Tributes flowed from many directions upon the passing of Floyd Daniels, a legendary fastball pitcher in the NWT, including many years in Hay River.
Daniels passed away on Aug. 18 in Edmonton after a brief battle with cancer.
He was 62.
Daniels was remembered as an exceptionally talented player who represented the various communities in which he lived, and the NWT at national tournaments, along with playing at international events.
“He was an elite fastball pitcher, for sure,” said Glenn Smith, currently the assistant senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River, but before that president of the Hay River Men’s Fastpitch Association for about 20 years.
Smith described Daniels as a “fierce competitor,” but also very much a passionate coach.
Smith recalled the impact that Daniels had on the fastpitch team The Heat in its early days about 25 years ago.
“I remember fondly the day he moved to town,” Smith said. “He gave us a much better team.”
The former fastpitch president explained The Heat were a bit of a ragtag organization and team at that point, but Daniels already had a strong reputation in the NWT and beyond as an elite pitcher.
“They say that 80 per cent of your game is controlled by your pitcher, and when you bring in a top calibre pitcher Floyd Daniels then all of a sudden you’ve taken care of 80 per cent of that game, where he pitches, anyways,” said Smith, explaining he was the foundation of creating a competitive team.
In all, Daniels played for about 20 years with The Heat.
Before that, Daniels played fastpitch in his hometown of Fort Smith, along with Inuvik and Fort Simpson where he worked as a carpenter for the GNWT.
In fact, he had an amazingly long career in fastpitch, playing into his 60s.
Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson paid tribute to Daniels in a statement in the Legislative Assembly on Aug. 19.
“As a young athlete, he became known as a tough competitor with a strong work ethic, as well as being an exceptional team player,” said Thompson. “It was never about him, but instead, it was about his teammates and always ensuring he gave 100 per cent of each effort in each sporting endeavour as an athlete. However, if you look at his trophy room, you could see how good he was.”
The MLA noted that, as he became older, Daniels turned to coaching and transferring his skills to young players, and encouraging them to love sports as he did.
“I had the privilege of playing against him and alongside him,” said Thompson. “To be honest with you, it was much more enjoyable playing alongside him as a teammate than against him. I may be a tad biased, but I believe he was one of the best pitchers in the NWT and Canada. He was like a fine wine. He got better and better with time.”
The MLA said Daniels pitched a perfect game in life, enriching other lives with a legacy of hard work and dedication.
Thompson also paid tribute to Daniels’ career as a journeyman carpenter with the GNWT.
“In the Deh Cho and South Slave, there were a number of projects that had Floyd’s fingerprints on them,” said the MLA. “Floyd ensured that the projects were done properly with professionalism and great attention to detail. Floyd took a great deal of pride in the work he did for the people.”
Daniels retired from the GNWT in March of 2017 and relocated to Lloydminster, Alta.
Paul Gard, the executive director of the NWT Softball Association, noted that Daniels served on the board of NWT Softball for about 15 years.
And he recalled that he and Daniels competed against each other and occasionally played on the same team over the past 40 years.
Gard was asked what made Daniels such an exceptional fastball pitcher.
“I think he just had a really good build to be a fastball pitcher,” said Gard, describing Daniels as tall, lean and strong, and a person with a real competitive spirit. “He loved to play the game. He had a real passion for fastball.”