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HIGH ACHIEVERS: First-ever Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame virtual induction ceremony on Monday night

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Usually, it’s the athletes, the teams and the coaches who produce historic sporting moments, winning championships or garnering a career full of medals that catch the attention of the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame.

But this time, it’s the hall that is about to make some sports history. On Monday, March 29, the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame will stage its first-ever virtual induction ceremony, which will be more than 10 months after its scheduled in-person date.

The Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame Class of 2020-2021 will be honoured on Rogers22 in a one-hour television special (and on youtube), beginning at 8 p.m. The in-person dinner/induction was slated for May 31, 2020, but postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To refresh your memory, this year’s inductees are basketball’s Dave Smart, hockey’s Marina Zenk and Derek Holmes, sports medicine’s Dr. Don Johnson and physiotherapist Phil Ashcroft, and jiu jutsu’s John Therien.

The idea of staging a virtual induction happened rather quickly in the past month, after a member of the board of directors heard about Ontario’s ReConnect Festival and Event Program 2020-21. But everything had to be completed by March 30.

Instead of waiting another 14 months for the next scheduled in-person induction ceremony, the hall board bravely forged ahead with a virtual tribute, especially since it could recover up to 50 per cent of eligible costs from ReConnect.

The ReConnect program is run out of the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod is the minister responsible for that department.

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“We didn’t want to wait another year,” said Dave Best, the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame chair, in an interview. “It was unfair to the inductees. We didn’t want to wait another year just because we couldn’t sell tickets.

“The inductees are happy and they’re also relieved. I thanked them for their patience.”

Best will introduce each of the six inductees and there will be accompanying videos produced by Ed Blomeley. Dean Brown, the radio play-by-play voice of the Ottawa Senators, provided the voice-over.

Instead of a guest speaker at the ceremony, Brown will sit down with Gord Wilson, who is his colour commentator on the Senators’ broadcasts, for a one-on-one interview. Wilson recently rebounded from a heart attack and COVID-19.

As part of the evening ceremony, Best also is introducing a year-long community initiative called The Ottawa Sport Heritage Photo Challenge. Citizens are encouraged to submit Ottawa sports photos to the hall’s Facebook page.

13-time U Sports national-champion coach Dave Smart. File photo

During his 19 years as head coach of the Carleton University men’s basketball team, Dave Smart won an astonishing 13 U Sport national titles, nine coach-of-the-year awards and compiled an overall record of 656-101, .867.

A national and international women’s hockey referee, Marina Zenk was selected as the head official for the inaugural women’s hockey gold-medal game at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. She also was a talented goal scorer for Seneca College.

Derek Holmes touched all bases in his hockey career as captain of the 1968 national men’s team, a coach and general manager nationally and internationally, Hockey Canada’s first technical director and a long-time player agent.

Dr. Don Johnson was a legend in sports medicine, founded the Carleton Sport Medicine Clinic and was an accomplished endurance athlete. Phil Ashcroft was a physiotherapist at countless soccer, rugby and athletics events, including the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

John Therien is a ninth-degree black belt in Jiu Jitsu and holds the prestigious title of Hanshi (Leader of Leaders). He has coached and certified thousands of students to black-belt status at his various schools during the past 50 years.

Visit for profiles on each inductee.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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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