June 11, 2019 – The Sault Steelers and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services invite you to come cheer on your home team this Saturday, June 15th and honour the memory of the late Don McBain who passed away in September of 2017. Kickoff is at 7:00 pm as the Sault Steelers (1-2-0) host the North Bay Bulldogs (0-2-0) at Rocky DiPietro Field.
Don McBain, aka ‘Donnie’, was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie where he attended Sir James Dunn High School and Lake Superior State University. As an avid football fan, he cheered on the Michigan Wolverines just like his father and grandfather before him. To this day, the Sault Steelers team colours consist of navy blue and gold to honour McBain’s favourite college team, the Michigan Wolverines, as the Steelers would never have risen to such prominence without him and the promise he created.
McBain played many years with the Sault Steelers as linebacker in the late 70’s and became President of the organization in the 2000’s. He was architect of the 2007-2010 successes and the main influence for the growth of the team during his tenure. Thanks to McBain, Sault Ste. Marie football has come to be well-respected among the football community across the nation. As a small Northern Ontario team, the Sault Steelers became notorious for running up the score on teams from Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Calgary out on the gridiron. Under his leadership, the Steelers won three NFC titles and three Canadian Major Football League (CMFL) titles in a four-year span. One of his proudest moments was witnessing the Steelers win the 2009 National Title on home field in the Sault, in front of five thousand fans; the climax of all his hard work coming to life.
His education in business, and knowledge of how to fundraise for the team is what kept the organization sustainable and running smoothly. McBain’s passion for the sport, his personal monetary contributions, organizational leadership, and continued lobbying on behalf of the team led the Steelers to unimaginable success. For his efforts, McBain received the Medal of Merit from the City of Sault Ste. Marie in 2007 and was awarded the H.P. Broughton Trophy. In 2008, McBain was inducted into the NFC Hall of Fame being recognized as a great team builder.
“When he played for the Steelers himself in the late 1970’s, he played linebacker, and he wasn’t as big as the other guys in that position but he would still play as hard as if he was,” said McBain’s wife, Sandra McBain. “Even if they were losing, he would still have the same determination, to make sure the game was played to the fullest. He kept fighting, down to the last whistle. When the bus would break down or if they didn’t have a bus to get to games, everyone would say “well Don will figure out a way to make this work,” and that is because he would put his own money in and would never expect anything in return or to take credit for anything. He loved to work behind the scenes, and was happy to take little credit.” When speaking of her husband’s determination, Sandra said, “even when the organization looked like it wasn’t going to make it, he kept it going.” (Riley Smith – Sault Online, 2018)
Not only could McBain build great football organizations, he also knew how to build corporate organizations as well. In 1994, he was a main proponent in founding Ontario Aboriginal Housing Service from the ground up as its Executive Director. With a deep respect for Indigenous culture and knowledge of their needs, he advocated nationally for funding and formed key partnerships to build safe and affordable housing across the province of Ontario. He loved his work and his colleagues. Just a month prior to his liver cancer diagnosis, Don received a standing ovation in Halifax after delivering a speech to government ministers—something that rarely happens. He was a founding member of the Chartered Institute of Housing Canada and an executive member of International Housing Partnerships.
“Don was very passionate about every project he was part of during his lifetime,” said Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services Executive Director, Justin Marchand. “Don taught me what I know about Housing but under his mentorship, I also learned a lot about life. He cared about every person and every creature in this world. Under his leadership, Don helped build an internationally-known and nationally-prominent Indigenous housing organization.” Today, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services employs over 80 people across Ontario, primarily in Sault Ste. Marie, has 2,300 housing units under management and serves over 9,900 people on a daily basis.
The Steelers and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services call upon you to come together on Saturday June 15th to support the team, to honour a great man, the team he loved, and help it continue to flourish in his memory.
Sault Online, Riley Smith, For the Love of Sports: The Sault Steelers Return, 2018