Rugby great Bobby Ross, who played in three World Cups for Canada, says it is during moments like this which give pause for reflection. Induction ceremonies will do that to you.
Ross was part of the combined classes of 2020 and 2021 enshrined into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night at the Delta Ocean Pointe Hotel. The dual-class entry was necessitated by last year’s induction ceremony being cancelled due to COVID. But when you are honouring career arcs, what’s another year to wait? Even if delayed, the Class of 2020 was appreciative of the heady accolade.
“This is a real honour. I was incredibly fortunate to get the opportunity to play,” said Ross, the former JBAA No. 10, who played in the 1995, 1999 and 2003 World Cups and was capped 58 times for Canada.
“I had stepping stones all along the way. St. Michaels University School had an incredible rugby culture and then the B.C. Premier League was unbelievable and produced 80 to 90 per cent of the national team at that time. There were legends everywhere.” He was one of them.
The Class of 2020 includes Ross, 1968 Mexico City Olympics hurdler Bob McLaren, Golden Gloves, national champion and 2000 Sydney Olympics boxer Donnie Orr, club and national team softball great Joanne Mick, multi-sport builder Pat Hall and the Vancouver Island Soccer League, which produced three Canada players for the 1986 World Cup and celebrated its 125th anniversary last year.
“There was just so much going on at those [Mexico City] Games and in the world,” McLaren said about his Olympic moment in the watershed year 1968. “It’s a real honour to receive this recognition for my running career that now seems like a lifetime ago. Victoria has always produced an incredible depth of athletic excellence and I’m humbled to be included in this illustrious Hall of Fame group,” said the Pan Am Games medallist.
“I feel very fortunate to have grown up in Victoria and been given the opportunity to develop my athletic skills through many patient and encouraging coaches and mentors. For those of us growing in Victoria and experiencing sporting success, the amount of support received from both the community at large and the local press has always been exceptional. My running experience was a fun and exciting part of my life and competing for Canada was definitely a unique experience.”
The Class of 2021 includes former NHL player Matt Pettinger and the late Gwen Spencer Hethey, Canada’s most successful shooter from 1930 to 1952 and a female trailblazer as champion at Bisley, considered the Super Bowl of rifle shooting.
“It’s a huge recognition and means a lot coming from your hometown,” said Pettinger, when his induction was announced.
He was a medallist with Canada at the 2000 world junior championship and played 422 NHL games before finishing his career in the DEL, Germany’s top league. Pettinger played on on the Washington Capitals with Alex Ovechkin, the home-province Vancouver Canucks and on Team Canada at the world championship with Sidney Crosby.
“You grow up playing hockey not thinking that going into a Hall of Fame will happen to you,” said Pettinger. “But I got to play 10 years in the top league in the world, including with my home province team [Canucks] which was truly special, and I got to put on the Maple Leaf jersey for Canada at the U-17, world juniors and world championship.”
Peter Lawless, outgoing vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee who guided Karen March and Michelle Stilwell to Paralympics medals, is inducted in the coach’s category for 2021. Going into the builders’ category is Roger Skillings, who leadership and vision helped build up the B.C. Games and then Victoria into an Olympic training hub as president of the Commonwealth Centre for Sport Development, which became PacificSport, then Canadian Sport Centre-Pacific, and now PISE.
Former Hall of Fame president Robert Hope was made an honourary life member of the hall.
The Victoria Sports Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1991. Plaques honouring the classes of 2020 and 2021 will join those of the 241 previous inductees on the concourse walls of Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.