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By Jim Stewart
180 attendees enjoyed the anecdotes provided by inductees and their families at the First Annual Caledon Sport Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Wednesday evening.
Prior attempts to host the event were scuttled due to the COVID Pandemic, so the warm and congenial mid-week gathering at the Caledon East Community Complex made up for lost time.
Four athletes, three builders, and one team were enshrined.
Town Crier Andrew Welch—official Town Crier for both Caledon and Erin—called the gala to order. With sartorial flare, he introduced the Emcee for the evening.
Master of Ceremonies Barrie Shepley moved the evening along with the perfect blend of grace, humor, and charm. His connectivity to the inductees was evident throughout the ceremony as he invited dignitaries, inductees, and families of posthumously-honored winners to the stage to share poignant sporting and personal memories of the athletes, builders, and team being feted.
Mayor Annette Groves introduced all the Regional Councilors in attendance and noted “the importance of this occasion.”
Mayor Groves spoke glowingly that “Sports have always held a special place in Caledon with its rich, historical traditions.”
She thanked the family of the first CSHOF inductee Jerry Callaghan for “his significant contributions to youth sports in Caledon” and acknowledged that “in the Town's 50th year, we have dedicated space on the second floor of the Complex to the Caledon Sport Hall of Fame.”
Mayor Groves offered her “Congratulations to all inductees for being an inspiration to future generations.”
The Belle of the Ball, whose induction was delivered last on the program and who delivered the unofficial keynote address of the evening, was legendary downhill skier Laurie Graham who noted that her life has come full circle.
Graham told the attendees that she is “living in [her] childhood home in Inglewood to care for [her] 96-year-old mother.” In addition to demonstrating her care for her family and community, Canada's best female skier in the 1980s extolled the joys and positive energy of turning 60 at a birthday party with her Team Canada teammates last year.
“60-year-olds are the teenagers of Canada's older demographic.”
The engaging World Champion, who looked fit enough to conquer any slope anew, offered insights into how sports contribute mightily to local culture.
“Sports provide a lot of pride to a community, especially when you grow up in a small town like Inglewood.”
Graham's charming memory of the local fire department driving her through her hometown to herald her World Cup victory showed her self-deprecatory humor – “It was cold, I was miserable, but I really appreciate now what they did for me then”—as well as her genuine connectivity to place.
“It's wonderful to be back in Inglewood.”
In the Athlete category, Emcee Shepley called to the stage Triathlete and Marathoner Bob Knuckey, Racing Hall of Fame Jockey Robin Platts, and Graham, as well as the family of the late NHLer and Stanley Cup Champion Bert McCaffrey whose great-grandson's wife acknowledged “Bert's athletic greatness” and spoke glowingly of the family's pride in seeing Bert inducted into the Caledon Sport Hall of Fame.
“It truly is an honor for our family.”
Knuckey—a charming public speaker—thanked his wife for “keeping me alive” and expressed his gratitude towards “the Caledon Road Works teams for keeping the roads nice to run and ride on.”
The triathlete acknowledged the stunning contrast between “the Hills of Caledon and the mountains of Nice, France” and the challenges and joys of conquering both. In closing his induction address, he flashed a fluorescent yellow sign from his blue Walmart bag that warned the audience: “Caution: Old Age Ahead!” Knuckey's stage prop evoked chuckles from the audience as the fit and inspirational 75-year-old deftly exited the stage.
Platts' self-deprecatory humor about his diminutive stature was evident when he lowered the microphone with sharp comic timing in synch with Emcee Shepley. The legendary jockey, with an incredible 3,200 victories in the saddle, acknowledged his connection to Caledon.
“My children attended school in Palgrave and I am proud of my roots in Caledon. It's truly an honor to belong to the Caledon Sport Hall of Fame.”
In the Builder category, Shepley invited the families of Editor and Reporter Bill Whitbread and Horse Racing Legend Conn Smythe who accepted the posthumous inductions on behalf of their parent and grandparent, respectively.
Richard and Debbie—grandchildren of the legendary Leafs owner—remembered fondly that “Grampa loved the farm and loved to brag that Caledon was a great place to raise champions.”
Shirley and Steve—two of Bill Whitbread's children—spoke movingly about their father's love of community sport, his contributions to the CMHA, and praised “the 61-years that Dad worked as a reporter and editor.”
“Our Dad would have been honored by this recognition.”
Inductee Coach Gord Everett—a legendary Humberview SS and Elite Division Provincial basketball coach—dedicated his enshrinement to the players he has served during his decades as a teacher-coach.
“Basketball was an unexpected journey for me, given that I grew up as baseball player.”
Coach Everett thanked his family for “their love and unconditional support” and expressed his gratitude to “the Humberview Secondary School Phys Ed department for their support of the Elite OSBA program and to my players for their blood, sweat, and tears.”
Everett thanked “The Village for raising a Coach.”
All three builders were acknowledged for their significant contributions to community sports in multimedia presentations.
In the Team category, Shepley called representatives of the 2004 Mayfield SS Nordic Ski Team to the dais. The prodigious high school team—comprised of Brittany Webster, Julie Porter, Gillian Montgomery, Brittany Barclay, and Robyn Kemp—was immortalized during the ceremony for their stellar performance on the trails from 2001-2004 during which they won four consecutive provincial cross country skiing championships.
The team's All-Ontario banners were on display on tables to the right of the stage, along with other items of historical memorabilia belonging to the inductees that will be housed in the new Caledon Sport Hall of Fame display cases.
The individual stories presented on Wednesday evening were compelling and Emcee Shepley took those assembled on an engaging trip through over 100 years of Caledon's sporting history.
Bert McCaffrey played seven seasons in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup in 1930 with the Montreal Canadiens.
He scored a remarkable 20 goals in five games to lead Team Canada to a Gold Medal in the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. McCaffrey—who passed away in 1955—played eight seasons of OHA Senior Hockey prior to playing in the NHL.
Laurie Graham was Canada's top female downhill skier in the 1980s and a three-time Olympian in 1980, 1984, and 1988.
Graham captured a bronze medal in the 1982 World Championships, procured six World Cup victories, three national titles, and was the first Canadian to win on home snow at the first World Cup downhill event held at Mont Tremblant, Quebec.
She was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1998.
Bob Knuckey—an elite triathlete—won the Toronto Marathon in 1976 with a finishing time of 2:28 and has won dozens of national and international masters titles in his running career.
As a 58-year-old, Knuckey started competing in the triathlon and has captured four Ironman World Championships, including the Hawaii Ironman 70-74 category and, more recently, the 2023 Ironman World Championship in Nice, France.
Knuckey was a local teacher and coach in Caledon for thirty-seven years.
Robin Platts is one of the three jockeys to win the King's Plate a record four times.
Platts accrued over 3200 victories on horseback and competed in over 20, 400 races during his 35-year career. The 30-year resident of Bolton won the Sovereign Award as Canada's Top Jockey in 1979, the Avelino Gomez Award in 1992 for contributions to horse racing in Canada, and was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1997.
Bill Whitbread was a long-time editor and reporter of The Caledon Enterprise. The sports reporter, who passed away in 2014, attended all championship games at playoffs and tournaments in Caledon and Bolton.
Whithead made sure that he photographed the important moments in local sports and provided through his reporting a rich history of sports events in the Region. He was a tireless community sports advocate and promoted local athletes in his newspaper articles for decades.
Conn Smythe bought land for a farm in Caledon in 1951 to breed race horses.
Smythe's stable won the King's Plate twice and hosted the 1963 World Plowing Championships on his farm in 1963. Smythe—the legendary owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1927-1961 and the builder of Maple Leaf Gardens—was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958 and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1977. The sportsman, after whom is named the Conn Smythe Trophy for the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, passed away in 1980.
Gord Everett was a dedicated and remarkable basketball coach who was the Bench Boss of Team Ontario from 2012 to 2019. Two athletes that were born and raised in Bolton and who played for the Canadian National Women's Team were mentored by Coach Everett. Everett was recognized as the Ontario Basketball Elite Coach of the Year in 2012. Everett pioneered the Elite OSBA program at Humberview SS.
The 2004 Mayfield Secondary School Girls Nordic Ski team captured the Provincial Championship and a host of other honors twenty years ago. The quintet—featuring Brittany Webster, Julie Porter, Gillian Montgomery, Brittany Barclay, and Robyn Kemp – went on to skiing scholarships and careers in myriad settings around the world.
Local sports organizations in attendance supporting the inaugural event included the Cavaliers Rugby Club, the Caledon Hawks Hockey Club, the Caledon United Soccer Club, and the Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School Timberwolves.
The sporting community of Caledon made and recognized history on Wednesday night at the Caledon East Community Centre. Congratulations to all the 2024 Caledon Sport Hall of Fame inductees.
Post date: 2024-02-08 11:42:51
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