On a weekend when the tributes are starting to flow across the country, with the apparent end of Steve Nash’s NBA career, it was perhaps only fitting that the player who inspired Nash was being enshrined in the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night at the Westin Bear Mountain.
If Eli Pasquale hadn’t been ahead of his time — NBA teams didn’t take Canadian players seriously in the 1980s — he might have preceded Nash to the Show.
“Eli was the best point guard in Canada before Steve and would have been an NBA player in today’s world — no question,” said his former coach Ken Shields. “The Sonics players [when Pasquale attended Seattle SuperSonics NBA training camp] were shocked when Eli was released.”
Shields is the legendary University of Victoria mentor who coached Pasquale to five consecutive CIS national titles. Pasquale’s play influenced a generation of Canadian guards, including a responsive young kid named Nash, who soaked it all in while watching UVic games from the stands in McKinnon Gym.
Pasquale, who led Canada to top-six finishes at both the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, headlined the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.
Field hockey’s Lynne Beecroft, another UVic star who was among the 40 Island performers in the 1984 Games, was also in the induction class. After a standout playing career for UVic and Canada, Beecroft has coached the Vikes to 11 CIS national titles in her 31 seasons on the UVic bench.
Stan Peterec, among the most influential figures in Island and Canadian martial arts, was inducted as a giving man in a hard game who has helped shape the character and build the confidence of a generation of young people in Victoria. Peterec, who continues to teach, has trained 18 world champions in various disciplines. For his own fighting career, Peterec was named No. 4 among the top 20 toughest fighters in the world by Black Belt Magazine, the bible of martial arts coverage.
Also enshrined with the Class of 2014 were Mann Cup national, NLL pro and world field champion lacrosse player and coach Chris Hall; swimmer Stephanie Dixon, who won 17 medals, including seven golds, in the 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Paralympics; pioneering ultramarathoner Al Howie; and all-round sporting star Maureen Hibberson.
Inducted in the Victoria Sports Hall’s builders category were the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games sports committee and ’94 Games vice-president Jim Reed, who has been instrumental in guiding the post-Games legacy, which includes the establishment of the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence and furthering Victoria’s reputation as a training hub for Canadian national team athletes.
“I’m honoured and very appreciative to be inducted and that people recognize the work I have been involved in, although there was always a team effort behind it,” Reed said.
“It’s always been about legacy. The next stage is the expansion of PISE. It reinforces the connection people feel to 1994 and the impact that continues on from it. With one per cent of the Canadian population, Victoria produces approximately 20 per cent of Canada’s team to the Summer Olympics. The city really has become a centre of sports excellence. The role modelling that it produces is positive, and the economic impact is a lot more significant than people realize.”
Plaques honouring the 2014 inductees will join those of previous inductees lining the walls inside Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.