Born in Fort William in 1914, Jeff Nicklin would go on to become one of the greatest Canadian-bred football stars in the country. Big and swift Jeff enjoyed a seven year career in the Canadian Football League, as an end and flying wing with Winnipeg. Jeff came by his athletic prowess honestly. His father Percy Nicklin was involved in hockey in Fort Frances and England and his grandfather Albert Reekie was a star of the Rat Portage Rowing Club.
Jeff's first football honours came while a member of the Winnipeg Deer Lodge Juniors who won the Western Canadian title in 1934. Not surprisingly, Jeff's talents earned him entry into the Winnipeg Seniors line-up in 1935, while still of junior age. That first season he earned a Grey Cup with the Winnipeg team, the first time that a team from Western Canada claimed the national title defeating the Hamilton Tigers on their home field 18 - 12.
With the newly named Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1936-40, Jeff participated in the Dominion Grey Cup finals in 1937, 1938 and claimed another Grey Cup in 1939. Jeff's power and drive made him an effective ball carrier on reverse plays and he was quick to make use of the element of surprise. In the 1939 Grey Cup final it was Jeff's recovery of an Ottawa fumble with less than three minutes to go that led to a Winnipeg field goal and the Grey Cup title. Jeff's talents saw him as a 4 time All-Star as an End in 1937 and 38 and a flying wing in 1939 and 40.
Following the 1940 season Jeff enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, Jeff served with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and was one of the first Canadian paratroopers to land on French soil. Sadly, in March of 1945 Jeff Nicklin was killed in action during the Rhine Airborne assault.
Jeff's contributions to the sport of football in Canada were forever enshrined with the establishment of the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy in 1946 which, since 1973, has been presented to the Most Valuable Player of the Western Division of the Canadian Football League. Colonel Jeff Nicklin was truly a terrific football player, one of the best during the 1930s and 40s. He was a credit to the game he played so hard and to the country he loved so much.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 28, 1996