There’s no Art and no Lowell

Pictou Advocate sports

You’re likely aware that the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame is looking back at the province’s extensive sports history, a process that will, as its website says, conclude with the naming of “the top 15 athletes in Nova Scotia sport history.”

It’s a huge task.

You may have taken advantage of the hall’s offer for public input in the exercise by proposing names for consideration. That step has ended and the lengthy master list has been reduced by “a sport-knowledgeable” panel, the names already appearing on the website.

From the 25 will come the top 15. Those will be announced in the media, one at a time, starting with the 15th-ranked, climaxing with the naming of the best athlete ever.

Certainly the hall should be commended for this major event. I can assure you, it’s not an easy exercise, considering the huge number of Nova Scotia athletes who excelled over a period of more than 100 years. Think about that. A lot of thought and research has been required.

What do I think?

I have to turn to the well-quoted words of poet John Lydgate: “You can please some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

Sorry, but I’m in the latter category.

I like many of the names that survived to the top 25. But I’m not happy with the overall selections.

Why?

The moment I went through the names, I saw one oversight that really bugged me. It still does.

You mean to tell me that Pictou County, with its many successes in many sports through the generations, couldn’t get one name among the 25?

That’s preposterous.

With all the fine hockey, baseball, softball, boxing, golf and other stars of the past, wasn’t one deserving of at least getting to the final 25 provincially?

I can’t believe this.

No Art Hafey? No Lowell MacDonald? Those are the two I would start with.

Art spent much of his professional boxing career in Los Angeles, climbing to number one contender status in the world. He never got the title shot he had earned, and I still maintain to this day that it didn’t happen because boxing authorities in the States didn’t want a Canadian to win the championship — and they knew Art was capable of winning the crown.

Lowell had a distinguished 13-year career in the National Hockey League and, had it not been for a number of injuries and a fear of flying, he would have been there longer, and would have added to his career stats of 191 goals and 412 points. His winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey was further evidence of his stature.

I could easily add one or two other Pictonians to the list, but Hafey and MacDonald are the prime examples of why Pictou County should have gotten somebody recognized.

There are some great names among the 25. I grant you that.

If I had been voting, I would definitely have included hockey players Al MacInnes, Glen Murray and Sidney Crosby; curler Colleen Jones, swimmer Nancy Garapick, golfer Gordie Smith, softball’s Mark Smith; paddlers Steve Giles and Karen Furneaux; boxers George Dixon and Sam Langford; track stars Aileen Meagher and Johnny Miles.

But how did Pictonians miss out completely?

On a regional basis, 18 of the 25 were from Metro, including nine from Halifax and two each from Dartmouth and Bedford. The only place outside the regional municipality to have two athletes was Port Hood. Also of note, besides Port Hood’s MacInnis and football’s Bruce Beaton, the only other Cape Bretoner was Sydney Mines icon Johnny Miles.

Though there are no Pictonians among the top 25, there are a couple of names with connections to the county.

Brookfield hockey goaltender Lyle Carter played junior hockey in Trenton and senior hockey with the New Glasgow Rangers. He also played baseball with the Stellarton Keith’s in the Twilight Senior Baseball League. Interestingly, he’s the only athlete identified by two sports — hockey and softball.

Then there’s Johnny Miles, of course, the two-time Boston Marathon champion whose name is attached to New Glasgow’s annual marathon. He might have been a Cape Bretoner, but he had a warm spot for the county.

Some names are noticeable by their absence.

Take boxing as an example. Where is Blair Richardson? Where is Ricky Anderson? I could keep throwing in names, but I won’t.

I admit, I know how difficult it is to sit around a table with a dozen or so people and obtain a consensus. With the number of nominations, and the province’s lengthy litany of standout athletes, it must have been close to a nightmare.

I spent 10 years — from 2004 to 2013 — on the provincial hall’s selection committee. At that table, you learned a lot of things. One was that, regardless of who you believed was a highly worthy candidate for induction, you couldn’t bring others to your way of thinking.

I tried through that decade to get a particular hockey player into the hall, a player I maintain was better than some of the players from his era who received their just rewards in the hall. My views on the matter fell on deaf ears.

I’ve never said this in print or in conversation, but my failure to convince other committee members about that particular player eventually led to my decision to retire from the selection process. I’m sure it was a bigger disappointment to me than to other members. Meantime, that particular player still hasn’t been inducted.

Though I’ve identified two Pictonians who I feel should have made the top 25, I applaud the provincial hall, under the direction of its new executive director, Bruce Rainnie, for having the foresight to take on a very significant adventure.

Like others, I await the results.