April 7, 2014, EDMONTON (ISN) – Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has been voted the 2013-14 Canada West Fred “Gus” Collins Media Award winner and finalist for the Fred Sgambati national media honour, awarded by Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
Zary has covered University of Saskatchewan Huskie Athletics for 20 years, including 18 with the StarPhoenix since being hired in 1996.
Darren has covered each and every one of the Huskie sports, including men’s and women’s hockey, volleyball and basketball, plus track and field, wrestling, soccer and, in a back-up or supporting role, football, where he has helped out when needed. From fall until spring, nearly every weekend is spent at either Rutherford Rink, PotashCorp Park or PAC — sometimes all three in one weekend. He also never misses extra Huskie Athletics events such as the All-Academic Luncheon, Huskie Salute and all fundraising events of the 15 teams.
As a beat reporter, Darren has a vested interest in Huskie Athletics and takes an active role in the ups and downs of each team. He also spends hours ensuring to cover those Saskatoon and Saskatchewan born athletes playing elsewhere in the Canada West and CIS.
He has provided extensive coverage by attending 11 University Cup national championship tournaments, along with a handful of CIS women’s basketball championships and CIS women’s volleyball championships to go along with a CIS track and field championship, CIS men’s volleyball championship and CIS wrestling championships during a 18-year span from 1996 until now. He also staffed an extremely cold Vanier Cup football final in Saskatoon.
“I’m really glad to see Darren’s hard work recognized,” said StarPhoenix Sports Editor Kevin Mitchell. “He labours tirelessly on the Huskies beat, and cares deeply about what he’s doing. It’s more than just a job for him. It’s great to see Darren’s dedication rewarded – this is a well-deserved honour.”
During his reign, the U of S has won national titles in men’s basketball, men’s volleyball and track and field. By far, the biggest highlight thus far was a first-ever CIS men’s basketball title for Saskatchewan in 2010 and the many compelling story-lines that followed the team along that journey.
The best way to sum up what Darren has done for Huskie Athletics, the Canada West and the CIS is to hear from the coaches who work with him on a weekly basis.
Huskie Athletics remains as his major beat. It tops off a variety of coverage on everything from junior A hockey to midget AAA hockey to the Saskatchewan Roughriders to high school sports and golf.
He has been fortunate enough to cover a number of Canadian Interuniversity Sport and Canada West conference championships over the past 18 seasons. CIS coverage has taken him across Canada as far east as Moncton, Fredericton and Kitchener-Waterloo and west to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
University of Saskatchewan Athletic Director Basil Hughton said, “Darren has been a supporter of Huskie Athletics for years and we thank him for everything he does on the Huskies beat. Rain or shine, Darren is at our events and makes sure our athletes, teams and their achievements are shared with the Saskatoon community.”
Zary counts former StarPhoenix staffer Bob Florence, who shares a passion for university sport, as his biggest influence and credits former managing editor Cam Hutchinson for giving him a chance.
An English major himself at the University of Saskatchewan, Zary also covered the Huskies during his three-year stint with the U of S student newspaper, the Sheaf, covering both hockey and volleyball.
He began taking an interest in writing back in Grade 12 while volunteering for the student newspaper at Humboldt Collegiate Institute. He continued a growing passion for the written word during his first year at St. Peter’s College by freelancing at the Humboldt Journal. He worked three summers there while juggling a second full-time job and eventually was hired full-time. From there, he moved on to become sports editor of the Battlefords News-Optimist and then sports editor of the Telegraph in North Battleford, where he also free-lanced for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Canadian Press and United Press International.
Zary had little choice but to follow his sports. His dad, a former sprinter turned physical education teacher who coached basketball, volleyball and track and field, would often take his children to the gymnasium and various sporting events.
These days, Darren Zary now drags his own children to many of the Huskie events and venues, including the recent 2013 PotashCorp University Cup national championship tournament.
A graduate of Humboldt Collegiate Institute, where he graduated as the male athlete of the year and won the Legion scholarship for athletics and academics, Zary played every sport available while growing up, everything from bowling, curling, baseball, hockey, football, basketball, badminton, volleyball and track and field. The highlight was winning a provincial silver medal in 3A 12-man football as a slotback/running back with the HCI Mohawks.
Canada West Fred “Gus” Collins Award recipients (CIS Fred Sgambati Award winners in Italics):
2004-05: Ian Hamilton, Regina Leader-Post
2005-06: Howard Tsumura, Vancouver Province
2006-07: Neil Shewchuk, Saskatchewan’s CK750/CJVR
2007-08: Jason Pires, Victoria’s A-Channel
2008-09: Howard Tsumura, the Vancouver Province
2009-10: Esther Madziya, Global Television Saskatoon
2010-11: David Larkins, Brandon Sun
2011-12: Evan Daum, Edmonton Journal / CJSR
2012-13: Ron Rauch, Victoria Times Colonist
2013-14: Darren Zary, Saskatoon StarPhoenix