Olympians Huynh, Whitfield and Klassen top Canada Sports Hall of Fame inductees

Huynh, Whitfield and Klassen top Hall inductees

TORONTO — Lanny McDonald never saw it coming.

The Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Fame member was among nine individuals named for induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The announcement caught McDonald by surprise because for so long all of his achievements were hockey-related.

“You never dream of ever being honoured or asked to go into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame,” said McDonald. “I thought it was one of the guys pranking me when this came about but all of a sudden today happens and you realize, ‘Oh my gosh.’

“It’s so cool. I’m so honoured and thrilled. What a great class to go in with.”

Other athletes being inducted include Olympians Carol Huynh, Simon Whitfield and Cindy Klassen, golfer Mike Weir, lacrosse standout Gaylor Powless and the Edmonton Grads women’s basketball team. Neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator and Canadian Paralympic founder Dr. Robert W. Jackson were named in the builder’s category.

Powless and Jackson were both honoured posthumously. All nine will be formally enshrined Nov. 9 in Toronto.

McDonald, 64, amassed 1,006 points (500 goals, 506 assists) in 1,111 career games with Toronto, Colorado and Calgary from 1973 to ’89. He retired following the 1988-89 season after helping the Flames win their only Stanley Cup.

The following year, McDonald became the first player in club history to have his jersey retired. Known for his bushy moustache, the fun-loving, gregarious McDonald has also been a tireless contributor in the community, visiting Canadian Forces personnel overseas while also working with such organizations as Big Brothers, Ronald McDonald House and Special Olympics.

McDonald, currently the Hockey Hall of Fame’s board chairman, credits his father, Lorne, with helping him develop that sense of community.

“When I left to play hockey he gave me two great pieces of advice,” McDonald said. “He said first of all, ‘When it’s all said and done and your playing career is over, I hope they remember you as much for Lanny the man versus Lanny the hockey player,’ and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty profound,’ but I didn’t really think about it much at the time.

“The other thing he said was, ‘Always sign your name so people can read it. You should be proud of your name.’ For a guy who had a Grade 8 education, yeah, he was brilliant.”

Huynh, 36, became the first Canadian to win Olympic gold in women’s wrestling in Beijing in 2008. Four years later in London, the native of Hazelton, B.C., claimed a bronze medal.

“It’s very very special,” Huynh said. “I don’t think I’m finished yet but for sure, this is a huge honour and an achievement I’m super surprised about and happy to accept.”

Whitfield, 41, of Kingston, Ont., captured Olympic triathlon gold in Sydney in 2000 and earned silver eight years later in Beijing. The 12-time world champion also was a gold medallist in the event at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Whitfield said while he always dreamed of hearing “O Canada” and watching Canada’s flag being raised while standing atop the Olympic podium, he’s never ranked his many accomplishments in any sort of order.

“It’s just part of the story, there’s a poetry to sport,” he said. “To be recognized as an Olympian and Canadian (Sports) Hall of Fame member and to know the legacy of the great Canadian athletes that have come before and will come in the future, I’m proud to be part of that legacy.”

Klassen, 37, of Winnipeg, is Canada’s most decorated Winter Olympian with six medals (gold, two silver, three bronze). Five came at the 2006 Turin Games (gold, two silver, two bronze) as Klassen became the country’s first athlete to accomplish that feat.

Weir, 46, became the first Canadian to capture the Masters in ’03. The native of Bright’s Grove, Ont., has registered 15 pro wins and in 2000 became the first Canadian to play in the President’s Cup.

In 2007, Weir was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.

The Edmonton Grads amassed a stunning 502-20 record from 1915 to 1940. The team also participated in four straight Olympics (1924-36) and was 27-0 but received no medals because women’s basketball wasn’t an official event.

While men’s basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936, the women’s game wasn’t included until 1976. Kay MacBeth, 95, the Grads’ last surviving player, represented the squad Wednesday.

Powless, of Ohsweken, Ont., led the Oshawa Green Gaels to four Minto Cup championships (1964-67) and was twice named the most valuable player. He and his father, Ross, are both members of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the only father-son tandem in the players’ category. 

Powless died in July 2001 at age 54.

Jackson was a founding member of the Canadian Paralympic movement in 1967. In 1976, Jackson organized the Olympiad for the physically challenged. The Toronto native died in January 2010 at age 78.

Tator, 80, of Toronto, is an expert on sports concussions and spinal cord injury. In 1992, he founded ThinkFirstCanada, which helps educate young athletes, and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000.

Tator helped develop the Canadian Brain and Nerve Health Coalition two years later.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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