60'S & 70'S
January 22, 2020
In the spring of 1965, the idea of forming a club separate from the Winnipeg Rugby Club (currently the Winnipeg Wanderers) came about, as two British expatriates – Derrick Morgan and Ian Williams – laid the groundwork for a new side in the Manitoba Rugby Union. Ads placed in the Winnipeg Free Press and Tribune, calling for players, brought an excellent response, and soon the core numbers were enough to support a new team – The Winnipeg Wasps.
Conventional wisdom has always held that the name for the club came about at a post-practice session at the Cambridge Hotel. An overseas paper boasted a lopsided win by the London Wasps RFC and with Derrick Morgan being a Londoner, the name was adopted. Despite not being entirely factual, the story has maintained considerable appeal and thus has become part of our lore.
Early practices took place at Churchill Drive and with recruitment from Churchill High School and the United College, numbers increased and the club began play in the newly re-formed Manitoba Rugby Union, with Ian Williams as its first captain. Early games were held in Assiniboine Park and then at Lipsett Hall, as the Wasps developed a rapport with the armed forces and Captain Bob Komph. This gave the players access to the fields for practices and games, and, importantly – the curling club bar for post-game celebrations.
May of 1967 saw the team travel to Edmonton for a series of matches against the Edmonton Pirates. This spawned a relationship with the Pirates at the famous Rugbyfest tournament on the Victoria Day long weekend, that would cover thirty-five plus years of memorable hosting and parties. The Pirates would reciprocate with a visit to Winnipeg, for the SNFAU tournament on the August long weekend. Trophies like the “Con Dragu Cup” and the “Staff of Life”, the legendary “punch”, and events like broom races, bottle walking and 3-man lifts, all became part of the history and pageantry of this incredible friendship. The annual pilgrimage to Edmonton for Rugbyfest continues for the club to this day. The late sixties watched the club continue to expand and strengthen and soon become the largest in the union.
By the 1971 season, the Wasps’ winning ways led to their first Patrons Challenge Cup – the symbol of Manitoba rugby supremacy. Many of the original members, largely expats, had retired or moved away, and the club had become a predominantly Canadian and local side. The 1971 season also saw the organization of the first Wasps 7s tournament. In 1973, with many of the playing members being teachers, it was natural for the Wasps to be involved on the ground floor of the Schools Rugby Union. Lorne Hasinoff and Jim Feasby were integral to the development of the High School league, which began in earnest in 1974, and countless members since have been active in the promotion and growth of schools rugby. Programs with which we have been involved include Kelvin, Vincent Massey, Fort Richmond, St. James, St. John’s Ravenscourt, Dakota, Springfield, Windsor Park, J.H. Bruns, Beliveau, River Heights, Acadia, Viscount Alexander, Victor Mager, and even a rural program in Morden/Winkler.
The growth continued into the seventies and a second senior side – originally called the Hornets – was added to the newly formed MRU Second division in 1974. By 1975, the club had moved training to Viscount Alexander as it became more firmly established in the South-Central part of Winnipeg, and in 1978, it settled upon Vincent Massey to play its home games. This decade had the first team follow up with another Patrons Cup in 1977, captained by Riley Barkman, and second division championships were won in 1976, ’78 and ’79, while a third Wasps team was added to the league’s 2nd division in 1978.
With the province of Manitoba being too small to contain the club’s ambitions, the mid-1970s were the beginning of a storied record of Wasps international tours. The very first tour to Hawaii in 1975 was a huge success, and was soon followed by trips to Scotland in 1976 and the United Kingdom in ’78, before returning to Hawaii in ’79.
In 1979, under the guidance of Rob St. Germain, Riley Barkman, Cole Summers and Ian Murray, the Wasps Women were created. Originally run as a separate entity, the Wasps Women Athletic Association was a multi-sport organization that united with the men in the late 2000