Tapping into the little kid in all of us

February 1st, 2020

It seems like the new year 2020 is picking up where 2019 left off in terms of celebrating Canadian sport and Canadian athletes.

Last year was highlighted not only by the first Toronto Raptors NBA championship in franchise history, but by a remarkable year for Canadian tennis. Bianca Andreescu became the first modern era Grand Slam singles champion in Canadian tennis history, winning the US Open in convincing fashion against arguably the greatest women’s player of all time, Serena Williams. She also added the Rogers Cup and top honours at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. It was also a year of breakouts for Canadian men’s tennis players and another solid year in golf, with Brook Henderson and a deep group of Canadian men’s golfers making their presence felt on the international stage. Add in an MLS Cup Final berth by Toronto FC and a few other highlights and it was a great year for Canadian sport.

The New Year holds considerable promise, with five of seven Canadian NHL teams in the playoff hunt, including the surprising Vancouver Canucks who go into February at the top of the Pacific Division. It is also going to be a huge year for Canadian Olympians and Paralympians, with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon and the 10th Anniversary of Vancouver 2010 an opportune time to reflect on just how far we’ve come on the world stage.

Yet perhaps the biggest celebration so far this year relates to tapping into the “little kid in all of us” when it comes to Larry Walker, Jr. and the news of last month.

Larry’s selection for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. means a lot for baseball in British Columbia and across Canada. It also is a huge opportunity for the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Walker’s induction coming up this summer is one of the most direct – and exciting – validations of the work that we do to honour excellence and reflect legacy in the yearly process that we undertake to (1) nominate, (2) select, (3) announce and, ultimately, (4) induct the now more than 400 Honoured Members and 65 Honoured Teams who make up the fabric of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Those four steps simply set the stage for (5); the commitment, consideration and creativity we put behind celebrating our Honoured Members for eternity. The Larry Walker, Jr. narrative is a great reminder that we’re an essential part of legacy-building and that we should never stop thinking of what we can do to inspire the future by enhancing the ways we tell stories and generating new avenues that we could take to elevate those stories and restore others.

Last month’s news gives us the opportunity to expand what we’ve done in celebrating Larry Walker in particular, and the sport of baseball in general.

Moreover, it’s a reminder of how important it is to collaborate with and connect to other sports Halls of Fame – not just within British Columbia, but across Canada, throughout North America and around the world. When a Larry Walker is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (which I personally believe would be more appropriately called the International Baseball Hall of Fame), it connects us to that Hall of Fame and opens the doors to new story-telling. The same goes for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, which inducted Larry Walker in its Class of 2007, and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, where he was part of the Class of 2009; the same year he was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

It is entirely on strategy for our Hall to up the bar on what we can do ourselves and in partnership with these other three Halls to tell Larry’s terrific story: A hockey guy who played baseball like a hockey player and ultimately became one of the greatest to ever play the game and don the cap of the Colorado Rockies at Cooperstown, NY.

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and host of The Sport Market on TSN Radio, he is a strong advocate for the KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder.