PICTOU — Philip Ruiz says he is honoured to have been inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame.
Ruiz, however, said he is most proud of local soccer achievements.
Ruiz, who resides in Central Caribou and operates a physiotherapy clinic in Pictou, was enshrined into the hall of fame of April 5 in St. John’s, N.L.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “I didn’t think about it until last year when one of my coaches called me to say he and my brother Donald, who lives in Halifax, were nominating me.”
Ruiz was born in Stephenville, N.L. and was a pre-teen when he started playing minor soccer there.
“We started with 24 kids,” he said. “We were an Under-14 co-ed team with three girls on the team.”
The three girls were on the team that contested the U-14 provincial championship.
“That summer, my coach and one of my most influential mentors, Clayton Welsh, moved me back to a defensive position, fullback,” Ruiz said. “I didn’t talk to him in three weeks, but he recognized something in me. I was named top defender in the first tournament after he moved me back.”
When Ruiz was 16, he was on the N.L. provincial team that finished second at the Atlantic championship in Sackville, N.B. He was among nearly 20 players named to the Atlantic team assembled for the Canadian championship.
Graham Chandler was the team’s assistant coach and recruited Ruiz after becoming the men’s soccer coach at Mount Allison University in Sackville. Ruiz was named Mount A’s rookie of the year.
He joined the N.L. men’s soccer team for the 1989 Canada Summer Games in Saskatoon, Sask., losing the semifinal to Quebec on kicks.
Ruiz played goal despite a previous ankle injury when the starting keeper was stricken with appendicitis.
“Our coach, Jeff Babstock, said that we already had a backup goal tender,” he said. “I grabbed a pair of gloves prior to practice the next day and after my teammates were shooting on me, my coach set up a few drills and afterwards asked how I felt about starting in net next week in Saskatoon. I played the first few games in net then the semifinals I played defence.”
Ruiz was named a member of the Canadian university men’s second all-star team after the Mounties won the conference championship. He was also named an academic all-Canadian.
The Mounties lost in the semifinals in Ruiz’s last season with them, but he was selected to the Canadian first all-star team, was AUS most valuable player and was nominated for CIS player of the year. He was once again named an academic all-Canadian and was named Mount A’s senior athlete of the year.
Ruiz played senior soccer in Halifax and was on the King of Donair team that won silver and bronze medals at two Canadian senior men’s championships.
“The pinnacle of my career was to play professionally for the Nova Scotia Clippers in the Canadian Soccer League in 1991,” he said. “We played against teams like the Toronto Blizzards, Vancouver Whitecaps, North York, and Montreal. We actually made the playoffs but due to a back injury my season was cut a little bit short.”
He said, “Of all of my personal soccer accomplishments, I am just as proud of my contribution to Pictou Academy’s soccer history. While coaching the senior girls soccer team at Pictou Academy for six years we had a great run, winning two bronze medals, three silver medals and a gold medal.”
Philip Ruiz, left, holds the N.L. Soccer Hall of Fame certificate he received during the recent awards presentation in St. John’s. (Goodwin photo)