SACKVILLE, N.B. – Three new faces will soon be added to Sackville’s Sports Wall of Fame.
The latest inductees – among them an NHL trainer, a national curling champion, and the illustrious ‘Voice of the Mounties’ – will be honoured during an upcoming ceremony that will pay tribute to their outstanding achievements.
Under the athlete category, Heather Smith will be recognized, while Earl Thompson and Steve Ridlington will be inducted under the builder category.
From the time she threw her first stone as a youngster at the Sackville Curling Club, Heather Smith has excelled in the sport – rising through the ranks at the junior level then moving on to capture many adult titles as well.
Nominated by Davis Richardson, Smith has served as a proud ambassador of her home community as she’s traveled throughout the province, the country and the world throughout her 25-year career.
“Her high achievement at the sport of curling has been very proudly watched by many in our community and she is a role model for current junior curlers at the Sackville Curling Club,” writes Richardson.
Smith learned to curl in the junior curling development program in the mid to late-1980s at the Sackville Curling Club. Her first real success came in 1989 when she skipped her Tantramar Regional High team to win the school’s first NBIAA high school championship.
In 1990, playing third with her sister Krista, the team won the first-ever New Brunswick junior women’s curling title for the Sackville Curling Club. As team New Brunswick, they participated in the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Sudbury, Ontario, finishing with a 5-5 record.
In 1991, the team won the New Brunswick provincial Canada Games title and played at the national Canada Games held in Summerside, PEI. That same year, she skipped the NB championship junior women’s curling team and competed at the national junior women’s championship in Leduc, Alberta, where they won the title, the first time ever for a New Brunswick junior women’s team. She was named all-star skip for that tournament.
Smith’s team represented Team Canada at the World Junior Curling Championships in G
ermany in 1992, finishing in fifth place among 10 teams. That national team was inducted into the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame in 2006.
After juniors, Smith went on to a stellar career in adult curling. Over the past 20 years, she has won a number of provincial championships, both in New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia (where she now resides), as well as a couple of national titles, both in mixed and women’s curling.
In 1994 and ’95, Smith earned two New Brunswick mixed curling championships and went on to win the national mixed curling championship in Leduc, Alberta in 1994.
She also won two Nova Scotia mixed curling titles in 2002 and 2010 and both times went on to win the national mixed curling championships. The 2010 win resulted in her being selected to participate in the world mixed doubles championship that year.
Smith was also part of teams that won four Nova Scotia provincial women’s curling championships (2000, 2004, 2011 and 2013) and participated in four Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Smith skipped her team to a bronze medal in the Scotties tournament in Charlottetown in 2011.
In the fall of 2013, Smith was asked to join the Rachel Homan team as their fifth player as the team competed at the Olympic curling trials in Winnipeg. She was the only Atlantic Canadian woman in the trials.
After curling at the competitive level for 25 years, Smith retired from the game at the end of the 2013-14 season. She now coaches her son’s team in Halifax.
He has been known as “The Voice of the Mounties” for more than 40 years and team manager of the lady soccer Titans for the past 20. This year, he will be able to add a new title to the list – Sackville Sports Wall of Fame recipient.
From the moment he first arrived in Sackville from Quebec City at the age of 19 to start earning his degree at Mount Allison University, Ridlington has long been a true ‘garnet and gold’ supporter, becoming absorbed with all Mountie sports. Later, as he raised his family and worked in the community, his focus also turned to Titan sports as his daughters came up through the ranks of the Sackville Youth Soccer Association and then on to Tantramar Regional High School.
Nominated by Fay Morrissey in the builder category, Ridlington “epitomizes volunteerism,” she says, and serves as a role model to many young athletes.
“He believes in supporting his community and building a positive spirit among young people in order to bring awareness to the rewards of community service,” she writes.
Ridlington has done it all throughout the years – team manager, volunteer, announcer, commentator, emcee, league coordinator and more – both for the Mount Allison and the Sackville sports scenes.
“Mount Allison athletics have had the tremendous fortune of having Steve as a member of the Mounties family for over 40 years,” writes Pierre Arsenault, director of athletics at Mount Allison, in his letter of support for Ridlington’s nomination.
Arsenault says Ridlington has been a tremendous asset to the Mounties and has called some of the most important plays ever to happen at the former MacAulay Field and current Alumni Field.
“Steve’s voice has become so recognizable for Mounties fans that he has become a part of the game-day experience our Mounties supporters have come to expect and enjoy.”
Ridlington, he says, has been the narrator for the Mounties story over the last 40 years.
“Along the way, he has played an invaluable role in helping to share our Mountie pride with the world.”
Ridlington was co-founder of the Fifth Quarter Club (Mount Allison’s football booster club) in 1981. He received the Bubsy Grant Award in 2015 as well as the Charles Frederick Allison Award in 2000 for service and acknowledgment of 25 years of commitment to the university.
Nev Garrity, head coach of the lady Titans soccer team, also has nothing but praise for Ridlington.
“During the past 19 years, I have had the opportunity to see and benefit from his enthusiasm, attention to detail, and his ability to perform at a high level in many aspects as manager of our summer soccer teams with the Sackville Youth Soccer Association and 18 years with our Tantramar Regional High School girls varsity soccer teams,” he writes in a letter of support.
“Steve works very hard to be sure that the girls are well supplied with everything they need, and they very much appreciate everything he does for them. I have often told our teams that they have the best manager in the province.”
Ridlington also helped co-found the U18 women’s Eastern soccer league, a league that now boasts more than 75 teams and over 3,000 participants.
He received the Soccer New Brunswick Volunteer of the Year award in 2000.
He has also been announcer and media coordinator for the TRHS girls’ rugby team and the girls’ hockey team, a commentator for the Moncton Magic, a stadium announcer for the women’s World Cup in 2015, and announcer for the AAA Midget Atlantic women’s hockey finals, women’s U20 World Cup in 2015 and a women’s soccer International Exhibition game in 2012.
He has also served on the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame board from 2008 to 2016 and emcees the town’s annual sports recognition nights, helping to promote and celebrate local athletes.
From playing pond hockey on Silver Lake in his youth to rubbing elbows with some of NHL’s best coaches and players and then returning to his hometown to share his talents with young developing athletes, Earl Thompson is deserving of a spot on the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame.
For more than five decades, Thompson has mentored and been involved in the development of athletes, coaches and officials at the professional, national, international, and provincial level.
“Earl, over an extended time, has done much to earn the title ‘builder.’ His outstanding contributions cover many aspects of what a sports builder should be – coach, trainer, official, and league organizer,” writes Wade Wheaton in his nomination for Thompson.
“Earl not only did this, he brought back all of his talent and shared it with the young sports-minded kids in our town for almost 20 years.”
Thompson began playing hockey as a youngster, and excelled at the sport at a time when there was no minor hockey system in Sackville like there is today. He went on to play intramural hockey on a high school team.
When he later joined the army, he continued enjoying the sport he loved in a competitive league from 1954-’62 as he worked his way toward earning an education in recreation and physical education. While serving in the armed forces, Thompson also attended and conducted many softball umpire clinics, and even a fastball umpire clinic in Lahr and Baden Bacen, Germany.
He played Maritime senior hockey from 1962-’66, where he played on six Atlantic championships teams and was even invited to a number of NHL training camps.
With his background in physical education and sports abilities, he was asked to assist in the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp, and served in that position from 1970 until 1978, and then with the Buffalo Sabres in 1979 and 1980. During that 11-year period as a fitness trainer, Thompson was said to have earned the respect and admiration of countless NHL players in the Toronto and Buffalo organizations.
This success at the professional level led to him also being offered the job as fitness assistant to both Soccer Canada’s (1971-’73) and Ski Canada’s Olympic (1975) training and development programs.
Thompson also holds a level 4 coaching certificate and has also refereed hockey games up to and including university level. He was involved in the formation of the national referees’ association in Canada and the national coaches’ certification program. Over the years, he also became a certified official in basketball, volleyball, aquatics, water polo, track and field, and softball.
Even upon his return to Sackville in 1994, Thompson did not slow down. He soon began giving his talents back to the community, helping to coordinate the junior golf development program for seven years and then moving on to serve as head and assistant coach for many Sackville minor hockey teams.
He has earned a number of awards and accolades for his efforts over the years, including: a special commendation for his work and dedication to helping many sports events at CFB St. Jean in 1975; a base commander’s commendation from CFB Comox for his outstanding community sports efforts in the community in 1979; coach of the year from Sackville Minor Hockey in 2003; a Central Midget Hockey League award for fair play in 2001; and a life membership award in 2011 from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #26 for his years of dedication to the Sackville Bantam Legionnaires hockey program.
Thompson’s contributions have been profound in communities across Canada, including Sackville, writes Wheaton.
“He deserves to be on the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame as an example of how “one of our own” impacted professional, national, provincial, and grassroots sports across the country.”
“We are a better community because of what he has given our youth for the past 20 years.”
Sackville has been giving recognition to local athletes, teams and sports builders through its Sports Wall of Fame since 1989. Other inductees include such greats as Bob Edgett, Wallie Sears, George Chambers, Chester Cole, Wayne MacKay, Peter Hess, the 1952-53 Sackville Eagles hockey team, Gail LeBlanc, Bill Johnstone, David Burns, Bruce Harper, and many others.
The Sackville Sports Wall of Fame induction ceremony, which will be open to the public, will be held on Thursday, June 14, at 7 p.m. at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre.