There are very few people who are attached to one sport in the NWT. Like almost every athlete, coach, volunteer or anyone, you see people dip their feet into multiple sports.
But there are those who are known for one sport and one sport alone. Lynn Fowler was one of those people.
Fowler passed away at his home in Yellowknife on Nov. 7 at the age of 77. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which quickly took hold, but he was able to be at home with his family when he passed.
I got to know Lynn very well during my tenure as the full-time sports editor here at NNSL Media, but Lynn’s legacy was built well before I started writing about broomball in these pages. He was the man who brought organized broomball to Yellowknife in 1979 — as he once told me, there was no organized broomball at all until then.
As the story goes, Lynn was on his way from Manitoba to take up a mining job in Yukon in the late 1960s, but he stopped in Yellowknife to visit an uncle of his.
He never left, much like many who tell themselves they’ll stick around for a couple of years and move on. Present company included, of course.
Before Fowler put the pieces together all those years ago, the state of broomball in the city, and the territory by extension, was something akin to what you would see in the move Slap Shot. More than one person, including Lynn himself, told me about how games would turn into pier-six port brawls on a regular basis. Of course, the communities didn’t like one another, something else which existed in pretty much every sport back then: Hay River hated Yellowknife, Yellowknife hated Fort Smith, Pine Point hated everyone etc.
Once Lynn organized everything — proper rules, proper officiating, proper everything — tempers seemed to cool a bit and the sport became one of the more popular ones during the winter; Lynn was even asked to help organize a league in Hay River back in the 1980s. Teams began to travel to play in tournaments such as the Western Canadian Championships, Canadian Championships and even the World Broomball Championships.
Lynn would help to create the Yellowknife Ravens men’s team in 1981 and they have only gone on to become one of the most successful NWT sporting exports to have ever existed. The Ravens are two-time world champions — 2008 and 2014 — and won three consecutive western Canadian titles between 2005 and 2007.
And don’t forget that Lynn had a hand in the NWT Rebels women’s broomball team’s success over the years: world champions in 2014, bronze at the 2010 World Broomball Championships and three silver medals at the Western Canadian Championships between 2005 and 2007.
Of course, going to those tournaments from Yellowknife isn’t cheap and that’s something Lynn will also be long remembered for: his ability to fundraise.
There wasn’t much Lynn wouldn’t do to raise money and he knew better than most how to do it. I was on hand for his induction into the NWT Sport Hall of Fame in 2016 and the list of events he organized or helped to organize was something to behold, though his specialty was bingos. Any broomball team that ever travelled out of Yellowknife was well-funded and they had Lynn to thank for that.
One of the first stories I wrote for the sports section here in 2007 was about the start of the new season for broomball in Yellowknife. Lynn came to the office to introduce himself (he always came to the office whenever he wanted to talk about broomball) and proceeded to give me a top-to-bottom education about the sport in the NWT, who was who, what was important and how great the sport was.
Whenever teams came home, Lynn was always the first person to let me know about it and he would have photos to publish and people lined up to talk to. I’ve always said it’s you who help make my job easier and with Lynn, it was like the story was already pre-fab. All I had to do was put it on paper and let the press do the rest.
The family plans to hold a celebration of life for Lynn at Prosperous Lake in summer 2024 and you can bet it will be one of best attended events of the year. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Lynn and that’s how you know you’ve earned respect — they have to try and figure out something negative to say.
I certainly have nothing negative to say about Lynn Fowler and I never will. You can’t say anything bad about someone who did so much good for broomball and the community.