Bruce Rainnie an ideal choice

PA-pictou-advocate

Being a person of habit, I spent last Thursday evening like many other evenings this winter.

After supper, I took George and Gracie, my shih tzu pals, for their nightly sojourn outside. I made a couple personal phone calls, then settled in to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs once again blow a third-period lead and lose in a shootout.

Before heading to bed, I made my usual last-minute visit to the CBC’s Nova Scotia website. I find it the best way to see if anything’s happening besides Donald Trump’s latest babbling. On this particular night, an announcement out of Charlottetown made me forget the Leafs’ outcome.

Bruce Rainnie, the voice and face of CBC’s nightly newscast on Prince Edward Island, is returning to Halifax to be the new executive director of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.

What great news!

Rainnie, the very talented young broadcaster of many skills, is a perfect choice to succeed the retiring Bill Robinson.

The hall will stay in good hands.

Robinson, the former star quarterback of the Saint Mary’s Huskies in the 1970s and later a signal-caller with the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders, has done an absolutely outstanding job in his long tenure at the hall’s helm. It was way back in 1983 that he took on the assignment and, for 34 years, he has been a busy and popular leader. I was actually worried when I heard he would no longer be there.

I’m not worried now.

Rainnie, I’m absolutely sure, will take on his new challenge in the same enthusiastic way he took on other responsibilities for more than two decades,

His career began in radio in Yarmouth before he joined the CBC in Halifax. During his time in the Nova Scotia capital, he was one of the most familiar faces in the community.

Besides his television positions, he was a volunteer extraordinaire.

Ironically, one of his premier contributions was serving as master of ceremonies for the hall of fame’s annual induction ceremonies. He had big shoes to fill when he replaced the legendary Pat Connolly in that role. No worries. He handled the assignment with the same professionalism he has displayed everywhere he’s been. Even when he moved to P.E.I., he kept coming back to Halifax each year to do his super induction night gig.

It was in 2003 that I learned first-hand what his role meant to people being inducted into the hall.

That was the year I was honoured with induction into the media category and, despite my many years in the newspaper business, I was a bit nervous as my big night approached. There was no need to be. Bruce made me feel right at home in my few moments under the bright lights.

Since then, many other inductees have told me they felt the same way with Rainnie.

Bruce has done pretty much everything a person of his abilities can do. And he’s done them all with class.

I can’t think of any better master of ceremonies in the local area. He has handled the Progress Club Sports Celebrity Dinner, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Dinner, the Special Olympics Dinner and the All-Canadian Basketball Awards. The list goes on.

It was no wonder when, in 2005, he himself was honoured as Volunteer of the Year at the hall’s inductions. It was an award he could have been given every year.

When he accepted the honour, he made this observation: “I was a natural successor to Pat (Connolly). He and I had been buddies even with a 50-year difference between us. It was kind of a passing of the torch.”

Indeed it was.

I’m sure if Pat, who passed away in late 2012, were alive today, he would be extremely proud of his friend getting the top post at the hall.

Pictou County people, of course, know the importance of good leadership, having seen it at the county’s Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in New Glasgow.

As I pointed out in recent weeks, the Pictou County facility has survived some stiff challenges over a quarter of a century. Had it not been for people like the late Billy Dee, Kenny Langille and Barry Trenholm, I doubt the hall would still be open – if it had even opened in the first place.

It’s no different in Halifax. It’s the same kind of situation, just on a larger scale.

The Nova Scotia hall was revived because of people who realized the importance of such a facility. It began in an old industrial building next to the Halifax Forum, moved to the Brewery Market downtown in 1983. Then it switched to the Metro Centre where its modern quarters have enjoyed excellent growth and popularity.

Fred MacGillivray Jr., the long-time chairman of the board, once said, “Encouraging youth to strive for excellence in their lives is an important driver for the Sport Hall of Fame board and team. Our education outreach program was the number one priority and focus. Thousands of students were inspired and ignited by our sponsor spokesperson, Olympian Karen Furneaux, with her visits to rural communities throughout Nova Scotia.”

That program and other promotions have helped the provincial hall expand to bigger and better accomplishments.

In his comments from Charlottetown, Bruce said his self-imposed mandate will be to make the Nova Scotia hall “a premier museum destination in the Maritimes.”

The news release also quoted Bruce as saying, “This seems like a milestone fork in the road, a good opportunity.”

He begins the challenge May 1.

The moment I read the announcement I sent him congratulations. It was the least I could do for a truly great guy. I wasn’t a bit surprised when I got a quick reply.

“A tough decision,” he told me, “but a good one I hope. I’m really looking forward to the new adventure.”