July 1st, 2020

Canada Day today and BC Day next month (Monday, August 3rd) remind us of an intersection point that is central to the long-term aspirations of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. We are at once proudly Canadian and confidently British Columbian.

Sure, our main focus is on those that have stood out in defining the sport history, heritage and culture of our province. Thanks to Eric Whitehead and other like-minded British Columbians, our Sports Hall was created in 1966 and has been telling those BC stories of excellence for 54 years. Yet although technically British Columbia didn’t join confederation until 1871, every single one of those stories – including those that predate the formation of BC and Canada – are now in one way or the other Canadian.

That’s why our Indigenous Sport Gallery is in many ways the heart of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. It is such an important testament to the transcendent spirit of sport. Many of the deepest roots in sport are indigenous roots. They are stories of a thousand years, from the first canoeists and kayakers to the first lacrosse matches that went on for days and even weeks. We are justifiably proud that our Indigenous Sport Gallery at the BC Sports Hall is the first of its kind in Canada. We are also grateful for the national and international recognition the Gallery has received, from the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) to the International Sport Heritage Association (ISHA).

On Canada Day today and on BC Day next month, we’re reminded of how fortunate we are to have these stories of indigenous sport, from the foresight of the truly original trailblazers to the triumph in the face of adversity – including shameful racism – fashioned by BC’s courageous and determined Indigenous athletes and sport leaders. These stories are tributes to great Indigenous athletes, coaches and leaders, but they’re also calls to action about what we can all do to let go of old school prejudices and learn from our mistakes.

That spirit of perseverance demonstrated for generations by our Indigenous athletes also applies to the determination of once-in-a-lifetime athletes such as Harry Jerome and other pioneers such as Chinese-Canadian hockey icon Larry Kwong and South Asian trailblazer Robin Bawa; who was literally a “Blazer” in Kamloops on the way to becoming the first Indo-Canadian NHLer. He now finds himself in the Class of 2020 of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Very much the same goes for the female athletes, coaches and leaders who have made BC a Canadian and international leader, not just in gender equity but in women’s sport excellence. It is also pervasive in the stories of courage and vision forever embedded in the late Terry Fox and his transformative Marathon of Hope, along with his friend Rick Hansen, whose Man in Motion tour made itself a launching pad for thousands of accomplished wheelchair athletes and Paralympians. Boldness and leadership are also associated with the new Canadians who in recent years have chosen BC as their home; inspiring us to become a global model for inclusivity. We have work to do on that front but we’re getting better.

Of course, we are extremely proud of all of those British Columbians who have been recognized as Canadian success stories, household names and, literally, among Canada’s greatest exports. The BC Sports Hall of Fame is committed to being every bit as successful – every bit as excellent — as the athletes, coaches, officials and executives we aim to represent.

We are so fortunate to be tasked with being the story-tellers of the people, organizations and events that have made BC a leading and truly remarkable hub for Canadian athlete and sport development. We’ve mentioned it before: With BC accounting for just 13% of Canada’s population, the province’s tradition of over-performance is an inspiring story in and of itself.

Here are some of the most recent numbers again: At the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, 28% of the athletes had a BC connection, and more impressively, they won 38% of Canada’s medals. At the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics, 44% of the athletes had a BC connection, and they won 57% of the podium finishes. At the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games combined, 31% of the athletes had a BC connection and they won 47% of Canada’s medals.

At the last summer Olympic Games at Rio 2016, 45% of the athletes had a BC connection and they won 50% of Canada’s medals. At the Rio Paralympics, 27% of the athletes were BC-affiliated and they won 34% of our country’s hardware. Combined, 35% of the Olympians and Paralympians connected to BC and they won 50% of Canada’s medals at Rio 2016.
All of that means that the sport factory that is BC will only continue to produce these inspirational Canadian stories of excellence, victory and accomplishment. We celebrate that as British Columbians, but on a day like today, we do so especially as Canadians; committed to continuing to contribute to everything that is good – and great — about Canada. Happy Canada Day!

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 and Chair of the Paul Carson Broadcast & Media Awards.