Dr. Sport: John Haar sidesteps NFL kicking job for baseball


Cowboys tryout: Vancouver native went on to coach, manage Canadian teams

John Haar is to be inducted May 28 into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

John Haar is to be inducted May 28 into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

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SCENE & HEARD: John Haar will be applauded for his baseball background when he’s inducted into the builder’s category of the BC Sports Hall of Fame on May 28. And so it should be. The kid from humble beginnings in Vancouver’s east end rose to international fame with his Team Canada coaching and managing record, in addition to running Canada’s National Baseball Institute for 14 years.

Very few people know, however, how close this outstanding three-sport UBC athlete came to signing a National Football League contract with the Dallas Cowboys under legendary head coach Tom Landry.

Haar was a 22-year-old prospect in the New York Yankees’ organization in 1965, a second baseman with a Double-A team in Greensboro, N.C., when his roommate read in The Sporting News that Dallas was looking for a kicker.

“He knew about my football and soccer background at UBC and talked me into writing the Cowboys a letter,” Haar says. “I didn’t want to do it, but he kept after me and I finally gave in.”

To Haar’s absolute surprise, his mail cubicle in the Greensboro clubhouse one day included an invitation to a Dallas tryout camp at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

“It was at the end of baseball season and even though it would mean missing a week of classes at UBC, I decided to go,” Haar says. “I’d been kicking punts, field goals and kickoffs for the T-Birds under Frank Gnup. When I got to the Cowboys camp, for some reason I was booting the ball better than ever. They wanted to sign me right there.”

Young, naive and alone, Haar didn’t know what to do. He was in the middle of soccer season at UBC — captain of the team — and asked for time to think things over once he had an opportunity to talk to his parents.

Haar was in the San Francisco airport the following week with his soccer teammates heading for a tournament in Berkeley, Calif., when he heard his name being paged over the PA system. “I didn’t even know what a courtesy telephone was and had to ask an airline attendant what to do,” he says.

“My mom was on the other end of the line telling me there were two fellows from the Dallas Cowboys looking for me. I told her to let them know I’d call them back when I returned home. I almost fell over when she said: ‘Here, tell them yourself. They’re in our living room.’ ”

It was at that point that Haar politely turned down an offer to play in the NFL, opting to pursue a career in baseball in his native land.

In 1975 he was an assistant coach with Team Canada for the Pan-American Games in Mexico City. He managed Team Canada to a fifth-place finish at the 1986 World Cup in Cuba and in 1991 he coached the Canadian Juniors to Baseball Canada’s first and only international gold medal.

As “kicks” go, Haar has no regrets.

Greg Douglas’s Dr. Sport column appears every second Saturday in The Vancouver Sun.


John Haar is to be inducted May 28 into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

John Haar is to be inducted May 28 into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

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