto today, but we do have bowling and
baseball teams and even a tennis tournament. We
used to have annual golf tournaments here and
they are coming back. These events must be
encouraged and the community support them not
only by making it possible that these events be
held, but that they attend them.
We used to have a Slet sponsored by Sokol. How
many of you remember the parades from the church
to City hall by our athletes, men dressed in
their white gymnastic outfits and the women in
white blouses and blue skirts? We need to find
more youngsters prepared to devote time to
gymnastics to build up our presence in that sport
Many of our students attend high schools where
gymnastic equipment is readily available. With
that as a foundation, Sokol should be searching
for leaders, trainers and young people interested
in their own performance and making Sokol a power
to be reckoned with again at gymnastics at
provincial and Canada-wide tournaments.
Our parishes and local branches of fraternals
should take a look at the number of their youth,
then support programs appropriate to the number
of youth available. It takes only 12 to start a
hockey team, 10 for a basketball team, and 18 for
Then there are the individual sports. Remember
Jana Lazor and the success she was in rhythmics?
There must be out there swimmers, divers, tennis
players, yachtsmen, curlers, bowlers and dozens
of other individual sports enthusiasts who need
support and who can bring credit to our Slovak
family in Canada and the U.S.
Unless our community sponsors youth activity
on a major scale, and this includes choirs and
folk dance groups, there will be no reason for
our young people to identify themselves as being
We can not let this happen.