Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame
“Today we are proud to announce the birth of the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame which will honour the history of sport in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo....in particular those sports individuals and teams who have achieved extraordinary distinction to the development and advancement of sport.
“In cooperation with Keyano College, the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame will be located adjacent to the entrance here at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre.
“This is indeed a fitting location as the motto for Keyano College is “Yours, Mine and Ours” which in Cree means “Sharing” and the goal of the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame is to share the true richness of our sports history.”
These words, verbatim, were spoken by Phil Meagher November 8, 2006, to a group of local media and dignitaries.
In the role of President and Media Relations for the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (WBSHF), it was just one of the many speeches that I had written for the special day.
Nearly a year later - September 15, 2007, to be precise – the opportunity arose to go on a brief guided tour of the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre (SSWC), courtesy of SSWC project manager Garry Ferwerda and Keyano College’s Director of Campus Life Wayne Thomas.
Although still in the final stages of construction, the SSWC left me, “Amazed. Astounded. Astonished. Flabbergasted. Thunderstruck. Surprised.”
At least those were the adjectives used in my weekly column, Catch You on the Rebound.
The same could be said of the various stages of growth in regards to the WBSHF. It took one special man to turn this into reality and that man was community leader Bob Campbell.
Co-founding the law firm of Campbell & Germain in 1975, Campbell spearheaded a multitude of local sports initiatives and sat on multiple boards.
He had served as President of the Northern Alberta Athletic Association (i.e. Fort McMurray Oil Barons Junior Hockey Club), worked with the Fort McMurray Recreational Facilities Society, Fort McMurray YMCA as well as Fort McMurray Minor Baseball and Fort McMurray Minor Hockey just to name a few.
Campbell was also co-chair of the 2000 Royal Bank Cup, symbolic of Junior A hockey supremacy in Canada, which was won by the host Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the single greatest sports moment in our city’s history.
In the spring of 2016, Campbell got on the phone and started to recruit.
He headhunted focus-minded individuals like Phil Meagher, Shawn Chaulk, Pam MacGillvray, Garth Phillips, Wayne Thomas and Don Orchard to name a few.
Thus was formed the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Society (WBSHFS).
The inaugural banquet was held June 2007 and honoured Nick DeHoog, longtime president of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Olympic swimmer Mark Versfeld, NHL star Chris Phillips and the 1999-2000 Oil Barons.
Held annually in June, the induction dinner usually attracts between 200-400 guests and has always featured a guest speaker. They have included Wendell Clark, Ken Dryden, Dennis Hull, Lanny MacDonald, Catriona Le May Doan, Jon Montgomery, Jim Ralph and Bruny Surin.
The dinner, where the inductees are led in by a bagpiper from the Legion Pipes and Drums, also features a silent auction and video vignettes of each inductee who also receives a painting, plaque, and WBSHF pin.
With assistance from the Government of Alberta and other agencies, public and private, including a major financial contribution by Mickey Demers of Demers Contracting Services Ltd., the WBSHF physical part became a reality in 2008.
The WBSHF, adjacent to the SSWC, now features several large mural montages of local athletes, display cases with artifacts, annual inductee plaques and paintings (paintings created by local artist Kelvin Sawatzky), a television screen monitor with video vignettes of each inductee, along with historical timelines.
The WBSHF has plenty of space for future inductees as attested to a comment I made to local media in 2006 about foreseeable nominations.
“It is up to the community to make the nominations and then the committee will make the voting decision. On the athlete side, we have had many outstanding athletes. In boxing, we have had Danny Lindstrom and Wayne Bourque, in volleyball Jon Walsh and Fiona Waters, in basketball Harbir Bains and Sam Salter, in hockey Chris Phillips, Dan Hodgson, Brian Shantz and Trevor Buchanan. We could go on-and-on with names of the present and past be they athletes, builders, coaches or teams. But it is up to the community now to get in their nominations and let their sporting voice be heard.”
Half of 10 athletes mentioned above have been inducted to date.
But once again it is up to the general public to make the nominations for the board to select from in the categories of athlete, builder, coach, and team.
The WBSHF also shows sports diversity. There are over 3,000 different sports/recreational activities spanning the globe and Fort McMurray itself features more than 100 sports ranging from archery- to- wrestling.
Perhaps more so than any other similar sports hall in Canada, from coast-to-coast-to-coast, we have looked at the sports spectrum as within 10 short years and 39 inductions, we have championed the sports of Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, Cross Country Running, Curling, Fastball, Figure Skating, Golf, Hockey, Jet Ski, Judo, Mountaineering, Officiating, Rugby, Running, Skiing, Soccer, Special Olympics, Swimming, Tae Kwon Do, Triathlon and Volleyball.
The WBSHF is now looking for a new home with a higher traffic area and the induction dinner will now be held every two years.
For yours truly it was a great 10 years, accumulated with being inducted in the builder category at the recent ceremony.
Photos by Robert Murray, Curtis J. Phillips, Photo Source Fort McMurray