Former NHLer Pettinger among Victoria Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2021

A career that started out on wobbly ankles at Racquet Club led to Matt Pettinger playing on the Washington Capitals with Alex Ovechkin, the home-province Vancouver Canucks and on Team Canada at the world championship with Sidney Crosby.

It has now led to the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2021 for the 2000 world junior championship medallist. The other athlete in the class, announced Monday, is the late Gwen Spencer Hethey, Canada’s most successful shooter from 1930 to 1952 and a female trailblazer as champion at Bisley, the Super Bowl of rifle shooting.

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Peter Lawless, outgoing vice-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee who guided Karen March and Michelle Stilwell to Paralympics medals, is being inducted in the coach’s category. Going into the builders’ category is Roger Skillings, whose visionary thinking 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.

“It’s a huge recognition and means a lot coming from your hometown,” said Pettinger, who played 422 NHL games, before finishing his career in the DEL, Germany’s top league.

The Class of 2021 will be enshrined alongside the Class of 2020, which was announced but not yet inducted, because of the cancellation of the ceremonies last year due to the pandemic.

The Class of 2020 includes 1968 Mexico City Olympics hurdler Bob McLaren, 2000 Sydney Olympics boxer Donnie Orr, former Canada captain and 58-time capped three-time World Cup rugby player Bobby Ross, softball great Joanne Mick, multi-sport builder Pat Hall and the Vancouver Island Soccer League, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last year.

The dual 2020-2021 induction ceremony is scheduled for October at the Westin Bear Mountain, pending health regulations in effect at that time.

“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.”

It all comes back to where you started.

“Pro teammates come and go but my longest lasting friendships are with the guys I grew up playing minor hockey with,” said Pettinger, 40, now a commercial realtor in Victoria.

More than 220 athletes, teams, coaches, officials, builders, and media have been inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame since 1991. The plaques of the 2020 and 2021 inductees will join the others on the concourse walls inside Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

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