SASKATOON HILLTOP HISTORY
The Hilltops have a strong history in the Saskatoon community and have been a staple in Junior Football in Canada since 1947. The Hilltops have won 18 National Championships in the team’s 69 year history. To date, the Topper’s winning years include: 1953, 1958, 1968, 1969, 1978, 1985, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015. 2016. Follow the 2017 season as the Hilltops try to earn their 7th National Title in 8 years!
Residents of Saskatoon during the early twenties just can’t help letting their thoughts wander back to the Saskawanis, Saskatoon’s first officially known Junior Football Club. The Saskwanis pioneered junior football in Saskatoon, and although some say there was a previous team nobody seems to remember the name.
Saskwanis operated for three seasons, 1921 to 1923 and then disbanded. Their only loss in three years of play came in the western junior final of 1923, where they bowed to Winnipeg St. John’s. Saskwanis were city champions in 1921 and the next fall they scaled the heights as western Canada Junior champions. Some members of the great old club were: Kent Phillips, Mel Kerr, Guy Poole, Vern De Geer, Archie Sillers, Delisle Thompson, Frank Irvine, Ernie McNab, Jim Hooper, Cliff McClocklin, Frank Rogan, Hortan Channell and Russ Hackney.
Although no football club in the country nowadays would think of trying it, the Saskwanis actually operated without a coach. Vern DeGeer was captain and while he acted as head man in the organization all team members were gathered when any decision was to be made.Another unique point about the old Saskwanis was that sometimes they didn’t pay too much attention to signals. For as long as five minutes at a stretch during a game they never spoke a word, but just kept playing and usually everything went fine.
Members of the Saskwanis will always say Vern DeGeer was the real driving force behind the outfit, and give him major credit for its many successes. They will also say they had one of the greatest athletes Saskatchewan ever turned out in Mel Kerr. He was an all around top flight athlete. After leaving here he played a little baseball with Chicago Cubs and was also a professional basketball player south of the border.
The Saskwanis football team originated from a Y.M.C.A boys’ club of the same name, and its mentor then was Wray Youmans (who went on to become the Director of Athletics at the U of M. Colb McEown acted as manager during the football club’s first season in 1921.
The Old Hilltops
The name Hilltops had its origin in the early 1920’s among teen aged boys from Caswell Hill who made Cairns Field their playground. These boys had rugby, hockey and baseball teams but within a few years the name was used only for the rugby team. The local significance of the name was quickly lost and soon Hilltops became synonymous with Junior rugby football in Saskatoon. Hilltops were noted from the outset for aggressive, hard running and hard tackling teams. The teams were truly amateur; the members provided most of their own equipment and bossed their own show. Players like Hub Dafoe, Harry Landa, Frank Irvine, Delisle Thompson, Dr. Jim “Soup” Campbell, Les “Bull” Cairns and Clarence Cook (or “Cookie” to hosts of friends and admirers) started on the road to stardom with the old Hilltops teams. The team eventually dissolved under the pressures of the war and the depression.