ABOUT THE LEAGUE/HISTORY OF THE PIT



FOR THE PLAYERS ...           ... BY THE PLAYERS



Mission Statement:

The PIT Football league strives to offer the best game day experience in recreational sports. Partnered with both the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Winnipeg High School Football League, we accomplish this goal by offering what other leagues cannot. We are the only league to offer skill levels from beginner to elite, games at Investors Group Field, Winnipeg Blue Bomber discounts and merchandise, certified officials, field locations throughout the city, the most comprehensive collection of team and player statistics, professional field lining and maintenance crews, unlimited schedule requests, and individual and team awards/sponsorship. We are also the only league that runs four seasons of football including both indoor and outdoor leagues. Our core value is to ensure the best recreational sport experience regardless of age, skill level, or years playing the game. We offer men’s, coed, masters (39+ division), and flag divisions. We will find you a competitive team to play with and ensure you are playing in a safe and fun environment. Check us out to find out why we are the biggest and best touch and flag football organization in the country.

Backgrounder:

The history of the PIT dates back many years and many discussions between PIT league co-founders Jon Franklin and Scott McArthur. The PIT grew from numerous after game discussions regarding how indoor football in Manitoba could be improved. Some suggestions bordered on outlandish, some impossible, but most had a lot of merit. The more the conversations progressed the more we kept coming back to the concept of the 'Game Day Experience'. If we were to start a touch football league we would have to provide the best game day experience for our players; this included but was not limited to the best fields, referees, and teams in an atmosphere that promoted both competition and fun. With, at the time, over 27 years of football experience between the two, league cofounders Jon Franklin and Scott McArthur had made a lot of contacts, and more importantly a lot of friends. However, Winnipeg lacked the facility in which to house our grandiose expectations. Years went by and so did the same conversations. Serendipitously Scott came across a link to a new facility being built at the University of Manitoba. This facility had the best playing surface, lighting, team locker rooms, and fan seating with room to expand for a pro-shop, lounge, and restaurant.

The PIT league now had the facility to match our stringent expectations however we required verification that we were not the only ones chasing the idea of the best game day experience. Confirmation came when in our first two indoor seasons (Fall 2008 and Winter 2009) the PIT had over 100 men's and women's teams register across twelve very competitive divisions. Further to the point, over 35 people signed up to help realize our goal to offer the most qualified and competent referees to manage the game day experience for our players. We hoped to tap into the touch football market, but soon we realized we had it cornered. The game day experience was here! The path to starting our league was rocky and took years in the making however the future looks bright for the PIT and its concept of the best game day experience! Listed below are brief yearly reviews of our operations.

2008 Year in Review:

Our first season of indoor football began in the Fall of 2008 with 40 teams registering across seven divisions at the Subway Soccer South complex, a revolutionary indoor complex not seen in Manitoba previously. Rules were modified to adapt to new field sizes as the league was the first, and remains the only league, in the province to adhere at to Football Canada’s standardized regulation sized fields. The fields at the newly developed University of Manitoba Indoor Complex were approximately 30 yards in width and 70 yards in length.

The PIT league introduced a novel concept in touch football – each team regardless of skill level would be treated the same. No division prioritized over another. Each team would be given the same scheduling priorities, championship shirts, and the league purchased the nicest trophies in touch football which would be engraved “Stanley Cup” style with each winning team’s players permanently etched on the trophies for prosperity!

320 players participated in 121 games our first season, a number that we have seen grow to over 4000 members and 1600 games played each year!

2009 Year in Review:

2009 started with a bang, as our registration from the Fall to the Winter league nearly doubled. The first season of Winter indoor football had sixty-eight teams register, which made the PIT the largest indoor touch football league in Manitoba in just its second season of existence! The indoor league grew from seven divisions in the fall to twelve in the Winter. The Winter season also saw the first ever women’s indoor division in Manitoba tough football history. Coed and elite divisions were also added to ensure that regardless of skill level the PIT has a division to offer its players.

The positive feedback that followed the end of the indoor seasons was tempered by the well documented problems that plagued Winnipeg’s outdoor football leagues at the time. These problems led to opportunity as many players and teams were turned away from their respective leagues, while others simply were not happy with the current playing conditions, competition, or the state of the game. We weighed our options. On one hand there was less than six weeks prior to outdoor registration and we had no previous plan to start an outdoor league, which meant a tremendous amount of work had to be completed. On the other hand, we had experience running a successful indoor league, there was demand for change, and many of our friends and competitors had no place to play. After much debate it was resolved to create the finest outdoor season in Winnipeg touch football history by holding to our philosophy of offering the best game day experience to our membership.

With that decision, the first season of the PIT outdoor league began in the Summer of 2009. With a little luck and a lot of determination, in less than a month the best fields were obtained, the most qualified refs came on board, and a very strong contingent of 24 men’s teams across five divisions followed. At the time the PIT was the third largest league in Manitoba, however that would not last for long! The PIT guaranteed lined fields and three officials for every game, something the other leagues could not provide. A field liner, lawn tractor, thatcher and aerators were purchased. The PIT Crew toiled all summer ensuring that the fields were always in immaculate condition. The PIT Crew would not be outworked despite its diminutive size, and that began to get noticed by the touch football community!

2010 Year in Review:

Now three years in, the PIT was growing at a phenomenal rate. The Fall league nearly doubled in size from 40 teams to 72 and the Winter league hit a record 84 teams. With demand growing the PIT decided to add a fourth season (Spring) to make the league a year-round operation. The first Spring season of indoor football saw 24 teams compete for five divisional championships. Spring was a new proposition for touch football and started slow, however since that time the Spring has become the fastest growing season with nearly 100 teams now competing.

With such a rapid growth in teams, more and more officials were required to manage the games and provide the best game day experience in recreational sports. The PIT introduced an officials certification program consisting of nearly four hours of in-class instruction, written testing, and a minimum of four games on the field training before officials could take to the field. The PIT wasn’t the first to introduce a certification process in the Province, but they did introduce the most rigorous training program. Currently the PIT is the only league to have a certification process and it is why we can accurately state we have the most knowledgeable and competent officials in touch and flag football. We also have sent more officials to National and Provincial tournaments than any other league in Western Canada. PIT officials are the most highly trained officials in recreational sports something that has become a core value of our mandate to offer our players the best game day experience.

2011 Year in Review:

In 2011, all other touch football leagues in the province dropped their referee certification processes. While costly, the PIT went against the grain and upped the certification ante. The league decided to get ahead of the curve and develop their own rulebook which would enhance player safety and toughen rules regarding player conduct. Based on the framework outlined by Touch Football Ontario, the PIT expanded the rulebook to include new sections on player safety to eliminate rough play and objectionable conduct. The goal was to make the PIT the safest touch football organization in the nation, overseen by the only certified officials in the Province.

The summer of 2011 saw the PIT officially become the largest touch football league in Manitoba. In just under three short years the PIT went from an upstart association to the largest league in the province. The game day experience that was promised had been delivered, and teams wanted in. With the influx of new players, the talent pool in Manitoba had never been better.

The outdoor season finished with a bang as the 10-time elite division champion Avengers proved they were the best in Country winning the National Touch Football Championships 42-20 over the Regina Megalomania. The Nationals tournament in Calgary crowned Manitoba’s first, and only, National Touch Football Champion. The Avengers went undefeated in league play, won the Labour Day Tournament in Regina, and saved their most dominating performance for the National Championship game. The Avengers solidified themselves as the best team in Manitoba history and had perhaps the greatest single season in touch football history.
Click here to watch the Avengers become the first team from Manitoba to win Tournament of Champions (Touch Football National Championships)

2012 Year in Review:

More milestones were achieved in 2012 as the PIT became the largest touch football league in Canada! The Winter season saw the PIT become the largest indoor league when 109 teams registered. This was the first time any league had achieved over 100 teams in a season, surpassing in size leagues from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The Summer season saw its outdoor league also become the largest in Canada with 81 teams registering. Overall, the league growth rate was still in double digits. It took just three years to be the largest league in Manitoba, and just four to become the largest in Canada, a title that the PIT has held every year since. Manitoban’s love their football!

In 2012, the first free agent teams were created. We had heard that many players wanted to participate but did not have a network of people to play with, so the league began to offer individual players a chance to come together and play. The league would supply jerseys, the free agents would supply the talent. The success of our first team has led to a free agent team being placed in every season since. Currently we offer two men’s free agent teams during Indoor (one in the south and one in the north), as well as coed and flag football free agent teams. If you want to play some football, the PIT can hook you up regardless of experience or skill level!

2013 Year in Review:

Our fifth season saw the fifth straight year of double digit growth in league operations. The growth was fueled by both new teams and existing teams from other leagues moving to the PIT. In the Summer 2013 the PIT became the only men’s touch football program in Manitoba as all competitors ceased operations. While it was a considerable amount of work to provide the best game day experience to our players it was worth seeing all teams come under one roof. The best players now always played against the best and there was considerable parity across all the divisions. Games are never better when all the teams are of equal caliber and this year proved that having one league is what is best for the game of football in Manitoba.

The PIT began a limited contact flag football division which drew an impressive 11 teams for its first year. Each of our four seasons of football once again saw tremendous growth. Overall the league had over 400 teams participate across the four seasons, a benchmark that has been obtained in every year since. The league for the first time hit over 100 summer teams, however it would be the last time registration hit triple digits during the summer season.

2014 Year in Review:

Based on the successes found in Eastern Canada, the Masters Division began its first season. A novel football concept in Manitoba, eligible players would have to be 39 years of age or older to participate. The goal of the division was to allow players over 39 a division of like-minded players who were out for some fun, exercise and the occasional post-game celebration. Since this time, we have offered Masters divisions in each of the indoor seasons of play. With the addition of the Masters league the Fall, Winter, and Spring indoor registrations continued to climb to record numbers.

After the completion of the indoor season, there was expectations of growing the outdoor league further however all recreational sports leagues in Manitoba were hit with a field rental price hike of 105% imposed by the city of Winnipeg. The result? A substantial escalation in registration costs to cover the rise in field rental costs causing touch football to lose a considerable number of teams. While overall the league still grew, those numbers were buoyed by the success of our indoor seasons which did not see the same costs increase. Recreational sports across Manitoba took a huge hit, with many leagues ceasing operation. While the PIT endured we did contract during the summer season where the increase hardest hit teams. Despite still being one of the most inexpensive recreational options available, the PIT would need to change the way it did business if it was to survive the significant cost increases imposed by the City of Winnipeg.

2015 Year in Review:

In 2015, ownership changed as Scott McArthur stepped down and Jon Franklin assumed control over 100% of the operations in the PIT. The ownership structure was modified to bring in new people to provide specialized tasks based on their expertise. Cara Isaak took on the daunting task of league scheduling, Cliff Kitchen the unenviable task of discipline and rules interpretations, Ganni Maan would increase sponsorship opportunities, and Brad Kelm and Owen Nagy would be the Head of Officials. The PIT was now posed to broaden its scope as the league owner no longer would have to undertake all the roles necessary to run the league. All five of these new appointments paid immediate dividends as scheduling had never been better, local businesses came on board to sponsor events, player discipline was handled at arms reach from the league, and officials had more oversight. The league has prided itself on being adaptable to the changing environment of the game and continue make your game day experience better.

2015 would fundamentally alter the touch football landscape as the PIT signed on to become tenants at the city’s second indoor location at the state-of-the-art Garden City indoor complex. Garden City became, and still is, the largest, newest and best indoor facility in Manitoba. The PIT Football League is the only touch and flag football league to call Garden City home. While the league would not play at Garden City until the 2016 season, with the signing of the contract the PIT would now be able to offer fields in both the North and the South and for the first time offer prime time games. The PIT had come a long way from our first year in which games would be played only in the South with game times starting at 11:00pm. Now teams would have their choice of location for home field and games could begin during prime-time hours. The PIT was starting to hit the big time and it fostered some even bigger changes in 2016!

2016 Year in Review:

This year would be the biggest year of change in the touch football landscape. The outdoor season marked the return of the PIT Football league to Maple Grove Rugby Park, Winnipeg’s preeminent outdoor sports facility. Players responded very positively to our newest field location which offered the best fields in Manitoba. The PIT now had the best indoor and outdoor fields on the market and protected itself from the growing costs of renting fields from the city. The league now had some cost certainties and the best home base to play most of its games.

For the first time in PIT history the finals were to be played at the biggest and best venue, Investors Group Field! IGF was a huge coup for the league as we were able to offer a perk found nowhere else. The response from our membership was so great that all finals since 2016 have been played on the artificial turf of IGF. Our players would play where the pros play!

The PIT began its partnership with the Winnipeg High School Football League (WHSFL) to start both a high school flag football division and a U20 division that would cater to younger players, introduce them to the sport of flag/touch football, and provide them with an opportunity to compete for a National Championship! The Vincent Massey Trojans won the inaugural season of the high school division and Team PIT Football won the U20 division and the right to represent Manitoba at the National Level. Team PIT Football went on to win the National Championship Gold medal, defeating British Columbia in the finals in Halifax! An amazing beginning to our flag football program.

A plan in the works for years, the PIT became the curators of the Manitoba Touch Football Hall of Fame. 2016 introduced the first ever class of Hall of Famers. Five categories for the Hall were created: Player, Team, Contributor, Veteran, and Team Captain. Players were nominated to be considered for the Hall with an independent group of experts deciding on the final five for the Hall of Fame. Each player was provided with a Hall of Fame shirt, trophy, and was treated to a dinner in recognition of their contributions to the game of touch football.

For the first time in the provinces touch football history the PIT was able to offer prime time game slots as we moved into the newest and most state of the art facility in Garden City. Teams would could now select where most of their games would be played (In the North at Garden City or the South at the University of Manitoba) and when their games would be played (early or late). The result? The largest ever Fall season with 103 teams competing for 19 championship trophies!

2017 Year in Review:

In 2017, league owner Jon Franklin stepped down from the running the day to day operations of the league when he became Vice President of Football Manitoba. Jon would now focus on forming league partnerships at the community, provincial and national levels. Jerome Swarath, who Jon met at the first ever Touch Football Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, became the new league commissioner. Jerome’s business savvy coupled with his fresh ideas would add a new wrinkle to the PIT while retaining all the things that made the PIT the largest touch football organization in Canada. These changes paid immediate dividends as Jon Franklin went to work on the business side of the league, making contacts and solidifying a partnership with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers selected the PIT as their official “Touch and Flag Football” league and for the first time, a recreational sports league had partnered with a Professional sports team. PIT members would now get discounted tickets and merchandise to the Bombers, a cabana to use before games, and their own Section (117) at the Rum Hut. The best game day experience would now spill over into Bomber games. Perhaps most importantly, all PIT Football teams in the summer would play at least one regular season game at IGF and all championship games would continue to be held at that venue. No other league could boast that every member of the league would have an opportunity to play where the pros play! The sense of community in the league was now better than ever as players could be competitive against one another on the field then come together and cheer on the home team off the field.

New sponsorships were forged as Red River Steak Company pledged thousands of dollars in gift certificates for players of the week and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gave away over 100 tickets to PIT members during the season. The perks of playing in the PIT were undeniable. The Bombers also partnered in branding our newest line of championship shirts. Overall, when all our sponsors were included, the PIT handed out thousands of dollars in gift certificates and merchandise to our members. Truly the PIT had reached its goal of offering the best game day experience both on and off the field!

Summer 2017 saw the crowing of the first ever league MVP. The winner of the MVP would be awarded to the player with the most MVP votes by their peers during the season. At the completion of each game the opposing teams would award their choice of MVP based on sportsmanship and ability. Our first ever MVP was won by Courtney Dyck who could not have been a better choice based on her play and sportsmanship that season. Winners receive great prizes, a championship belt, and a chance for Winnipeg Blue Bomber season tickets! The Touch Football Hall of Fame also introduced an Officials category, bringing the number of inductees to six each year. Brad Kelm was inaugurated as the first official in the Hall of Fame, for his nearly 30 years of officiating experience and for being universally recognized as the best official to ever referee in Manitoba.

Finally, 2017 also saw the beginnings of both the Provincial Touch Football team (partnered with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) and the Provincial Flag Football team (run by Football Manitoba). There were now unprecedented opportunities for players to play at the top levels. The Provincial Flag Football team would be heavily subsidized by our sponsors so that the players participating could participate at the National level for little to no cost. In the first year of the program the Provincial team finished among the top in the Nation with goals set to bring home Manitoba’s second ever National Touch Football title.

2018 Year in Review:

In 2018, we celebrated our tenth-year of non-contact football. If you had asked a decade ago if the league would grow from 40 teams to nearly 400, partner with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Winnipeg High School Football League (WHSFL), and Football Manitoba, play games at IGF field, and host games at three indoor recreational facilities, I don’t think anyone would have believed that was within the realm of possibility…but here we are. Its been a pretty wild ride, but even after ten years we still had a lot of firsts in 2018.

As part of the 10-year anniversary our sponsors pledged over $10,000 in gift certificates and merchandise to be given out to our players. We want to thank all our great sponsors for helping us successfully meet that goal and give back to our membership. We are the only league that diverts all of its profits back into the league...and it shows!

Team PIT Football won the first Milt Stegall Charity Tournament and bragging rights as the top team in Manitoba. That same team represented PIT Football and Football Manitoba at the national flag football tournament in Saskatoon. Team Manitoba re-payed Football Manitoba’s faith by knocking off the defending champions Team Canada 19-13 in a barn-burner of a gold medal game. Team Manitoba will now take the hot seat as Team Canada in the 2019 national tournament where they received an automatic berth for being the reigning champs.

PIT Football alums Kasali Akili, Julian Banaras, Ben Lazurak, and Cara Isaak led our provincial U16 & U18 teams to medals at both Regional and National tournaments. Kasali coached the U18 boys’ team to a gold medal in Halifax, while Cara Isaak coached the U18 girls to the bronze medal. Julian Banaras and Ben Lazurak led the U16 boys to the silver medal at the Western regionals, while Cara Isaak returned to coach the girls to silver. With the Manitoba seniors (18+) winning gold, Manitoba was the only province to medal in every Football Canada non-contact event in 2018!

Coed and WHSFL divisions reached all-time highs. The Coed division expanded to three divisions as more and more female athletes continue to participate in the sport. The Winnipeg High School Football League partnership is bearing fruit as the league grew for its third consecutive year, and success on the flag football field seems to have translated into success on the tackle field as PIT alums Vincent Massey, Grant Park, and St. Johns went on to capture their respective provincial tackle football championships.

The summer season saw the introduction of the first senior flag football division and coed ran its second summer season of football, both playing at the RecPlex. The PIT became the first league to hold games in all three indoor facilities in the city. In the Fall, PIT Football partnered with Football Manitoba to run the first U18 indoor flag football league at the RecPlex. Four age divisions (u10, u12, u14, u16) were offered, and in our first season we had 29 teams register! The newly created Flag league became the largest football league to ever play at the RecPlex.

Right at the tail of 2018, the PIT Football league became the provincial affiliate of the new Canadian Flag Football League, a National 18+ league which will function as the feeder system for the Team Canada national flag football teams. With Flag Football on the short-list for becoming an Olympic demonstration sport, the PIT will be the league leading the charge to both Nationals and the Olympics!

We would like to thank our membership for once again making us the largest touch and flag football league in Canada! We have a bunch of innovatinve ideas in store for the league in 2019. We will always offer the best game day experience in recreational sports.



FOR THE PLAYERS ...           ... BY THE PLAYERS

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