Steve Nash named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

What better place for the player named Captain Canada than in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame?

Former Canadian Olympic team captain Steve Nash of Victoria, two time National Basketball Association most valuable player, headlines the Class of 2020 announced on Wednesday.

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The induction ceremony in Calgary will not take place until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nash cites his Island roots as being crucial to his unlikely rise on the court.

“I was never supposed to be here,” he said, in his enshrinement speech into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.

“I started playing this game when I was 13 years old. I went to a new school [Arbutus Junior High] and met a group of guys who, for some reason, played basketball. I played soccer and hockey. This was a new game to me. I played on our eighth-grade team and we were overconfident and cocky and formed a bond that was unbelievable. That love and passion for the game [from that time] is the thread of everything I have accomplished.”

Nash cited his St. Michaels University School coach Ian Hyde-Lay as his “mentor and the person who made me rethink the game.”

“Hydes sent out 30 tapes [to NCAA Div. 1 university teams in the U.S.]. Nobody really liked what they saw on those tapes. What they didn’t see on those tapes was a relentless obsession and work ethic that would never diminish over 20 years.”

It has now carried Nash into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Nash was inspired by watching the University of Victoria basketball dynasty at McKinnon Gym and cited former UVic and Canadian team coach Ken Shields as a major influence.

“Ken Shields gave me the opportunity to come out to national team practices at age 16 when nobody thought I passed the eye test,” said Nash, in 2018.

“He saw something in me and mentored me. He was definitely a formative figure in my basketball career.”

Shields remembers well that first national team practice in the Mount Douglas school gymnasium: “I turned to Peter Montopoli [the current Canada Soccer general secretary who was then with Canada Basketball] and said: ‘That skinny kid is going to play in the NBA.’ Peter replied: ‘What have you been smoking?’ ”

Nash simply had that certain something that defied the odds and the experts.

“Steve is the Wayne Gretzky of basketball. He had a feel for the game that you can’t teach,” said Shields.

Induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is particularly fitting for Nash. Although he is a two-time NBA MVP, eight-time NBA all-star and third all-time in NBA career assists, Nash is proudest of one thing.

“The greatest experience of my career was playing in the Olympic Games for Canada,” he said.

Joining Nash in the Class of 2020 is former LPGA golfer Lori Kane, Olympian and Commonwealth and Pan Am Games gold-medallist heptathlete Diane Jones Konihowski, three-time Paralympic gold-medallist curler Sonja Gaudet of Vernon, lacrosse star Ross Powless, powerlifter John Barrett and the Olympic rider and horse team of Eric Lamaze and Hickstead.

Two hockey players who overcame incredible off-ice impediments are being inducted in the builders’ category of the Class of 2020. Willie O’Ree broke the colour barrier to become the first black player in the NHL, and Sheldon Kennedy endured sexual abuse by his junior coach before making the NHL and becoming an advocate for those facing abuse.

Also being inducted in the builders’ category are wheelchair rugby founder Duncan Campbell and Judy Kent, the first female president of Commonwealth Games Canada.

The Class of 2020 brings to 681 athletes and builders inducted in the Calgary-located Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, including numerous Island legends such as Lester Patrick, Doug Peden, Norm Baker, Paul Rowe, Silken Laumann, Derek Porter, Simon Whitfield, Peter Reid, Gareth Rees, Alison Sydor, Brenda Taylor, Stephanie Dixon, among others.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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