Being a boxing instructor helped Don MacDonald’s hockey coaching career.
The late longtime coach of the Vernon Boxing Club, and a lifetime Greater Vernon Minor Hockey member, spent 17 seasons as a hockey coach at the minor level and in senior men’s hockey with the Vernon Screaming Eagles of the now-defunct North Okanagan Hockey League.
“Most of his teams could fight,” smiled MacDonald’s son, Ross, as he accepted his father’s induction into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame Friday at the Schubert Centre.
“He was talking to our goalie, Daryl Leier, between periods and asked Daryl if he could box. Daryl went ‘What?’ and dad said ‘Well nothing hits you.’”
The story drew a laugh from the capacity crowd who came to hear about and support two builders, including MacDonald, two athletes and a legendary baseball team at Friday’s luncheon.
MacDonald, enshrined in the builder category, was the heart and soul of the Vernon Boxing Club since taking over as a coach in 1947. He produced several local and provincial champions and one Canadian champ, John Henry Wilson. He was represented at the luncheon by his kids, Ross and Nancy, and their families.
“This is a huge honour for him and our family,” said Ross. “We are extremely proud.”
Joining MacDonald in the builder category was his longtime friend, boxing referee Ian Gibson, who also founded the Vernon Women’s Soccer League.
His lengthy support of soccer has been recognized in the men’s North Okanagan Soccer League, as the league playoff championship trophy – the Gibson Cup – is named after the native of Kirkconnel, Scotland, who held back tears during his acceptance speech.
“I was at a hockey game when Bob Scott and Jim Domokos walked up to me and said ‘You’re the new president of our men’s soccer league.’ I wasn’t asked. I was told,” said Gibson, who is a member of the B.C. Boxing Hall of Fame. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I want to say thanks to my wife and two kids for putting up with me.”
The 1977-84 Enderby Legionnaires baseball squad – which included Leier – was inducted in the team category.
During that time period, the players from Enderby, Vernon and Salmon Arm won four provincial senior men’s baseball titles, including three in a row from 1980-82, and finished runner-up twice.
They won two Western Canadian titles, including the 1984 championship in front of a capacity crowd at Riverside Park, and won two silver medals.
“We had a group of guys that came together and made some sacrifices,” said longtime Legionnaires player Bill Hagardt, accepting the honour for the team. “It was quite a sacrifice mainly because we had families, wives, girlfriends that wanted to do other things but the players dedicated their time.
“It took some time, dedication and a little bit of luck to do what we did. Guys who moved away would keep travelling back to play for us. It was a wonderful experience.”
Before wheelchair athletes Marni Abbott-Peter of Enderby and Sonja Gaudet of Vernon were inducted, a special videotaped greeting from Rick Hansen was shown.
“I want to say congratulations to Marni and Sonja on this incredible award,” said Hansen. “You’re joining the likes of so many athletes who have made contributions to sport in the Okanagan.”
Abbott-Peter, who could not attend the ceremony due to prior commitments, is one of Canada’s most decorated Paralympians.
She started her Paralympic career in the pool, winning four gold and one silver in swimming at the 1986 Pan American Games.
She began playing wheelchair basketball in 1988 and won three Paralympic gold medals.
Abbott-Peter, who now lives and works in Vancouver, was Canada’s flag bearer at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. B.C. Wheelchair Sports named her Canada’s female athlete of the century and B.C. Wheelchair Basketball named her athlete of the millennium.
Her award was accepted by her parents, John and Abby Pavelich.
“She regrets very much that she can’t be here,” said Abby.
“She wanted me to thank her fans, some of who are here today, and she is grateful to the committee for doing this.
“We’re very proud of Marni’s accomplishments and the positive attitude and true grit she has displayed over the years.”
Gaudet became a two-time Paralympic gold medalist in curling after being paralyzed from the bra-line down in a horse accident 16 years ago.
She is also a member of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame.
“I am grateful to be here today with my family and I share this with them and my teammates,” said Gaudet, accompanied by her husband, Dan, and kids.
“My role models were Rick Hansen, Marni Abbott and (Vernon’s) Lars Taylor who showed me that I still have a great quality of life to achieve and aspire to. To them, I will be forever grateful.”