N.B. Sports Hall of Fame

N.B. Sports Hall of Fame to induct seven (06/03/13)

NB 249

March 13, 2006

FREDERICTON (CNB) - The New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame's honour roll will grow by seven this year. The names of the 2006 honourees were announced today by Lauréat "Ty" Thériault of Edmundston, chairman of the Sports Hall of Fame's board of governors. The dinner and induction ceremony will be held at the Centre des Congrès in Edmundston on June 3.

The inductees are Debra Fisher, formerly of Fredericton, for whom coaching speed skating has been a lifelong passion; curler Russ Howard of Moncton, New Brunswick's first Olympic gold medalist; Mel Keeling of Fredericton, New Brunswick's most successful track and field and cross-country running coach; hockey athlete Andrew McKim of Saint John, a leading goal scorer wherever he played; Jean-Guy Poitras of Edmundston, one of the top badminton officials in the world; Derek Wisdom of Rothesay, who has overseen the growth and development of soccer in New Brunswick for the past 40 years; and Lloyd Stirling of Saint John, an outstanding baseball player during the 1920s and '30s. Stirling was elected in the veterans' category.

With the latest elections, membership in the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame stands at 189.

Following is background information on the seven inductees:

Debra (Graham) Fisher

For Debbie Fisher, speed skating has been a lifelong passion, and her greatest satisfaction comes from helping young people develop an interest in the sport. (Multimedia)

She grew up in Saint John, home of speed skating legends Charlie Gorman and Willie Logan, and was introduced to the sport by her father. In 1976, while attending the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton, she and her husband, Rod, established the Fredericton Amateur Speed Skating Club. The program attracted 22 skaters the first year, and today is the largest club in the province, with almost 200 skaters at all levels of development. Fisher served as the club's head coach until 1997, when she relocated to Calgary, Alta. to obtain her level 4 coaching certification. In 1998 she joined the full-time staff at the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary as a coach and development co-ordinator.

Fisher's leadership skills and enthusiasm raised the sport in New Brunswick to a high level during her 20 years in the province. She served as provincial coach for four years, and led New Brunswick teams to the Canada Winter Games in 1979, 1983 and 1999. Among the athletes she coached were Jeff Scholten, world 500-metre record holder; Olympians Mark Lackie and Stephen Gough; and national team members Andrea Searles Bower and Mike Murray. As well, Fisher organized and conducted coaching clinics around the province, and served as co-ordinator for the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) from 1976 to 1987.

Her contributions to the sport at the national level have been equally significant. She was director of coaching education for Speed Skating Canada, and chaired the Short Track High Performance Committee. Fisher has been involved in writing Speed Skating Canada's coaching manuals since 1977, and was recently selected to co-author the new NCCP Competency-Based Education and Training Program. Since 2005 she has travelled across the country delivering On the Edge, Speed Skating Canada's elementary-school program designed to teach children how to skate.

Since her move to Calgary, Fisher has remained committed to furthering development of the sport in New Brunswick. She returns to the province each summer to coach at the provincial speed skating camp, and volunteers to coach whenever she is visiting the province.

Fisher was New Brunswick's coach of the year in 1989, and was awarded the Petro-Canada Olympic scholarship for coaching in 1997. In 2005 she was named to Speed Skating Canada's Hall of Fame as a builder.

Fisher and her husband currently live in Calgary, but plan to return to New Brunswick when they retire.

Russ Howard

Russ Howard is not likely to forget the last two weeks of February, 2006. On Feb. 19 he celebrated his 50th birthday - a notable milestone for anyone, let alone an athlete still performing at an elite level - and five days later he stood on the top of the podium with his Newfoundland teammates, an Olympic champion.

(Multimedia)

Howard is the first athlete from New Brunswick to win an Olympic gold medal in either the Summer or Winter Games.

Howard's journey to Olympic gold has been well-documented after the Brad Gushue rink from Newfoundland and Labrador became the first Canadian men's team to win the Olympic curling competition since the sport was re-introduced to the Winter Games in 1998. He was invited to join the young team - comprised of Gushue (skip), Mark Nichols (third), Mike Adam (second), and Jamie Korab (lead) - as alternate as they prepared for the Olympic trials in Halifax, N.S. The idea was that his experience and knowledge would help with game strategy. Later, Adam volunteered to step aside so that Howard could take his place, a move that strengthened the team and saw them earn the right to represent Canada at the XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

After finishing second in the round-robin part of the competition, Team Canada defeated the United States in the semifinal, setting up a match against Finland for the gold medal. In the final, Howard made a key shot in the second end which helped Canada score two points and tied the game. A six-point sixth end sealed the victory for Canada, and the Finns shook hands after eight ends, igniting celebrations in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, as well as across the country.

Howard ranks the gold medal as the crowning achievement in a curling career that has spanned three decades. Before moving to New Brunswick in 1998 he skipped Ontario teams to eight Brier appearances, and two Canadian and World Championships. Since he has been in the province, Howard has won the provincial men's championship five times, and the provincial mixed title twice.

Howard continues to give back to the sport he loves. He pioneered rule changes which have made the game more interesting to spectators, and he has been a volunteer instructor at skill-development camps held at his home club, Curling Beauséjour Inc. in Moncton, as well as an ambassador for the sport wherever he plays.

Howard and his wife, Wendy, have two children, and live in Moncton.

Mel Keeling

In the words of one of his former athletes, Mel Keeling personifies what a coach should be. He has been, says another, the cornerstone to the development of athletics in New Brunswick.

(Multimedia)

There is no doubt that for the last 40 years Mel Keeling has been the most successful track and field and cross-country-running coach in New Brunswick, if not all of Canada. He has had a hand in developing and training almost every great runner New Brunswick has produced. Athletes he has coached hold 22 provincial track and field records, and those under his tutelage have set Canadian records and represented Canada at the Pan-American and Commonwealth Games, and at the World Championships.

Keeling established the Fredericton Legion Track and Field Club in 1964, and has been the club's head coach ever since, training athletes for both indoor and outdoor competitions. At the same time he also found time to coach the FHS and University of New Brunswick (UNB) track and field teams, and the cross-county teams for the Fredericton Track Club, FHS, UNB and St. Thomas University. Keeling was head coach of the New Brunswick team at the Canada Games in 1969, 1973 and 1989, and he was middle-distance coach of the Canadian team at the 1977 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico.

From the relative isolation of New Brunswick, Keeling has produced national and world-class runners, including Willy Best, an national team member for seven years, 800-metre record holder, and gold medalist at the 1995 Canadian Championships; Wayne Stewart, Canadian record holder who represented Canada at the 1977 World Cross-Country Championships; and Kelsey Daley, a member of the Canadian team at the 2005 Pan American Junior Track and Field championships.

In addition to the success achieved by athletes individually, Keeling's teams also ranked among the best in their respective conferences. FHS won the New Brunswick high-school track and field championships for four straight years, and the intermediate boys' cross-country championships for eight straight years. The UNB men's and women's cross-country teams dominated the Atlantic University Athletic Association (AUAA) championships in the early 1980s, and Keeling was named the AUAA Coach of the Year in 1980 and 1982.

Described as a leader and mentor, Keeling has been a positive influence on the lives of hundreds of young New Brunswick athletes, inspiring them to be successful and productive citizens.

A member of the Fredericton Sports Wall of Fame, Keeling lives in New Market, N.B. with his wife, Shelly, and daughter, Elissa.

Andrew McKim

Andrew McKim’s stature may have kept him from pursuing his career in the National Hockey League (NHL), but it did not keep him from establishing himself as a bona fide star at every level at which he played. (Multimedia)

McKim’s career covered 16 years, from 1984 when he starred for Team Atlantic at the Under 17 World Championships, until 2000 when a concussion forced him to retire from the Zurich Lions of the Swiss Elite League.

After two outstanding seasons as a member of the Saint John entry in the provincial midget AAA league, McKim joined the Verdun Canadiens of the Quebec Major Junior League in 1986. He finished second in voting for the Rookie of the Year award, and was Team Canada’s leading scorer at the World Under 18 Championships.

During the 1988-89 season McKim scored 50 goals and 55 assists, and was voted Verdun's most valuable player. The following season with the Hull Olympiques he finished sixth in league scoring with 130 points - including 66 goals, the most by any junior player in Canada. He was selected as an all-star, named the league's most valuable player, and won the most sportsmanlike player award for both the Quebec and Canadian hockey leagues.

At only five feet seven inches tall and 165 pounds, McKim was passed over by NHL teams in the 1990 entry draft. It was facetiously suggested that since he could skate, shoot, pass and stickhandle as well as any player, he should take boxing lessons to complement his game and attract the attention of NHL scouts.

From 1990 until 1995 when he moved overseas, McKim played professionally with the minor-league affiliates of several NHL teams. He was the leading scorer and most valuable player with the St. John's Maple Leafs of the American Hockey League in 1991-92, and was the top scorer and a league all-star with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1994-95. He also played in 37 NHL games with the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings.

In the five years he spent in Europe playing in the Swiss and German elite leagues, McKim led his team in scoring three times. He played for Team Canada at the World Championships in 1995, and was the tournament's top scorer as Canada won the bronze medal. In 1995 and 1999 he represented Canada at the Spengler Cup, and in 1996 was a member of Team Canada, which toured the country and played in the Deutschland Cup.

McKim currently lives in St. John's, N.L. He and his wife, Leanne, have two children.

Jean-Guy Poitras

Jean-Guy Poitras' position as one of the top badminton officials in the world has taken him around the globe.

(Multimedia)

His more-than-30-year involvement with the sport began in 1972 in his native Edmundston, and grew to include leadership roles at the regional, provincial, national and international levels. A former president of Badminton New Brunswick, he served on the executive of Badminton Canada, and is currently vice-president responsible for awards and equity. Poitras is also president of the Canadian Badminton Officials' Association and of the PanAm Continent Officials' Association. As one of only five evaluators of officials in the world, he was recently named chair of the International Badminton Federation (IBF) assessment panel, which qualifies umpires for international events.

Since 1980, Poitras has refereed over 600 international matches, including the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, seven world championships, four world-team championships, three Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games, and numerous international tournaments. He has also refereed at five Canada Winter Games, the Canadian championships, and le Jeux de la Francophonie canadienne. In 2005, he received the prestigious Fox 40 Kitch MacPherson Award of Excellence from Sports Officials Canada in recognition of his significant contributions to badminton at the national and international levels.

While his greatest contributions and achievements have been in badminton, Poitras has used his many talents to benefit sport and its participants both in his community and his province. His work in Edmundston has run the gamut from coaching minor and university-level athletes in a variety of sports, to assisting with the organization of the Canadian Special Olympic Winter Games and the provincial wheelchair games, and to taking a leadership role in promoting and delivering programs in physical education, coaching, sports and recreation.

Poitras has contributed in an executive or administrative capacity to several provincial organizations, including Hockey New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, and Jeux l'acadie. He was a member of the Finn-Campbell New Brunswick Amateur Sport Commission (1978-80) and a member of the advisory committee to the Université de Moncton Leadership Institute (1984-91).

A professor of physical education at the Université de Moncton campus in Edmundston, Dr. Poitras is respected as an exemplary leader who has had a positive impact on those around him. A widely published author, he has written books and articles on sports, including badminton and health, as well as biographies of physical-education leaders from northwestern New Brunswick.

Poitras and his wife, Lise Lang, have three grown children.

Lloyd Stirling

For Lloyd Stirling, baseball was a way of life. By his own admission he began his career when 11 years old, and at the tender age of 14 was pitching for a senior team in his native Saint John. (Multimedia)

In 1925, while still a teenager, he joined the newly formed Saint John Water Department team, which included among its players Charles Gorman of speed-skating fame. Stirling quickly proved that he belonged, winning 21 of the 25 games he pitched, leading the team to the Maritime Championship. He threw a no-hit game against Bathurst to win the provincial championship, and won two games against Springhill, N.S. to set up the final series with Charlottetown, P.E.I. for the Maritime title. Saint John won both games in convincing fashion, with Stirling recording one of the victories.

In 1927, Stirling continued his mastery on the mound. He won 30 games with the Saint John Fusilliers, including 11 in a row, and in one game stuck out 20 batters. He won three straight playoff games, as the Fusilliers won the New Brunswick title. It was inevitable that Stirling's performance would come to the attention of professional teams, and the Boston Red Sox sent future Hall-of-Famer Hugh Duffy to scout him. Stirling was invited to the Boston training camp in 1928, and while he performed well, he could not unseat the more-experienced pitchers in the Boston lineup.

For the next 10 years, Stirling played with professional teams in Canada and the United States. During the 1935 season with the Winnipeg Maroons of the Northern League he recorded 24 wins against only two losses, and had 13 victories in a row, leading the Maroons to the league pennant.

After a short stint with Toronto of the International League in 1936, Stirling accepted an offer as playing manager of Sorel of the Quebec League, which featured several former major-league players. The team won two league pennants, but by then his arm was ailing, and Stirling retired as a player in 1937.

Stirling managed in Trois-Rivieres, Que. during the 1938-39 season, where he gained notoriety by bringing in one-armed outfielder Pete Gray. Gray later spent the 1945 season with the St. Louis Browns.

After returning to New Brunswick, Stirling remained active in baseball, and is credited with starting a minor program in Moncton in 1946. He later served as president of the Babe Ruth League in Saint John. He died in 1974, and is survived by his wife, Marion Sweet, and his son, Harry Stirling, of Fredericton.

Derek Wisdom

Since his arrival in New Brunswick in 1963, Derek Wisdom's efforts to promote and develop soccer province-wide have earned him the nickname Mr. Soccer.

(Multimedia)

A native of Porth, Wales, Wisdom immigrated to Saint John to accept a teaching position. He became involved as a soccer player with the local club, and as a league referee. He helped to organize the first indoor soccer league in Saint John in 1972, coached the first competitive youth team in 1975, and served as president of the Saint John Soccer Association for three years.

Wisdom's involvement with Soccer New Brunswick has spanned 40 years. In 1966 he helped establish the association, and was its first secretary-treasurer. In 1987 he was the inspiration behind the Atlantic Regional Training Centre, which operated until it was replaced by the High Performance Centre in 1994. Following his retirement as a school principal in 1992 he became the association's executive director, a position he held for six years, and in 2005 he was appointed to his third term as association president.

Wisdom's impact on the sport can be seen in the phenomenal growth which soccer has enjoyed in the province over the last 40 years. Registration of players, coaches and officials has increased significantly, and much of the credit is given to Wisdom's organizational skills and passion for the sport. Soccer New Brunswick registered over 17,000 players in 2005.

Wisdom has been instrumental in bringing several international matches to New Brunswick. In 1984 he organized an exhibition match between Canada and Italy at the Canada Games Stadium, which attracted over 7,000 spectators, the largest crowd ever to watch a game in New Brunswick. Saint John also hosted the women's Under 19 World Cup exhibition game between Canada and Mexico in 2002, and the men's Olympic qualifying match between Canada and the United States Virgin Islands in 2003. Soccer New Brunswick successfully bid to host the 2005 Under 14 National Club Championships in Moncton, and the 2006 under 16 event in Saint John.

Wisdom has been qualified as a national referee assessor since 1977, and has been a member of the Canadian Soccer Association's (CSA) referee's committee for over 17 years. He chaired the committee from 1980 to 1988.

In 1988 Wisdom received the CSA's Aubrey Stanford Award for outstanding service and overall contribution to the development and growth of soccer in Canada, and in 1998 the CSA awarded him a life membership. In 2001 he was the recipient of the Lifetime Volunteer Achievement Award from Sport New Brunswick.

Wisdom and his wife live in Rothesay.

06/03/13

MEDIA CONTACT: Kathy Meagher, executive director, NB Sports Hall of Fame, 506-453-8930 (work), fax 506-459-0481, e-mail kathy.meagher@gnb.ca.

06/03/13