John Cruickshank
John Cruickshank

On April 3, 1968, Ray McAfee, a Business Master and a long time sports enthusiast committed Sheridan to varsity league play in Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball and Hockey.

The college then needed someone- anyone - to administer this limited venture into athletics. A young man named John Cruickshank knocked on President Porter’s door with a bag full of ideas, dreams and a cup full of high school teaching experience. He was told that although the college had not yet considered having a full time athletic director, if he were to present his ideas on paper, the Board of Governors would consider them.

On January 1, 1969, John became the first Director of Athletics and Recreation. All he had was a closet for an office and a phone. There was no gymnasium, no playing fields, no arena, no tennis courts, in fact just about no anything; but he had something else – attributes like enthusiasm, energy, honesty, knowledge, poise, administrative qualities and self-assuredness.

His first road trip was with the hockey team to Kirkland Lake. Affectionately known as the “Bruins”, they went onto win the Central Division of the OCAA only to lose to Algonquin College in the first OCAA hockey championship which John committed to host in Brampton. He attempted naively manage this feat single handedly and with only three pucks for the weekend. Sheridan was a hockey power to contend with and Tuesdays became Hockey Night in Brampton for 400-500 or more regular supporters – amazing in that the school had only 380 students.

John convinced the student government to increase the athletic portion of the student activity fee from $5.00 per student to $15.00 on the promise of a broader range of activities. The programs expanded to golf, tennis, cross country running, badminton, curling, skiing and judo.

August 1970 was moving day; the Department’s headquarters were transported in one Volkswagen and one Javelin to its strange new home in Oakville. The Javelin belonged to the newest member of the Department, Dick Ruschiensky joining Jim Makela who continued to handle the Brampton Campus.

More recreation programs followed such as archery, fencing, yoga, touch football and table tennis. In 1971, with the help of the heavy Equipment School from Milton, the Department started to acquire new assets at Oakville, four tennis courts, a football field and a 440-yard track. In 1972, John hired Bernie Custis to coach another program in a brand new community college football league. The Bruins went on to win an unprecedented six straight Eastern Canadian College Championships, each one unabashedly cheered on by John. Other new coaches such as Doug Peters in Hockey came on board to build superb championship teams in ’74, ’75 and ’77. In John’s final year he brought Paul Reader aboard to start the men’s volleyball dynasty of the 80’s.

John surrounded himself with good people and inspired by his example, they embraced his goals and ideas of their own. John even found time, himself to coach Sheridan’s curling team from 1972-79. Three of Sheridan’s most influential Athletic staff members in its history were hired by John; Steve Blundy in 1973, Fred Wannamker and Pat Blundy (nee Hueston) in 1974.

While the varsity basketball team continued to play out of General Wolfe High School in Oakville, John oversaw the construction of the existing recreation facility at the new campus in Brampton which opened in 1977.

By 1979, when John resigned to move on to Seneca College, the Athletics Department had grown to fifteen varsity sports which included over that time, fifteen OCAA championships, with three occurring in his final year.