Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame induction class signals a social change in sport. NHL players inducted for social impact rather than on-ice accomplishments, as well as the first Special Olympian admitted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, demonstrate admiration for more than medals and trophies.
Sheldon Kennedy and Willie O’Ree, weightlifter John (Jackie) Barrett, Paralympic curler Sonja Gaudet, and wheelchair rugby founder Duncan Campbell are among 11 honorees into the country’s Sports Hall of Fame in October.
In honour of its 65th anniversary, a class of six athletes and five builders was announced in 2020. Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the fall induction gala has been rescheduled for 2021. This year, another class was not named.
Barrett, a powerlifter from Halifax, is the first Special Olympian to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Athletes include Nash, Kane, Gaudet, track and field athlete Diane Jones-Konihowski, and the horse-and-rider team of Hickstead and Eric Lamaze.
O’Ree, now 84, overcame bigotry to become the NHL’s first black player, appearing in 45 games for the Boston Bruins in 1958.
Kennedy’s junior hockey coach sexually molested him. He devoted his life after a 10-year NHL career to the prevention of abuse, bullying, and harassment in sports.
Along with Mohawk lacrosse player and coach Ross Powless, Campbell, and sports leader Judy Kent, the hockey players will be honoured as builders.
“I believe this class represents change, and I believe we as a country are looking for it,” Kennedy remarked.
“When I look at this bunch of people… I believe that there was a time when individuals like this, or the work that they have fought for or pushed for so long, would not have been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame “He went on.
“We are witnessing a transformation. We are witnessing a significant shift. When I look at myself as an individual being asked to accept induction into the Sports Hall of Fame, it truly signifies hope for people because there was a time when Sheldon Kennedy would have been the last person to think of becoming a part of any Hall of Fame.”
“There are still a lot of people in this country who don’t understand the value of sport beyond Olympic medals or world championships, but if you can tie to those tremendous accomplishments, the giveback, the social purpose, the role models and ambassadors, sport suddenly resonates with all Canadians.”
Barrett, who is autistic, took home 13 gold medals in powerlifting at the Special Olympics World Games.
His induction is a watershed moment for the hundreds of Special Olympians across Canada and millions across the world, he added “who, not just in sports, but in life, overcome countless hurdles and barriers They go above and above to demonstrate their worth.”
Powless, a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, was an outstanding lacrosse player who went on to train players and establish leagues and tournaments. He passed away in 2003, at the age of 76.
“It’s extremely fantastic to see lacrosse blossoming in our community of Six Nations, and indeed across Canada and North America, but Six Nations especially since we consider it the creator’s game and originating from our tradition,” his son Richard Powless said.
While Canada has made gains in sport for the differently-abled, Gaudet, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist in curling, and Campbell, known as “the father of wheelchair rugby,” feel there is more work to be done.
“The changes are now visible,” Campbell added. “I don’t think our game would exist if we didn’t have a truly inclusive approach in Canada.”
“We began playing in 1976. People with impairments were kept in the shadows back then. They were not present. “They were doing nothing.”
Female role models
Jones-Konihowski won gold in the pentathlon at both the Commonwealth and Pan American Games. The two-time Olympian was a medal contender at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but Canada boycotted the Games.
Jones-Konihowski discusses athletes as role models:
“I believe we’ve had some female role models that have aided us.” Even now, women approach me and say they got into a sport because of me back in the 1970s. ” We had some extremely accomplished female athletes, especially in my sport and swimming. It’s very encouraging, and we desperately need more successful women to serve as role models today.”
Kane has four LPGA victories on her name. In 2000, she became the second Canadian to win several LPGA titles in a single season, after Sandra Post and before Brooke Henderson.
“I’m glad that the Hall of Fame has considered not just what we’ve done as athletes and builders on the field, but also what we’re allowed to do off the field,” Kane said.
Kane reacts to her induction:
According to Steve Nash, competing in the Olympics was the best experience of his career.
Steve Nash, two-time NBA MVP and eight-time all-star speak with CBC’s Anson Henry on the issue of Canadian NBA players not representing their country. 5:55
In 2008, Lamaze, 53, and the late Hickstead won individual gold and team silver in the Olympic show jumping competition in Beijing.
“As some of you may know, I’ve been battling a brain tumour for the last couple of years,” Lamaze explained in a statement.
“Some days are more difficult than others, and I’m sorry I won’t be able to join you today, but it’s my passion for sports that keeps me striving to improve. Hickstead is, in my opinion, the finest show jumping horse of all time.”
Lamaze heaps praise on Hickstead after Hall of Fame call: