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Outstanding athlete, local builders inducted into Sackville Sports Wall of Fame

Earl Thompson, Heather Smith, Steve Ridlington honoured

SACKVILLE, N.B. – A trio of outstanding individuals – two athletes and one builder – were inducted into the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame (SSWF) Thursday evening during the 30th anniversary of the founding of the organization that was created to recognize those people who have contributed hugely to their sport as well as to the promotion of their home community.

Inducted in the athlete category is a lady who lays claim to no fewer than 17 provincial and national curling championships. Inducted in the builder category was a veteran athlete, coach, trainer and tutor who has devoted his entire life to sport, and another local man who has devoted more than 45 years to organizing, supporting, encouraging and communicating the exploits of Mount Allison and Sackville sportspeople.

The special event highlighted an appearance by Sackville’s Town Crier David Fullerton in full regalia, who fired up the huge cast of supporters and then a piper piped the three guests and Mayor John Higham to the podium where the latter welcomed those in attendance, pointing out that Sackville boasts two elements of sport – those who play recreationally and others who aim for a higher level of competition.

“Both in their own way contribute to our community,” he said.

Retired math teacher and a former senior hockey star Davis Richardson served as host for the occasion and introduced the members of the SSWF board of directors and selection committee – those responsible for planning the induction – with the town covering the costs.

The first inductee was Sackville’s own Heather Smith who first reached prominence in her sport in 1989 when she skipped her high school rink to the New Brunswick high school championship.

Since then it has been one victory after another. The following year she was mate for her sister as Sackville took the provincial junior curling crown and went 5-5 at the nationals in Sudbury.

Then she hit the highlight reels in 1991 when she skipped New Brunswick to the Canada Games title and played in the nationals in Summerside. And then she peaked by leading her rink to the provincial junior title and capped it by taking the Canadian title in Leduc, Alta. This led to her leading Team Canada at the World Junior Curling Championship in Germany, where they finished with a 5-5 record.

After junior, Heather went on to a stellar career earning four New Brunswick mixed championships, adding a national title in 1994.

She also captured five Nova Scotia five mixed titles and added national titles on two occasions. The 2010 victory sent her foursome to the world championships.

Following competing for 25 years, Heather retired from the game and now coaches her son’s team in Halifax.

Earl Thompson rose from Joe Brook and Silver Lake to rub shoulders with the most famous hockey players in the nation and finished off a long career by coaching minor hockey in Sackville for several campaigns, while operating the junior development program at the Sackville Golf Club.

Listing all of Thompson’s athletic accomplishments would require several columns but his career was highlighted by being hired as a special trainer for the Toronto Maple Leafs by coach Roger Neilson.

“When Roger was fired by the Leafs,” Thompson said, “I was fired too. Then Roger was hired by Buffalo and I joined him but two years later he was fired and I was also axed. When Vancouver Canucks called I said no thanks – twice is just too many times to be fired.”

For more than five decades the Mount View native mentored and was involved in the development of athletes, coaches and officials at the professional, national, international, and provincial levels.

While serving as a member of the Canadian Navy he worked toward completing a program in recreation and physical education while playing on six Atlantic championship hockey teams.

His success at the professional level led him to being offered the position of fitness assistant with Soccer Canada and Ski Canada’s Olympic training and development program.

Steve Ridlington has long been known as The Voice of the Mounties. He has done play-by-play of various Mountie sports programs as well as those of Tantramar Regional High School and is often called upon for special events.

He was summoned to be commentator for Moncton Magic, the women’s soccer International exhibition game in 2012 and the women’s U20 World Cup in 2015.

Steve has served as a member of the board of directors of the SSWF from 2008 until 2016.

A major accomplishment came in 1981 when he co-founded the Mount Allison fifth Quarter Club and he has received the Bubsy Grant and the C. F. Allison awards for his work with Mountie football.

And Steve Ridlington has worked side-by-side with Nev Garrity for nearly 20 years as manager of the provincial champion Lady Titans soccer team.

He will perhaps be long remembered for his quick wit and thorny comments on air with a highlight coming during a particularly exciting football game at Alumni Field when he came up with “a Thrilla in Sackvilla’'.

And so, the distinguished trio join a long list of outstanding performers who have not only accomplished a good deal on the field, course and ice but who have contributed more importantly to their community.

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