Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame Inductees enjoy special night at GM Centre.
OSHAWA — Sports induction ceremonies, by their very nature, recognize those of prominence in a community, but the acceptance speeches invariably point out the depth of contributions in getting them there, especially from those behind the scenes.
Such was the case during the 31st Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame ceremony on May 25 at the General Motors Centre, where Elena Davydova, Gord Garrison, Ron Keys, Eric Lindros and Peter Stephenson were all honoured, but not before credit was spread to the countless many who made it possible for each.
Garrison was inducted posthumously, but his daughter Cathy Lavender left no doubt as to how much it meant to the family that the people of Oshawa welcomed her dad in 1948, when he began a media career that would ultimately see his name attached to the broadcast booth at the very arena where he was being inducted.
“Thank you to the community of Oshawa, who embraced a teenager who hitchhiked from Manitoba with nothing in his pocket but a dream and determination,” she said, choking back tears. “If Dad were here, he would have his arms wide open and he would say, ’This is just grand’.”
Garrison, who lived in Oshawa until his death in 2009, was a broadcasting pioneer who became the owner and operator of CKLB radio station and ensured that local sports news was front and centre. Among his many roles, he was the voice of the Oshawa Generals from 1948 through the mid-60s, ring announcer for professional wrestling at Oshawa, a periodic announcer for the Oshawa Green Gaels lacrosse team during the 1960’s dynasty, and the play-by-play voice for the 1958 world hockey championships in Oslo, Norway, where the Whitby Dunlops won gold.
Lavender was so thrilled when her father’s induction became known early this year, she made the trip from her winter home in Florida to Oshawa to attend a council ceremony and reception that made it official.
During the induction ceremony, she recalled taking the first phone call from liaison Jim Lutton.
“He called in January and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” she said.
Lavender also pointed out the appropriateness of Garrison’s induction company for 2016: “Gymnastics (Davydova), motocross (Keys), hockey (Lindros) and badminton (Stephenson) — exactly what Dad would cover in his broadcasts, keeping it local,” she said. “Dad would be thrilled to be included and surrounded by such accomplished athletes and sports enthusiasts.”
Davydova, although an Olympic champion as an athlete competing for the Soviet Union in 1980, has found a home in the local hall of fame for her enormous work as a coach with Gemini Gymnastics, which she now owns.
Working at the Oshawa club for the past 25 years, Davydova has led numerous athletes into elite competitions, including the Olympics for Whitby’s Kristina Vaculik in 2012, and helped many of those and others earn scholarships to the United States.
She made the trip to London with Vaculik as a coach four years ago and will be in Rio this summer as an Olympic judge.
“It was so exciting, it was like a flashback for me,” she said of the London Games, where the Canadian women’s artistic team finished an unprecedented fifth place. “It felt just like I was in the Olympics once again.”
Lindros was also an Olympian, serving as captain for Canada’s men’s hockey team in 1998, one of the many highlights of a career that was accelerated while playing in Oshawa with the Generals.
A Memorial Cup champion in 1990, two-time gold medallist at the world junior hockey championships and the NHL’s most valuable player in 1995, Lindros has had many memorable accomplishments on the ice, but during the induction ceremony, he recalled fondly the people who made life so comfortable for him in Oshawa.
“I’ll never forget the sendoff we had when we were going to play at the Memorial Cup,” Lindros said of leaving from the old Civic Auditorium for Hamilton, where they beat the Kitchener Rangers in the final. “This is a really special spot.”
Lindros credited his teammates, coaches and other staff for contributing to success with the Generals, but insisted on having Jean Hughes stand for special recognition at the induction ceremony, some 25 years after she and the now-deceased Gil Hughes billeted him.
“They opened up their lovely home, hearts, hockey knowledge and fridge,” he chuckled.
Keys, now a Newcastle resident, made his mark in the sports world while living in Oshawa, winning five straight national championships in motorcycle racing between 1969 and 1973.
He retired from the sport as the undefeated Canadian champ in 1974 to focus on his family and career at age 28, and was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2008.
Among his other careers, Keys has worked for Bombardier and the Durham Regional Police, owned his own business, Ganaraska Log Homes, and works to this day, at 69, in security at OPG.
But his favourite moments have come, and continue to come, on the bike, which he still uses for travel throughout North America with his wife, Tina, and writes about the experiences for Motorcycle Mojo and Ontario Tourism.
“My racing years were a wonderful combination of the two most interesting things in my life, travelling the world and meeting people,” he explained.
Stephenson, born in Oshawa and living in Whitby now, made his impact mostly behind the scenes, as a builder in the sport of badminton, where he has served as a coach, official and administrator.
To name a just few of his accomplishments, he was a coach at the 1974 Canada Winter Games, received a certificate of recognition for achievement in amateur sport in Ontario in 1986, won the Ontario Badminton president’s award in 1987, 2004 and 2008, earned a Celebration ‘88’ certificate of merit from the Canadian government in 1988, became a Badminton Canada life member in 2003 and won the Syl Apps special achievement award in 2007.
But, during his induction speech, he sounded pleased more than anything by the fact badminton now leads the list of sports enshrined in Oshawa — alphabetically.
While recognition for the sport has always been more important to Stephenson than any personal accolades, he admitted the induction ceremony will long be cherished.
“Induction into the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame is truly unexpected and an extreme honour to have my name included with a very impressive roster of current and past inductees,” he said.
The Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame, begun in 1986, is now home to 206 individuals and teams covering 49 sports.