Paul Chiasson – The Canadian Press
Decorated ice dance duo Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and mixed martial arts star Georges St-Pierre were among the 2023 inductees named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday.
Randy Ferbey’s curling team, wheelchair basketball player Danielle Peers and softball player Phyllis Bomberry will also be inducted as athletes, with judo coach Hiroshi Nakamura and lacrosse pioneer Oren Lyons joining them as builders.
This year’s inductees were announced at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., where the Hall’s artifact collection is now housed.
At their induction ceremony on Oct. 19, the class of 2023 will join over 700 people named to the Hall since it was established in 1955.
Since 2019, inductees have received the Order of Sport from the Hall for their role in building Canada through sport.
Ice dancers Virtue of London, Ont., and Moir of Ilderton, Ont., won two Olympic gold medals and one silver as well as three world titles during their career.
Virtue called hearing about the induction a “surreal” moment.
“It’s so exciting and moving and overwhelming. You know, now that we’re a few years post retirement, you don’t think of the accolades coming in the same way,” she said. “So to to be recognized for our accomplishments in sport and to have the benefit of having a little bit of perspective on our career is so delightful. It’s just an incredible honour.”
Moir has transitioned to coaching, while Virtue works for Deloitte as an executive adviser.
The duo pushed the boundaries of their sport with innovative choreography and skated with emotional depth in dazzling performances.
“Sport in general, as you well know, is in a difficult time right now,” said Virtue.
“And especially the Olympic movement, we’ve seen a lot of shifts, a lot of changes. It’s easier to get disillusioned by sort of the politics of it all, but when we can hone in on all of the exceptional things that sport offers, especially these next generations, I think that’s really empowering and inspiring to me.”
St-Pierre of Saint-Isidore, Que., became a global Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star.
“GSP” set records for most wins in title fights (13), most successful welterweight title defences (9), and most welterweight division wins (19). He retired in 2019 with a MMA record of 26-2, with all but five of those fights taking place in UFC.
“I’m honoured to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and receive the Order of Sport,” St-Pierre said in a statement. “Martial arts changed my life, and I was fortunate to be able to represent Canada on the biggest stage in the world. I want to thank the UFC and all my fans, as none of this would have been possible without them.”
Ferbey’s Edmonton curling team, which included David Nedohin, Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque, won four Canadian men’s championships in a five-year span from 2001 to 2005, as well as three world titles between 2002 and 2006.
“I’m a little overwhelmed, it’s a little surreal,” said Ferbey.
Ferbey said he and his teammates never expected such recognition and he hopes the induction leads to further recognition of curlers and their successes.
“We put as much time into our craft as any baseball, football or basketball player,” he said, adding that he believes his team was the first to quit their full-time jobs to focus on curling.
“There’s a lot of teams in Canada that should deservedly be in the hall alongside us, and unfortunately there’s not a lot of curlers in there and I’d like to see that change in the future.”
Edmonton’s Peers helped Canada win gold at the world para wheelchair championship in 2006, and was named MVP of the tournament. Peers also won bronze with Canada at the 2004 Paralympic Games.
Peers challenged gender divisions by playing with the 2005 USA Men’s Division II National Champions and becoming the first female tournament MVP of the European men’s club championship in 2006.
Bomberry, who is a posthumous induction, was an Indigenous softball catcher from Cayuga, Ont. She played for Toronto’s Carpetland Senior A team, and helped the club win a pair of national championships.
Bomberry was named top catcher, batter and player in 1967 and top catcher in 1968 at the national championships. She retired in 1976 and died in 2019.
Lyons, a former lacrosse goaltender, co-founded the first and only sovereign Indigenous team competing in international sport, which is the Haudenosaunee Nationals lacrosse team.
The team encompasses players from both Canada and the United States. Lyons has advocated for Indigenous rights in sport and the world at the United Nations.
Nakamura is a longtime judo coach in Canada who guided Nicolas Gill to an Olympic bronze medal in 1992 and a silver in 2000.
Born in Tokyo, Nakamura moved to Montreal in 1968 and began building a successful competitive training program. He established the Shidokan Judo Club in 1973 and coached Canadians through 13 world championships and five Olympic Games.
The Sports Hall of Fame began operating as a digital museum when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of its Calgary building in April, 2020.
It has continued to operate virtually and embarked on a national outreach campaign that included bringing the Hall into school classrooms.
Hall board chair Bob Rooney and president and CEO Cheryl Bernard said in a statement earlier this summer that the Hall’s artifact collection has been transferred to the museum of history in Gatineau to be curated there, and that the Calgary building is for sale.
“Both museums will now work together to continue to build this incredible collection, ensuring that Canadian sports heritage is more accessible now and to future generations,” the statement said.
“A shift has taken place in the museum space over the last number of years, and it has become evident that for museums to thrive, they need to be less about a physical place and focus more on their purpose.
“The COVID-19 global pandemic underscored the reality that museums must actively reach beyond their walls; into classrooms and into communities, shifting focus to outreach through off-site exhibits, digital content, multiplatform storytelling and educational programming to engage those they wish to impact.”
The Hall was housed in various locations in Toronto for decades, but was without a physical building for a six-year span until Calgary’s 4,100-square-metre facility opened in 2011.
The $30-million cost of Calgary’s building was split between the federal government ($15 million), provincial government ($10 million) and the City of Calgary ($5 million).
— With files from Donna Spencer in Calgary and Nick Wells in Vancouver.
banner image: The Canadian Press