Born to Russian immigrants in the North End, Ben Hatskin attended three schools - Ralph Brown, Aberdeen and St. John Tech. He played junior football with Deer Lodge and began his building career coaching the St. Johns, Kelvin and University of Manitoba football teams from 1933-35. In 1935 he was a member of the Victorias Junior Football Team which were Manitoba/Saskatchewan Champions.
He was one of the first Canadians ever to be offered a football scholarship in the United States. He attended the University of Oklahoma and in 1936 signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, playing six years and helping the team win Grey Cup championships in 1939 and 1941.
In 1966, he formed the Winnipeg Jets organization originally as an entry in the Independent Western Canada Hockey League. When the Jets became an original member of Hatskin’s own World Hockey Association (WHA), he maintained a junior team in what is now the Western Hockey League. One of his primary feats in the WHA was to lure Chicago Black Hawks’ superstar Bobby Hull to the fledgling new league. The signing of the contract on the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street was on June 27, 1972. That signing legitimized the WHA in the eyes of many, and opened the floodgates to the signing of other NHL stars. The upstart WHA was now a serious concern to the NHL, the latter of which absorbed four WHA franchises into their ranks in 1979 (Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques.)
At one point in 1973, Hatskin not only owned the Jets but was chairman of the WHA and soon to be owner of the Honolulu franchise of the World Football League. The incredible list of responsibilities earned him the nod as Manitoba’s Man of the Year plus Sporting News Magazine’s Executive of the Year in Sports Award.
b. September 30, 1917
d. October 18, 1990