The Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating Club was formed in 1964 by Joe & Millie Bodnar with the assistance of Pat Underhill from Dawson Creek. They were the second club to join the newly formed BC Speed Skating Association. Because of people like the Bodnars, Clara & Howard Overend, Ruth and Warren Smith, Gordon Strate and Bill Dyer, the club flourished and B.C. skaters began to win recognition across Canada.
The Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating Club has a long history of producing highly successful skaters. Members began travelling to meets as early as 1965 and the club was able to send Gordie Bodnar and Marion Wiles to the Canadian Outdoor Championships in Saskatchewan that second season. In 1967 Marion Wiles won a silver medal for BC in the first ever Canada Winter Games in Quebec City and the club produced two Canadian Indoor Pee Wee Champions – John Temple & Sandra Strate.
From 1968 – 1971 Gordie Bodnar was the National Age Class Indoor Champion as well as being the Outdoor Champion in 1969. Billy Dyer and Sandra Strate were the National Outdoor Champions for their age class in 1968, Jody Strate & Ricky Field in 1970, Carol Ljuden & Keely Lavik in 1971 and Craig Schnepf in 1972 In 1971 five skaters (Marion Wiles, Wendy Foster, Joe Temple, Les Blais and Gordie Bodnar) all from the Fort St. John club, were named to BC’s Canada Winter Games team held in Saskatoon. In 1973 Lori Ljuden was the National Age Class Champion for both indoor and outdoor and in 1975 Kim Meashaw accomplished the same feat. In 1975 there were three members (Pam Smith, Kim Strate and Brian Large) skating for BC in Lethbridge at Canada Winter Games. Bobbie Dyer won the BC Skater of the Year award in 1977. Ken Johnson and Patty Johnson were the National Age Class Outdoor Champions in 1979 and 1981. Lori Ljuden was the BC Skater of the Year in 1981 and Leslie Davidson earned a spot on the Canadian Indoor Women’s Team. In 1982 Rod Corriveau became a member of the Canadian Outdoor Men’s Speed Skating Team and won the Premier’s Athletic Award as well as the BC Skater of the Year Award in 1983.
In 1987 both the BC Indoor and Outdoor Women’s teams were made up entirely of Fort St. John skaters. In 1988 Lisa Lamoureux and Linda Johnson were selected for the National Women’s Team. Tara Curry (Mitchell) was the Junior National Outdoor Champion in 1989. Koyne Kursteiner and Shane Vopicka were the National Outdoor Champions for 1992. In 1992 Linda Johnson won the BC Skater of the Year Award. She then went on to participate in the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer in 1994 and again in Nagano in 1998, making her the first athlete in Fort St. John to ever participate in the Olympics. Beginning in 1992, Master skaters Jim Morrison, Pat Ferris, Dennis Morrison, Wim Kok and Rick Lee were all National Long Track Champions on at least one occasion. Jay Morrison was the National Outdoor (Long Track) Champion for his age class in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000. Shane Vopicka, Elyce Henry and Ian Houghton were also National Outdoor Age Class Champions in 1997. Denny Morrison was both Indoor (Short Track) and Long Track National Age Class Champion in 1998. Elyce Henry was Long Track Champion in 1998 and Short Track Champion in 2000. In 1999 Shane Vopicka won the Premier’s Athletic Award. Eric Lee & Shane Vopicka were Long Track Champions in 2000.
In 2001 Denny and Kaylin Irvine were Canadian Short Track Age Class Champions. In 2002 Jay Morrison won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships and the Premier’s Athletic Award. Jay was the Canadian Junior Champion in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Denny was the Short Track Champion in 2003 and Kaylin Irvine and Timothy Gladysz were National Age Class Long Track Champions. In 2003 both Jay and Denny Morrison finished Top 10 in Junior World Championships in Japan. Denny then went on to win the Canadian Junior Champion award in 2004 and placed 4th at the World Juniors. He won a silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in the men’s team pursuit, making him the first Olympic medal winner for Fort St. John. Denny was named Male Skater of the Year for Long Track in 2006 and 2007. 2007 also saw another four skaters from Fort St. John (Elyce Henry, Trisha Gladysz, Eric Lee and Dayna Stickel) skate for Team BC at Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse.
The Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating club has a long history of hosting meets. They hosted their first BC Outdoor Meet in 1966 and then in 1967 hosted their first BC Short Track Championship as well as the first Canadian Indoor Championship. In 1968 the oval was changed to the first and only regulation size 400-meter outdoor track in B.C. with the help of the City of FSJ. Unfortunately it didn’t have lights and when that year’s outdoor championships lasted longer than expected, they had to park cars around the oval and use their headlights to light the track. In 1971 they hosted their first Canadian Outdoor Championship and in 1975 hosted the first Northern BC Winter Games as well as the National Team Trials. For years the provincial long track championships were alternated between Dawson Creek & Fort St. John and only in the last few years have they been hosted in other northern locations. Throughout the years many other provincial and national championships were held in Fort St. John, most of them highly successful but several having to be cancelled – once because it was too warm and once because of dangerously cold temperatures
Like any other organization, the Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating Club has had to adapt to change. In 1968 the schools in Fort St. John were operating in shifts so practices had to be held twice a day. In 1971 the arena burned down and the oval was used for all winter activities, meaning the speed skaters had to travel to Dawson Creek for practices. In 1979 the oval was unable to be used due to construction of the Fort St. John Curling Rink and practices had to be held on the frozen waters of Charlie Lake and Peace Island Park. The Sportex building, completed in 1975, was a second home to many skaters for years and as small and crowded as it was during competitions, it was a bittersweet day in 2007 to see it being torn down. The outdoor oval (dedicated to Linda Johnson in 2004) was used for its last season in 2006. A temporary oval was created in 2006/07 on the track of Bert Bowes Junior Secondary School and was completed just days before hosting the Canada Cup#2/Canadian Junior Championships. Likely the biggest and most exciting change for the club began in 2007 when the ground was broke for the new Enerplex.