By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: The passing of Bill Konyk at 88 last Tuesday has left his racing ‘family’ shaken, not to mention his multitude of friends, fans and customers who adoringly knew him by his self-adopted nickname Hunky Bill.
This year would have been his 53rd happily greeting PNE patrons at his famous Hunky Bill’s House of Perogies on the fairgrounds. He originally named it the Winnipeg Garlic Sausage Company in honour of his Ukrainian heritage.
He was born May 15, 1931 in Winnipeg and grew up in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city at Granville Street in Point Douglas.
Hunky Bill sold newspapers on the corner of Portage and Main, worked for the Winnipeg Free Press, sold cash registers for a company based in Chicago and upon arriving on the west coast in 1966 he joined the sales department at CFUN Radio where he soon became sales manager.
Konyk got the horse racing bug while living in Winnipeg and driving to nearby Assiniboia Downs on a regular basis with his young son and constant companion, Bill, Jr.
The Konyks became mainstays at Hastings dating back four-plus decades where Bill, Jr. remains an active owner and trainer. One of their many claims to fame was with a horse named Torque Converter, who Bill Jr. trained, and set a track record in 1996 for six-and-a-half furlongs at 1:15 flat that still stands today.
The first written reaction on social media to his passing last week was authored by still-active 60-year-old jockey James R. Dailey. “I rode many races for Hunky Bill,” he wrote. “Him and his son were good to me back in the day. RIP my friend.”
It was the first of countless grieving messages from horsemen across the country.
I knew Hunky Bill dating back to the 1970’s and his frequent visits to the Pacific Coliseum when no door or security staff could stop him from renewing acquaintances with managers, coaches or players he knew from his rollicking days in Winnipeg.
You can safely place a win bet that his racing cronies who hung out with him for years in Silks at Hastings will be hoisting one in his memory tonight.