Ben Hatskin

July 15, 2022

                                                                                 BENJAMIN (BEN) HATSKIN

                                                                                                1917 – 1990

To most Winnipeggers of a certain shall we say vintage, Benjamin (Ben) Hatskin will be remembered as the individual who ushered in the World Hockey Association (WHA) and signed in 1972 Chicago Black Hawks left-winger and prolific National Hockey League (NHL) goal – scorer Bobby Hull to a lucrative contract with the Winnipeg Jets that included at the time an unheard of million-dollar bonus. With Hull and his exciting Swedish linemates Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson the Jets were to emerge as one of the most successful franchises in the WHA’s short – lived history. With the demise of the WHA the Jets and a few other teams were absorbed into the NHL in 1979. Hatskin played a vital role in the WHA-NHL merger thus introducing a new chapter in the history of professional hockey in Winnipeg. According to his friend Saul Simkin, players owe Hatskin a debt of gratitude as he was instrumental in the creation of a free agency system which challenged NHL contracts that were deemed by a U.S. Judge to have violated anti-trust legislation and greatly restricted players’ bargaining powers.

There was more to Hatskin’s life than his connection to the WHA, the Winnipeg Jets and the Hull signing. Born in Winnipeg’s North End in 1917 to Russian immigrants Louis and Henya Hatskin, he attended Ralph Brown School and was accepted at the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship. Shortly after his return to Winnipeg he was signed up by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers where he played centre guard from 1937 to 1941 (source Winnipeg Blue Bombers) and was on two Grey Cup winning teams (1939 and 1941). The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame website notes that in the 1970s Hatskin owned the Honolulu team (the Hawaiians) of the World Football League.

Hatskin’s entrepreneurial skills were on display in his numerous business ventures which cut a wide swath across a variety of areas. He took on his family’s corrugated carton and wood businesses, and was active in timber, real estate, property management, investment firms and juke box distributorships. His activities in real estate included commercial developments in the St. James area, and the establishment of shopping centres in St. Vital and Charleswood. He owned racehorses in Florida and Illinois, and in 1959 one of his horses won the Louisiana Derby.

In 1954, Winnipeg B’nai Brith launched a major campaign to raise funds for the development of what the organization publicized as “the biggest and best Jewish summer camp in western Canada”. The funds would be used to acquire land, buildings, and equipment to further enhance existing facilities on Town Island in the Lake of the Woods. Samuel Cohen was recruited to serve as campaign chair. Hatskin and Nate Jacob were selected as co-chairs.

Hatskin’s accomplishments particularly as they pertained to the world of sports didn’t go unnoticed. During the WHA years, the Ben Hatskin Trophy was awarded to the league’s top goalie. In 1973 the Sporting News named him the Executive of the Year in Sports. In 1985, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and in 1992 was inducted posthumously into the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame. In 2018 he was also named to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Ben Hatskin died in 1990 and was buried at Rosh Pina Memorial Park.

Suggested reading:

Benjamin Hatskin (obituary). The Jewish Post and News. Wednesday, October 31, 1990, p. 22

“$80,000 Target set in B.B. Camp Drive”. The Jewish Post, Thursday, August 12, 1954 p.1

Lungen, Paul. “Ben Hatskin, Roy Salomon inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. The Canadian   Jewish News, December 6, 2018 (online), pp. 1-7

Memorable Manitobans: Benjamin “Ben” Hatskin (1917 – 1990). Manitoba Historical Society.

Sport Manitoba. Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Members Database.

The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board. www.winnipegregionalreal estate