By Martin Cleary
Anton (Toni) Scheier is an energetic and idea-filled man torn between his two sporting passions – cross-country skiing and soccer.
“Interestingly enough, soccer could nudge out skiing as my passion,” Scheier, who lives in Orleans, quietly revealed during a phone interview designed to talk about a significant achievement in his skiing career.
On Tuesday morning, he joined his mature-aged peers for a lively game of indoor soccer to get the heart pumping and keep the competitive athletic fire burning inside.
Soccer has always been a big part of his life, whether he was coaching his children on house league and competitive teams in the Gloucester Soccer Association or watching faraway games on TV.
Beginning Sunday, the World Cup will dominate the sports world and Scheier, 64, will be tuned into that spectacle until the final on Dec. 18.
On Nov. 24, Scheier will have a day to remember as both of his sports will collide and there will be great fireworks. Four World Cup group games are scheduled for that day involving four top-16 countries, including No. 1 Brazil and No. 9 Portugal.
But on that day, cross-country skiing will likely play a greater role than soccer for him as he will be one of the eight new inductees from cross-country and alpine skiing to enter the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame. After a full day of soccer, he will be welcomed into the hall during an evening ceremony.
Scheier will be inducted with four other builders – Al Maddox and Chic Scott (both nordic skiing) and alpine skiing’s Paul Mathews and Peter Alder (posthumously). The athletes are Sara Renner (nordic skiing), Rod Hebron (alpine skiing) and Colette Bourgonje (para nordic skiing).
“Anton Scheier had a profound influence on coaching, while increasing the standards for Canadian skiers,” the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame said in its announcement.
Scheier was thankful and grateful for such a reward celebrating his almost 50 years in the nordic sport as a racer, coach, administrator and builder.
“Honestly, I’m very pleased and honoured,” he said. “I’ve been in this business a long time at all different levels. It’s nice. A couple of my friends are already in the hall and they nominated me. It’s recognition of my accomplishments and that’s cool.
“I’m not the most high-profile figure in the Canadian ski world. It’s not my style. This is what I do.”
Scheier was introduced to cross-country skiing in the early 1970s, after his parents met a top national cross-country skiing official at their Scottish country dance group.
He became a nordic racer for his club and high school in Orangeville, ON., and carried his competitive drive right into his first year as a kinesiology student at the University of Waterloo.
“After the first year, I said maybe I’d be better coaching and not racing,” he explained. “Coaching became my focus. I was taking kinesiology and that’s the same as coaching – working on human performance.”
In his final year (1980-81) attending Waterloo, he coached the women’s team to its first of five consecutive OUA championships and the men’s team to a second-place showing to Laurentian.
His dedication to cross-country skiing caught the eye of the national association, which offered him a contract to promote and develop the sport at the club and division level. Shortly after, he was given coaching assignments with the Southern Ontario and Northern Ontario division teams.
Cross-Country Canada, which is now Nordiq Canada, was impressed with his work and offered him a full-time job to develop and write the coaching manuals and courses and bring them in line with the Coaching Association of Canada’s NCCP coaching program.
Scheier spent 25 years with the national association and held a number of key roles involving the national teams – domestic program director, sport sciences co-ordinator and high-performance director.
He also served as Canadian team leader at the 1993, 1995 and 1997 world championships and the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics as well as being a wax technician at the 1987, 1989 and 1991 worlds and 1988 Olympics.
Scheier remains connected with the national nordic scene as a member of Nordiq Canada’s board of directors since last year.
While administration has been his key focus, he enjoyed coaching the Ottawa Racers and the Orleans Ski Club, helping a few athletes win medals at the Canadian championships and seeing Darren Derochie qualify for the 1992 Winter Olympics.
For the past 10 years, the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club in Cantley, Que., has been a big part of his life. He has assisted in many administrative areas, but left the coaching to others in the club.
Scheier’s many talents have seen him involved on the club’s snowmaking committee, serving as media co-ordinator reporting on club events and athlete performances, being an active member of the racing and operations steering committees, waxing skis at competitions and volunteering on the trails crew.
“I have had a big focus on the race committee,” said Scheier, adding the club has 300 racers in the U10 to U23 classes. “It’s a big job to manage.”
In March, Nakkertok’s strong age-group and open division skiers allowed the club to win its 11th consecutive national club points championship.
Scheier is an ideas man. Some have worked and some haven’t taken flight. But one idea was a huge success six years ago.
“Listening to the Stanley Cup playoffs six years ago, I heard about the Kraft Heinz Project Play for the 79th time,” Scheier recalled. “At that time, we had talked about doing a snowmaking project. We had $40,000 to start the project.”
The Kraft Heinz Project Play was open to all Canadian communities looking to upgrade their sports venues. The opportunity to win a $250,000 grant attracted 820 applications from 550 cities.
“On the Friday night before the Sunday (application) deadline, I sent an email to our president asking: ‘Do you mind if I submit an application?’” Scheier said.
Scheier and a number of club members quickly put together a detailed application, worked tirelessly voting on their computers and emerged as winners of the $250,000 grand prize. Nakkertok used the money to introduce a snowmaking system on a three-kilometre trail section, which has allowed the club to start its season earlier and extend it by 30 per cent.
He added Nakkertok recently received $25,000 from the Hall Mark of Excellence Award and bought two more snow guns and a compressor. Former Canadian head coach Marty Hall and his wife Kathy head the Hall Mark of Excellence Award program.
“People I have known for 25 years are semi, full-time volunteers. They have no kids racing now. They like helping others achieve success. It’s their focus and dedication. It inspires me,” Scheier said.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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