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Amateur sportsSustaining our shrine to sport

Posted: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 04:08 PM

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Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2011 inductees, left to right, Dick Pound, Lui Passaglia, Andrea Neil, Ray Bourque, Peter Reid and Lauren Woolstencroft. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press) Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2011 inductees, left to right, Dick Pound, Lui Passaglia, Andrea Neil, Ray Bourque, Peter Reid and Lauren Woolstencroft. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

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The chairman of the board of Canada's newly minted Sports Hall of Fame stood before the throng at this week's induction ceremony and made it plain.

"We have completed the construction on time and slightly under budget," said Dr. Roger Jackson, an Olympic gold medallist and a member of the Hall himself. "Now we are open for business."

More importantly, the time has now arrived for Canadians to patronize this country's shrine to athletic achievement.
"If you build it, he will come" - W.P. Kinsella, "Shoeless Joe"

The chairman of the board of Canada's newly minted Sports Hall of Fame stood before the throng at this week's induction ceremony and made it plain.

"We have completed the construction on time and slightly under budget," said Dr. Roger Jackson, an Olympic gold medallist and a member of the Hall himself.

"Now we are open for business."

More importantly, the time has now arrived for Canadians to patronize this country's shrine to athletic achievement.

The details of the financing and the current lease arrangements of the Hall, which stands sparkling at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, should immediately become secondary to any discussion regarding our national museum of sport. Of primary concern should be the effort to expose as many Canadians as possible to what is a magnificent testament to national icons and success stories.

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame had been homeless since 1993, when the Hockey Hall of Fame moved to its own building in downtown Toronto. Prior to that the two national sporting exhibits had shared space on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition. When hockey left, the 90,000 artifacts attached to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame were put into storage and essentially gathered dust until Canada Day of this year when the new facility opened.

"When hockey moved we really didn't have a clubhouse or a place that represented the rich Canadian culture that we have with sport," Jackson says.

"So this is a wonderful moment because it is going to be a great museum of Canadian heritage but it's also going to be a tool that we will be able to use to promote the importance of sport in holding us together as a nation."

Indeed, a tour of the new Hall of Fame is startling because of the diversity of sport it reflects. But also because it chronicles the incredible legacy of stardom achieved across a wide spectrum by the intrepid men and women of a very young nation.

Hockey is celebrated, but so is curling, swimming, auto racing, lacrosse and more than 50 sports in total. This year's inductees alone come from six distinct pursuits.  It's comforting to know that Canada's Sports Hall of Fame can welcome not only a great NHL defenceman in Ray Bourque and a CFL kicker in Lui Passaglia, but also Iron Man Peter Reid, soccer star Andrea Neil, swimmer and Olympic visionary Dick Pound and Paralympic skier Lauren Woolstencroft.

The new Hall, like its striking exterior facade, is a mosaic, which mirrors what we are as a country. This is an extremely inclusive shrine to sport.

"People are stunned when they enter by the richness and complexity of it," Jackson says.  "And by the scope of summer and winter exhibits and of the international and national importance of sport and what we have achieved on the world stage as a reasonably small country."

When you stride through the Hall and rediscover that it was a Canadian, Ron Turcotte, who jockeyed arguably the greatest racehorse of all-time, Secretariat, you begin to get the picture. To recall that a Canadian, James Naismith, invented basketball or that trailblazing figure skaters like Barbara Ann Scott and Kurt Browning came from these parts causes you to sit up and take notice.

And there is inevitably an overwhelming sense of pride that wells up as you pause to remember the exploits of Terry Fox, the great Northern Dancer, hockey's Team Canada of the 1972 Summit Series, and so many more legends from a thousand fields of play.

Peter Reid, the three-time Iron Man world champion, put it best when he reflected on the emotion he was feeling just prior to his induction.

"For some reason I'm very nervous and part of me still feels the underdog," he said. "It's almost like I don't belong because I see the others who are inducted as being superstars in this country and I was never a big name."

"But I feel the second I get in the Hall that my mindset will change. I was never a big name until I did something great in my sport and my country recognized it."

This will be the only way to sustain our country's shrine to sport. To have Canadians of all ages take the time to visit it and drink in what newly honoured member Dick Pound called "the ambrosia of success."

All it will take to make Canada's Sports Hall of Fame a success is for us to step across the threshold and take notice.

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