Hall of Famer
During a coaching career that spanned over 48 years, Jack Sasseville’s impact on the sport of cross country skiing in Canada influenced generations of skiers.
Jack’s coaching career began in Manitoba in 1975, first as an instructor and then club coach in Winnipeg (later the Red River Nordic) and it wasn’t long until he joined the national team program where he coached for 13 years; including numerous international trips for World Cup races, eight World Junior Championships, three World Championships and four Olympic Games (1980 Lake Placid, 1984 Sarajevo, 1988 Calgary, and 1992 Albertville).
At the grassroots level, Jack played a key role in development and delivery of the Jackrabbit ski program, during his time with the Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba. After a successful launch between 1977 to 1979, the program was adopted by Cross Country Canada in 1980, and has been used as the national youth learn-to-ski program ever since.
In addition to his dedication and influence on the trails, Jack was a household name and voice during his time as a colour commentator for CBC, working alongside CBC Olympic host, Scott Russell. Jack and Scott were a powerhouse duo, enlightening and entertaining ski racing fans across the country during four Olympics (1998 Nagano, 2002 Salt Lake City, 2006 Torino and 2014 Sochi) on CBC, in addition to Jack’s role as colour analyst for CTV during the 2010 Vancouver games. Jack was a finalist for a Gemini Award as the outstanding analyst for his work on the 2006 CBC Olympic broadcast (Torino) and was awarded the Cross Country Canada (now Nordiq Canada) Media Award in 1998 for his work at the Nagano games.
Said Scott Russell in 2023. “Jack’s enthusiasm and passion for Nordic skiing is not only inspiring, it is infectious. He brings so much to the table when analyzing the technical aspects of the sport. Jack’s ability to weave an exciting and riveting story about skiing is what really distinguishes him. In many ways, he has been a pioneer in creating a loyal audience for what had been, in the past, a niche sport over Canadian airwaves.”
Jack’s approach to coaching emphasized the team aspect of cross country skiing. When he started the development team at Hardwood Hills (now Hardwood Ski and Bike), Jack insisted the team be called Team Hardwood because he believed “team” came first. Parents of Team Hardwood skiers saw first hand how Jack lived and demonstrated this philosophy in many ways, including the welcoming atmosphere he created at training and races for everyone on the team.
“Near the end of my career with the national team I started to think that there was a better way,” he explained. “A way to bring these skiers from different backgrounds together to form a cohesive team where each skier saw that the success of others on the team was a success for them, something to feel good about.”
Being an athlete, coach or support staff on Jack’s teams meant that all members would be included and valued. At one point Jack’s email signature stated: “Skiing is fun, racing is fun, training is fun, success is fun. We ski best at the end.”
Jack trained athletes of all abilities with the goal of personal excellence. His motto – “success is being better than you used to be” – was something that he instilled in his athletes as a principle in competitive skiing … and in life.
In 1996, Jack founded Team Hardwood and in 2008, joined a group to purchase the centre (later named Hardwood Ski and Bike) which was about to close without an injection of capital. Jack was motivated to ensure the cross country facility – which also served as a training centre for the Hardwood’s ski teams – would continue.
Jack Sasseville demonstrated a sustained commitment to skiing for many decades, inspiring generations of skiers of all ages with unbridled enthusiasm, great character and a team-first attitude.
“I am humbled by this recognition. I am thankful to the people that nominated me, those that supported the nomination and to all the athletes, coaches, parents and teams that have allowed me to share my love of cross-country skiing with them. This truly is the highest honour of my life.” – Jack Sasseville
- 48 years as a cross country coach.
- Level 5 Coach (NCCP); Level 4 Instructor (CANSI).
- National team coach for 13 years.
- Team Canada coach at four Olympic games, three World Championships, eight Junior World Championships and multiple World Cups.
- Coach of skiers who have won over 300 medals at national championships.
- Alberta Coach of the Year: 1995.
- Nordiq Canada Media Awards: 1998.
- Ontario Coach of the Year (Heinz Niederhauser Award): 2005.
- Gemini Award Finalist: Best Analyst category: 2006.
- Olympic network Commentator for five Olympic Games: 1998 Nagano, 2002 Salt Lake City, 2006 Torino, 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi.
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