Sports Hall Of Fame Reflecting Social Change

Jake Cooper - 26 Sep 2021

A new day has dawned for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Reflecting recognition of more than just sporting achievements, medals, and trophies, is this year’s list of new inductees set to be included in the country’s top hall of sports men and women in October.

Included are the very first Special Olympian, as well as a man who overcame racism when he was named the very first black player to compete in the NHL.

Among the 11 new inductees joining Sports Hall of Fame are Paralympic Curling champion Sonja Gaudet, weightlifter John Jackie Barrett, Sheldon Kennedy, Willie O’Ree, golfer Lori Kane, basketball star Steve Nash, and wheelchair rugby founder Duncan Campbell. 

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This Is The Class Of 2020

Announced in 2020 was a class made up of five builders and six athletes – all in recognition of the Sporting Hall of Fame’s 65th anniversary. And since the induction gala was last year postponed because of the global health crisis, no new class has been announced for 2021.

The first special Olympian to be inducted for the first time in the 65-year history of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is Halifax powerlifter John Barrett. And the inclusion of O’Ree, who turned 84 this year, means recognition of the first black player ever to have joined the NFL. O’Ree played 45 games for the Boston Bruins in the 1958 season of the NFL.

Sheldon Kennedy’s inclusion, too, is a special and significant one. After suffering sexual abuse at the hands of his junior hockey coach, Kennedy, following a 10-year career in the NHL, has gone on to devote his entire life to fight harassment, abuse, and bullying in the national sport.

A First For Canada

Kennedy had only words of praise for the social change represented by the new class of inductees during a video conference earlier this week. There was once a time when the type of individual now being inducted would never have been given a chance for this type of national recognition, he explained. The chance represented by the latest class of inductees is the type of change the country desperately needs, added the former NHL star.

Canada Sports Hall of Fame CEO Beryl Bernard said this week how it goes without saying that those athletes making a difference with their achievements in the arena will always receive recognition. Even so, she said the class isn’t only about sports, but also about community spirit. And that’s what the latest class of inductees so clearly reflects.

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