Pictou Advocate sports

I was asked recently if I would provide a letter of support for a sports volunteer who is being nominated for induction into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.

I agreed unhesitantly.

When the person heading the recommendation approached me, I was delighted to give my endorsement.

It was easy because I’ve been fully aware of the individual’s many, many years of behind-the-scenes work in the sports community.

Actually, I’m surprised the candidate wasn’t inducted already.

I’ve known the nominee for four decades and am delighted to add my signature to the nomination.

The provincial hall of fame, to me, plays a major role in the province’s sporting fraternity, particularly since its reorganization in the late 1970s. After years of neglect, its return more than made up for lost time.

Pictonians, of course, can understand the amount of volunteerism required to operate such a hall. The proof is on East River Road in New Glasgow, the latest home to the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame.

Both halls—in Halifax and New Glasgow—are doing a wonderful service by honouring athletes, teams and builders, the most important part of preserving our sports history, whether on a provincial or local level.

What’s it like being honoured in such a way?

As an inductee into the county hall in 1995, and the Nova Scotia hall in 2005, I can certainly vouch for the emotion associated with such an experience.

It’s a proud moment when you’re inducted.

The person I’m now supporting, I guarantee, will feel the same way when the big night happens.

The objective for a sports hall of fame was well explained a few years ago when Bruce Rainnie, the current president and chief executive officer of the provincial hall, addressed its mandate.

The mission is, he said, “to honour and preserve the legacies of Nova Scotians who have made a significant contribution in the province, and to make sure those stories are told to Nova Scotia youth so that they may see what can be accomplished with hard work and a heavy dose of humility.”

In brief, the official mission of the hall in Halifax is “to honour excellence in Nova Scotia sport by sharing stories of our history and heroes that celebrate, educate and inspire.”

It hasn’t been easy for the people keeping the halls in operation—either in Pictou County or Halifax.

You’ll recall, when the Pictou hall was in its infancy, the many exhibits and memorabilia were centred in space on Power Plant Road in north end Trenton. The day came, however, when the hall and its many trophies, photographs, displays and memories had to move. Everything went into storage in a vacant school.

Those involved, especially the late Billy Dee, knew a larger home was needed and, 16 years ago, the hall was reopened on New Glasgow’s East River Road.

Dee was pleased. “Everything in here has a story,” he said. “There’s a story behind everything. It’s amazing.”

Ironically, the Nova Scotia hall is currently in a similar situation. At the time of its revitalization, the facility opened in a building near the Halifax Forum. A necessary move to bigger quarters was realized and the hall was shifted to the World Trade Centre downtown, next to the entrances into the Metro Centre.

Pictonians understood what came next in the provincial capital. The massive amount of memorabilia was placed in storage. That’s where it is now, awaiting a new home.

Behind the scenes, efforts continue to have the traditional induction ceremonies. The process to add deserving inductees remains the primary objective.

After being inducted, I served on the hall’s selection committee for 10 years. It didn’t take long to notice how many nominations were received annually, how many worthwhile debates took place when the committee analyzed the submissions. It’s not as simple as it sounds.

But I want to get back to the nomination I was asked to support.

It’s for a person who has volunteered in various positions, always putting 100 per cent into every challenge.

I’ve met and known an unbelievable number of people over the last 60-plus years who have worked tirelessly behind the headlines, never asking for publicity or applause. But they’re there, always doing what they can to make Pictou County’s and Nova Scotia’s sports communities a better place.

I assure you recipients consider their inductions a wonderful way to be thanked.

When I think of my own induction night, I think of the people who were there.

Besides the love of my life—Jane was nervous too—my three offspring, Gavin, Charlotte and Graham, all participated in the ceremony. I didn’t even know in advance that all three were in the city.

The evening was an even greater event because three other Pictonians were honoured as well.

The lineup included Graham MacIntyre, the outstanding New Glasgow-born golfer who played in every provincial amateur for 30 consecutive years, winning three times while finishing runner-up on seven occasions, qualifying for 24 Willingdon Cup teams, including seven in a row.

Another honoured Pictonian was Westville’s Clyde Roy, one of the best baseball pitchers ever produced in the county, who enjoyed a super career with teams such as the Stellarton Albions, Halifax Shipyards and the acclaimed 1946 championship Truro Bearcats.

The other honouree was Leo Fahey, saluted for his 60 years as an athlete, coach and teacher. He was in hockey, baseball, rugby, boxing, running and other pursuits. One of the last times I saw him, he was 75, completing the Johnny Miles half marathon on a pair of skates. Only Leo would attempt such a feat.

At those 2003 ceremonies, when Graham, Clyde, Leo and myself were being photographed together. I felt humbled being grouped with such great sportsmen.

If the nominee I’ve been talking about gets the nod, I’ll bet there’ll be similar thoughts when the big night arrives.

Columnist

His newspaper career started in Pictou County in his high school days and his first story was published in 1954. He has been writing for more than six decades; two books and 10,000 newspaper columns since 1972, he hasn't stopped writing yet!