Regiment: A Squadron 29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment South Alberta Regiment (S.A.R)
Regimental Number: M45546
Francis Tanner was born on April 1, 1921 in Mazenod, Saskatchewan, son of Victor Alfred (born in Peterborough, Ontario) and Dorothy Tanner.
Fran moved to Grande Prairie with his family in 1928 where he attended school and played hockey, baseball and fastball but specialized in track and field events. His father prepared the ice for the Grande Prairie Curling Club at the old Wapiti Arena. While in school, he took up tumbling, and some boxing, played junior baseball and played senior baseball at age 16. He curled since the age of 15, winning a Grand Challenge once, and dabbled in golf and weightlifting. Fran played senior hockey for the original Red Devils before joining the army. Recreational opportunities were limited in Grande Prairie and equipment was scarce however, hockey was played wherever a patch of ice was found on many open-air rinks and frozen ponds.
When World War II began, Fran enlisted in Grande Prairie on June 24, 1940, in the South Alberta Regiment (S.A.R.) and served his country in A Squadron 29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in NW Europe as a radio operator, serving in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. While taking his army training, Fran boxed in the army, navy and air force tournament in Vancouver before going overseas. In England, he played fastball and hockey for the regimental team.
He left the army and returned to Grande Prairie in 1945, picking up his interest in sports again and playing hockey for one year with the Grande Prairie Key Club (a service organization) in the South Peace Hockey League (SPHL). During his first winter home, he was hired by Bill Bessent to help make ice and operate the arena. Without a Zamboni, making ice was a painstaking process.
Fran moved to Yellowknife and Waterways where he played fastball for a mounted police team. In 1949, Fran returned to Grande Prairie where he played baseball for D Coy and the Legion, but gave up hockey except for one year as a referee.
Fran is remembered more as the sports broadcaster on CFGP. His brother-in-law, Jack Soars, also became a CFGP radio personality. Fran’s career there began in 1952 as a transmitter/control room operator eventually becoming an announcer which soon developed into almost 20 years of announcing hockey games’ play-by-play, providing game analysis and conducting interviews. He was a widely-known sports personality in the Peace River area and, from 1960 until the mid-seventies, Fran was the ‘Foster Hewitt’ to hockey fans in Grande Prairie and surrounding districts.
The South Peace Hockey League recognized his popularity and contribution to hockey by awarding him the Most Valuable Player, and later he became the first media person to be recognized as a Grande Prairie Hockey Legend.
Fran had three siblings, Donald, Dorothy (T. Bromley), and Vera Isabel, born on September 2, 1915 (married Jack Soars in 1940).
Fran’s mother Dorothy died on March 9, 1937, his brother Don passed away prior to 1967, his father Victor died on March 26, 1967, and his sister Vera died on October 1, 1995.
Fran died March 27, 1984 in Grande Prairie and is interred in the Grande Prairie Cemetery.
Source: Fond 364 Francis Victor Tanner Fonds, surname file