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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Ottawa soccer player Butterfield wins McGill’s Jean Béliveau award

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Former Ashbury Colts rugby co-captain Cameron Butterfield. File photo

By Martin Cleary

Cameron Butterfield is an “A” student at McGill University – as in Academics, Athletics and Acts of kindness, and that’s also the grade mark in each of his electrical engineering courses.

By putting all those “A”s together, it allowed the Ottawa native to earn a significant award at McGill. Butterfield was recently named one of four recipients of the Jean Béliveau Athletic Award, which is in its sixth year.

The athletic financial award, which ranges in value between $2,500 and $6,000 under U Sports regulations, honoured the memory of the former Montreal Canadiens’ captain, Hall of Famer and inspirational community leader.

The award was open to all McGill student-athletes, who had a certain grade-point average and showed community leadership. Butterfield, an academic-award winner and a senior defensive midfielder on the soccer team, touched all the bases.

“My immediate reaction to winning was a moment of shock and excitement, which quickly morphed into gratefulness and pride,” Butterfield, 21, wrote in an email interview. “This award is extremely prestigious and it really means a lot to be receiving it.

“Firstly, it is an unbelievable honour to be associated with Jean Béliveau and everything he achieved. But also, to be in the company of previous winners, some of whom are former Olympians and U Sports national champions, it is truly an honour.”

Butterfield entered McGill as a three-sport athlete, having played soccer, rugby and hockey at Ashbury College (2014-17) as well as in the community respectively with Gloucester Hornets, Bytown Blues and Ottawa Sting.

Winning the award was even more special as Béliveau was an icon on his favourite NHL team. Butterfield never met Béliveau, a 10-time Stanley Cup winner who died in 2014, but he admired the work he did in the community.

“What he achieved for the Montreal Canadiens as a hockey player was truly incredible and what he did for the community through charity and youth support was equally important,” Butterfield added. “The impact of everything he did as a citizen and as an athlete for Montreal and Canada cannot by overstated.”

When not in class or on the field, Butterfield participated in numerous volunteer activities with the soccer team. He was involved with the team’s Relay for Life cancer fund raiser, a Seeds of Change team fundraiser, and holiday gift wrapping for Sun Youth, an organization supporting underprivileged families.

“Athletics and academics have been a part of my life since before I can remember,” Butterfield wrote. “For me, soccer is its own kind of escape from everything else, it’s almost easier to succeed in my studies with it than without it.

“And once you discover the impact you can have and the joy you can bring simply contributing a little of your time to help others, volunteering in the community becomes an easy decision.”

The Jean Béliveau award isn’t the first for Butterfield, who achieved a GPA of 3.92 out of 4.0 as a 3rd-year student. A member of the Dean’s Honour List and Principal’s Student-Athlete Honour Roll, Butterfield has two scholarships.

Butterfield holds Ross Ritchie Family, and Engineering Class of 1983 scholarships. The Jean Béliveau award was presented to two male and two female McGill student-athletes, who demonstrated student and/or community leadership and academic achievement.

The 2020-21 school year is Butterfield’s senior year and it has been difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no soccer this fall, but he’s planning to return to McGill next year to complete his degree and university soccer.

As a student, everything from lectures to research labs have been virtual.

“It’s not ideal… but at the same time everyone’s having to deal with the same situation and there’s not much you can do except to do your best,” he added. “I’ve been competing in sports my whole life, and I feel like I can speak on behalf of every athlete hoping to compete for McGill this year, when I say it has been difficult to have that taken away.
“Hopefully, we will have that chance to play again soon. I have another year left to complete my bachelor’s degree and I am looking forward to returning to the team next year.”

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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