Sherwood Park rugby pioneer remembered for his passion

Rugby in Alberta won’t be the same without Lynn Davies.

Davies came to Canada from Wales when he was 22, and brought his national sport of rugby with him. Over six decades, he mentored countless players and was determined to create a lasting rugby community in Alberta. 

Even at 82, Davies was still actively involved with his life-long team, the Strathcona Druids Rugby Football Club, celebrating Druids Day on July 6. 

“Lynn was out in full force, out on the deck having a beer with the boys,” said Eric Germaine a former rugby player who joined the Druids in 1976.

“He was a visionary that saw the potential from a player, to a location, in order to establish it for the betterment of the rugby community.”

Lynn Davies died on July 28 in Sherwood Park.

Davies was nicknamed the “Codfather” after an Atlantic Canada rugby tour and was called Santa Claus by youth players, because of his full white beard. (Submitted by Stacey Mindell-Gallagher)

He was nicknamed the “Codfather” after an Atlantic Canada rugby tour and was called Santa Claus by youth players, because of his full white beard.

Davies even met his wife Lorna at a rugby party in 1965. They went on to raise three children.

Lorna supported Davies in his various passions, including restoring antique tractors, travelling and his greatest passion, rugby.

“I’m not into sports myself,” she said, “But I did appreciate that it was his passion.” 

“He had all these passions, but still probably his dearest passion was his children and our lives.”  

In 1960, Davies helped create a rugby club in Edmonton called the Strathcona Druids Rugby Football Club. In 1967, the team won its first of three consecutive provincial rugby championships.

Three years later, the Davies family moved to Sherwood Park which had no rugby team, so Davies set his sights on bringing rugby to the community.

Larry Wall, a longtime Sherwood Park resident, was approached by Davies in 1990 to help create a team that would become the Outlaws Rugby Football Club.

Davies and wife Lorna Davies raised three children: Jason Davies, left, Caroline Davies, centre, and Rhys Davies. (Oumar Salifou/CBC)

“Lynn was the activist behind bringing all of that together,” Wall said.

“There was a number of us who were really motivated by the aspect of being able to provide a place for youth, and young adults to play rugby in their community.”

Once the Outlaws started playing rugby they needed a home field, so Davies helped secure a lease in 1994 on a field formerly owned by the Edmonton Gun Club. 

The lease required extensive renovations and Davies didn’t hesitate to start the work — cleaning fields filled with broken clay pigeons, a giant 40-foot shooting tank, and lead-contaminated soil.

“It was a monumental job, to turn an old gun club into this wonderful facility that you see here today,” said Jack Thompson, a member of the Druids who witnessed Davies build the rugby park.

“Lynn liked most having youth running on his grass,” Thompson said, “When he was developing the grounds he employed a lot of kids from the neighborhood [including] my two sons.” 

In 1997, the Outlaws and Druids joined forces and became one team that plays on the field he built.

Davies helped create the biggest high school rugby tournament in Alberta. (Submitted by Stacey Gallagher)

Davies always had a passion for youth rugby, and helped create the biggest high school rugby tournament in Alberta — now named after him — that brings together more than 600 students every year.

“I think that was his favourite thing is the young people starting up in it,” his wife Lorna said, “He came over on his own from Wales, so it was through rugby that he met friends.”

His impact also extended past the clubs he co-founded, and into organizing events for the greater Edmonton rugby community. He was a founder of Edmonton Rugbyfest, a tournament run since 1968.

“We had a really good life,” his wife Lorna said. “He often said that we’ve been blessed with wonderful children, and wonderful grandchildren.

“He was very pleased with his life.”

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