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Nick Apostle's name is etched on Memorial Cup

Retired Commissioner of Community Services played major role in GFL Memorial Gardens and other projects, helped save the Greyhounds; now serves as school board trustee
Nick Apostle, the City’s retired Commissioner of Community Services is enjoying his latest role as an Algoma District School Board trustee.

As a young University of Western Ontario student, the Sault’s Nick Apostle worked as a part-time employee for the City of London in the municipality’s arenas and at its pools.

“I was a rink rat,” Apostle told SooToday.

“I would run around the rink and work the low-paying jobs. Basically I would clean up the dressing rooms and move the nets while the Zamboni was doing the ice, clean the lobbies, all the dirty jobs.”

Apostle went on to work for the City of Sault Ste. Marie and would eventually oversee operations of all the city’s rinks - including the old Memorial Gardens and what became the new GFL Memorial Gardens - and the City’s other sports facilities as Commissioner of Community Services.

Did he ever imagine he would play such a role during his days as a rink rat?

“It’s interesting, because it was a goal of mine to work in the big facilities whether back home in the Sault or somewhere else,” Apostle said.

“It was a goal. I would go into the facilities and think how neat it would be to manage one of these facilities, so I was quite fortunate to be able to not only manage more than one of them but also to be the department head. It was really great. It was a nice run.”

Apostle, a Sir James Dunn Collegiate graduate, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and a minor in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario.

That education made him a good fit for the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

Apostle became the City’s Assistant to the Manager of Arenas in 1981, then Manager of Community Centres in 1991 and finally Commissioner of Community Services in 2001.

He held the position of Commissioner until his retirement from the City in 2016.

“Certainly to come back to Sault Ste. Marie, where I was born and to have my family around, and to have a long career here was really gratifying.”

Under his watch, the old Memorial Gardens hosted many memorable events, including the 1990 Labatt Brier, the 1993 Memorial Cup and the 1996 Canadian Gymnastics Championships and Olympic Trials.

The old arena also hosted the 2000 Ontario Winter Games, and the new arena the 2012 CARHA (Canadian Amateur Recreation Hockey Association) World Cup.

Both arenas, the old and the new, held many concerts by famous groups and solo performers.

“The Brier, Memorial Cup and gymnastics were major events that were never, ever hosted in the Sault before and haven’t been hosted here since,” Apostle said.

“Of course, the Soo Greyhounds were a huge part of the many incredible memories. There were great teams, players, coaches, staff and owners.”

In 1989, Apostle served on the team’s board of directors when the ‘Save The Greyhounds’ campaign raised $1 million to purchase the team and keep it from being moved to Detroit.  

The Greyhounds went on to win the Memorial Cup at the Memorial Gardens in 1993.

“We went to all their board of directors meetings at the time, which was awesome. At the time they put the board of directors’ names on the Memorial Cup. It was the first and last time and so my name’s etched on the Memorial Cup, which is really cool,” Apostle said.

Capital projects which came into being during his career with the City include:

  • The John Rhodes Community Centre expansion project which included a new pool and the twin pad John Rhodes Arena
  • Demolition of the old Memorial Gardens and its replacement with a new arena now known as GFL Memorial Gardens
  • The Northern Community Centre Indoor Turf Facility and West End Library (which has since been replaced by Active 55+)   
  • The Heritage Discovery Centre, an addition to the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site (part of Community Services)

“The John Rhodes Community Centre was a great project. There’s the restaurant up top, there are some educational rooms, the pool, the viewing area at the pool. There’s so much there,” Apostle said.

He is also pleased about athletes being able to train indoors at the Northern Community Centre Indoor Turf Facility.

Not surprisingly, the biggest memory of Apostle’s career was the demolition of the old Memorial Gardens and its replacement by a new arena.

“It was spectacular,” Apostle said of its opening in 2006.

“Certainly the Memorial Gardens project was near and dear to me. One of the hardest times I had with that project was the demolition. I remember walking through the Memorial Gardens on the last day before it was to be demolished thinking of all of the history, all the things that we did.”

Apostle said the investment was worth it.

“We felt good knowing that at that time in northern Ontario we were ahead of the other major northern Ontario centres like Sudbury and North Bay and here it is several years later and those other centres haven’t been able to get state-of-the-art facilities like we have, so I’m really proud of that one in particular. The other projects are still way up there community-wise but the Memorial Gardens is the sweetheart for me.”

Apostle is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Hockey Hall of Fame Committee.

With the Sault being a city with so many notable hockey figures, is it difficult to decide who makes it into the Hall of Fame?

“It is, but we have a great committee. It’s not easy but I think we’ve done a great job in recognizing people who not only have played but coached, refereed and built and brought notoriety to the Sault.”

Since his retirement as Commissioner of Community Services in 2016, the married father of two sons and grandfather of four stays active with golf, pickleball, cycling and hiking. 

Apostle ran in the 2018 municipal election to be an Algoma District School Board Trustee but was unsuccessful. He ran again in 2022 and won, becoming the new ADSB Trustee representing Ward 5 in Sault Ste Marie.

“It’s great. I’ve been enjoying it a lot. There’s a bit of a learning curve but I had a lot of experience with city council, committees and big budgets. The ADSB functions much like city council and as a City department head for 15 years I had a lot of experience with elected officials and senior staff that served the community.”

Apostle said that being a trustee “is natural for me.”

“It fulfills a need for service to others. Service to the community and others has always been in my blood and it’s what I do.”

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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