Peter Gorman, who was a familiar figure for many of us in Newmarket, was a major force within the very fabric of our community.
Mr. Gorman, like many others who found their way to our town over the years, proved to be an incredible addition to Newmarket. Arriving with his family from London, Ontario, he built a profitable business locally and became involved in our community on so many levels over the years. In this article, we will examine but a few of the ways he truly made Newmarket home and made us proud.
I had the pleasure of doing a Zoom interview with his daughter, Brenda Andrachuk, which brought me to become much better acquainted with Mr. Gorman, the man, which is always my primary interest when doing heritage research. Mr. Gorman made substantial contributions to our town quite apart from his obvious entrepreneurial savvy.
He arrived in our fair town in 1947, a move that Brenda said he was always incredibly happy about. It was evident to those who knew him that he had a knack for making things happen, a skilled salesman and entrepreneur who was determined to create a rich life for he and his family within the Newmarket community and make this a better place to raise a family.
He moved into a small house on the north end of Main Street, on the east side, just north of what was once Annie’s Lunch. He established a food wholesaling business with a partner but soon set out on his own, establishing Peter Gorman Wholesale Distributors, first on Davis Drive near the train station and then on Eagle Street. It quickly thrived and soon became a major business entity throughout Canada.
Along with the Bondi, Insley, Senecal and several other Catholic entrepreneur families, he stood as a pillar within Newmarket’s Catholic community, an important fact at that time in our history.
Gorman was a tireless sports booster with an ability to make ideas spring to life.
Seeing a need for the children of Newmarket to cool off on a hot summer’s day, he was an integral force behind the drive to construct the town’s first and only outdoor swimming pool in the early 1960s. He was dedicated to the organizing, raising of funds and the construction, even though he and his family had access to a summer home on a lake.
Gorman realized there was no place for the children of Newmarket to swim, so he spearheaded the plan to build a pool in the centre of town, beside the tennis courts at Lions Club Park, at the corner of Church and D’Arcy streets, just across from St. Paul’s Anglican Church. The pool was to carry the Gorman name, in his honour — it was my summer hangout.
Many of you will remember the Newmarket Smoke Rings, an Ontario Hockey Association Junior C powerhouse in the late 1950s,which brought championship recognition to our town, having captured the Clarence Schmalz Cup in 1956, 1958 and 1959. Gorman was a founder and financial backer of the team.
The Newmarket Smoke Rings, named after the tobacco wholesaling branch of Gorman’s business, was formed at the bantam level, but went on to glory at the provincial level by winning Ontario Hockey Association championships in three of four seasons from 1956 to 1959.
During this period, they had a huge following in the town, with the old arena on Main Street jam-packed on Thursday nights.
Gorman sponsored many other local sports teams, with Gorman name adorning many a sports uniform in this town over the years.
Each fall, the eyes of Canadian university football fans are focused on another of his ambitious projects, the Vanier Cup, which epitomizes the top Canadian inter-university football program each year. The Vanier Cup launched a national awareness of university football and other collegiate sports.
“There were no national championships in any sports in Canadian university back then,” said Terry Gorman. “University ball is quite strong now in Canada and for university football players, this is the game in which you want to participate. He was quite proud of the success of that game.”
Apparently, the idea for a national football title was conceived after watching his son, Terry, a wide receiver and defensive back for St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. play in the Atlantic Bowl, a regional match.
Soon after, he initiated a plan for a national showdown, bonding the football leagues across the country in a common goal.
The Vanier Cup, whose proceeds went to the Save The Children Fund charity, was first played in 1965 and brought together the best teams in Canadian university football. One year later, Terry Gorman and his St. Francis Xavier X-Men teammates were winners of the second invitational championship football game. Gorman was named outstanding player of the game.
In 1967, the game was officially recognized as the national championship game. The CIS rookie of the year still takes home the Peter Gorman Trophy.
Mr. Gorman, who served for several years as Newmarket’s recreation director, was also instrumental in the creation of the Metro Bowl high school championship and the family name was on a rivalry trophy between Newmarket’s football schools — the Huron Heights Warriors and Newmarket Raiders.
For his contributions to sports in Newmarket, Peter Gorman was inducted posthumously into the Newmarket Sports Hall of Fame into the builder’s category in 2013, a fitting tribute to a man who was most surely a builder.
His son, Terry, the eldest of eight Gorman children, recalled at the time of his father’s induction that: “He was an all-around sports guy, but he was also about getting kids involved in sports. Our family was incredibly happy when we learned the town was inducting him into the hall of fame.”
Along with his induction into the Newmarket Sports Hall of Fame, he was awarded the Order of Canada on June 21, 1982 and invested on Oct. 20, 1982. The public statement of achievement read: ‘A businessman who has given generous support to youth, athletic and educational organizations. These reflect his serious concern for youth in this own Ontario community, in Canada generally, and in the Third World. The Canadian Save the Children Fund, of which he is a director, has established an annual scholarship in his name.’
Sadly, Mr. Gorman passed in 1987 at the age of 72. However, the Gorman name continues to be immortalized in local lore and in the sporting memories of a nation. His family, as are all of us here in Newmarket, are rightly proud of his contributions.
I want to thank John Cudmore, who has written several articles about Mr. Gorman’s sports ties to Newmarket. John is a sort of sports historian, taking up the reigns from people like George Haskette who came before him. Cheers, John.
Sources: The Newmarket Era; The Toronto Star, The Newmarket Sports Hall of Fame, OHL, University Sports Canada, Order of Canada Website