Sackville Sport Recognition Night honours area athletes

Wallie Sears
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A number of potential future Sackville Sports Wall of Fame candidates were introduced during the ninth annual Sackville Sport Recognition Night last week, with special ceremonies held at the Tantramar Veterans Regional Memorial Civic Centre.

This special event is organized each year by the directors of the wall of fame and underwritten by town hall and recognizes young men and women – and some not so young, as well – for their accomplishments over the previous 12 months, which have not only brought recognition to themselves but to the community at large.

The idea of recognizing such outstanding feats was first introduced many years ago when Hazel Steeves served as chairman of recreation as a member of town council. Rather than stage an event like the one that now takes place, a special certificate was prepared and sent out. The idea to publicly recognize these accomplished athletes arose from the Wall of Fame, which, at that time, held inductions only every third year.

Not only is the event planned to recognize and honour those deserving but it points out the manner in which residents of this area are well served. Competitors in such activities as hockey, gymnastics, cross country, track and field, soccer, highland games, lacrosse, swimming, football, badminton, boxing, volleyball, curling, baseball, pool and officiating are acknowledged.

It is doubtful if any other community of our size can claim such an enviable record. In addition to these activities, there are other such participatory events as highland dance, figure skating, snowmobiling, skating, yoga, zumba, skiing, snowmobiling, archery, and a host of others. And each sport brings out parents and other interested individuals who pitch in to coach, manage and officiate. 

All of this is carried out without a recreation director, which further adds to the lustre of all the success. Fortunately, Sackville has a plethora of talented coaches who have proceeded up through the ranks, often having played at the university level.

There was a time in the lifetime of your columnist when taxpayers provided little to assist young people to get involved in organized sports. There was a natural ice surface and a baseball field, located where the Mount Allison soccer team plays its games; but it was up to the players to prepare the field for use. And there was no organization for any of the programs – it has all evolved in a topsy turvy manner. But in spite of all the aches and pains, it appears that everything has worked out for the best.

A series of enlightened town councils have encouraged participation and placed a punctuation mark when, in conjunction with a number of partners, they launched the Sackville Waterfowl Park and its boardwalks, so those of an older age or simply not interested in more high profile activities might have a safe location in which to walk or jog and to enjoy the array of wildlife in the park.

Many local individuals and businesses pitch in with financial support and many of the programs have introduced a policy of “nobody left behind.” This simply means that no young person will be denied the right to play if their parents are unable to afford the cost of registration.

It is recalled how one family left Sackville for job opportunities and moved to a relatively small town near Ottawa. A son had been involved in a wide range of activities that included football, basketball, tennis and hockey. Well, in his new town, he had access to a tennis court and that was about it and the entire family had regrets about leaving Sackville behind.

Last week’s recognition night was, as usual, hosted by Steve “The Voice” Ridlington, while town councillors Joyce O’Neal, Bill Evans, Ron Corbett and Mike Tower took turns handing out the awards. Individuals and teams were recognized; and to highlight the evening, one national champion and three provincial championship teams were honoured.

A quartet of more mature athletes – Maurice Hicks, Jeff McAllister, Norm Saunders and Stephen Wells – hooked up to first win provincial honours and then took out all opposition to bring the Canadian Legion 8-ball pool title to Sackville. This same talented group had taken the provincial title the previous year and simply upped their game this time.

The Peewee football Titans, under the strong leadership of a group headed by Joe Lafford, completely destroyed all opposition in taking the provincial championship. That is the end point as there is no Maritime championship game held. Many from this group of 24 will be strutting their stuff as members of the Tantramar Titans this fall. It might also be mentioned that several of the team members looked anything like peewees and should be ready to meet the demands facing them when they have a veteran team of coaches led by Scott O’Neal calling the shots.

Chris Vogels, coach of this year’s Peewee Sackville Hurricanes team, brought with him several years ago vast experience in baseball as a former member of the Moncton Mets and he has used this to build a dynasty in minor baseball. This group of 13 players, including one young lady, simply improved from game to game to capture another provincial championship and it is hoped this might be the beginning of a return of senior baseball to Sackville.

The third provincial championship was won by the mixed curling team from Tantramar under coach Mike Hicks.

There were far too many outstanding accomplishments to list here but many of them exceeded expectations to qualify and occasionally win provincial, Atlantic and Canadian honours.

All in all, this type of event does a good deal to encourage healthy living and also to encourage others to strive to be the best. Those responsible are to be congratulated and it is hoped sport recognition nights will be continued.

Meanwhile the Wall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place later this year. The nomination deadline has come and gone and now it is only up to the selection committee to make its recommendations to the board for ratification.

Organizations: Canadian Legion 8

Geographic location: Sackville Waterfowl Park, Tantramar, Atlantic

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