HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Ottawa sports enthusiast Jean-Marie Leduc has a million-dollar idea for the development of Lebreton Flats.
If only he had the millions of dollars that would be required to dig the hold, build the building and fill it with an assortment of eye-opening artifacts from Canada’s sports history.
Leduc, who turned 86 on Easter Sunday, would love to see the creation of the Canadian Sports Museum, which would reflect the development of national athletes and teams over the decades through equipment, trophies, films, photos, results sheets and newspaper clippings.
Recognized as The Skate Man for owning the greatest collection of ice skates in the world, Leduc is worried there isn’t enough space to house the artifacts that Canada’s high-performance athletes used to attain their great achievements.
Leduc is a good example of that. He has 381 pairs of the most unique skates in the world from hockey, long-track and short-track speed skating, figure skating and recreational skating, but he doesn’t have a home to show these boots and blades or tell their captivating stories.
In a city of national museums, Leduc figured the federal government would financially support a building which would properly promote Canadian history and in this case sports history.
“We are losing too many of our artifacts,” he said in a recent phone interview. “How many hockey players are selling their stuff? We are losing our history. Canada is a country that is very well known for its sports.”
When the old Montreal Forum was being built, Leduc had serious discussions with influential Canadiens official Claude Mouton about displaying some of the skates worn by former Habs players. Mouton loved the idea, but it never saw the light of day.
Leduc also has other old pieces of sports history in his Castle Heights neighbourhood home: two old curling corn brooms, which haven’t slapped the ice in many decades; several golf trophies approaching one hundred years old that were given to him because the original owners couldn’t find a good spot for them; and a tennis racquet used by his grandfather at the Wimbledon championships.
The Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame, which has more than 250 honoured inductees as athletes and builders plus some teams, has had a number of sport artifact exhibits, but there isn’t enough room in the Heritage Building at Ottawa City Hall to present many more pieces. There has been talk of having satellite displays of Ottawa’s sporting history throughout the city, but the idea still remains an idea.
In his mind, Leduc envisions a two- or three-story building for a full presentation of Canadian sports artifacts. If a stand-alone Canadian Sports Museum isn’t possible and there is a plan to construct a new sports arena, he would like to see the arena’s concourse areas on every level filled with Canadian sports artifacts and preserved behind glass.
While the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame continues to show a wonderful tribute to Olympic and world figure skating champion Barbara Ann Scott, a Canadian Sports Museum could show the equipment, clothing and photos of the country’s greatest Winter and Summer Olympians and Paralympians as well as professional athletes over the past 100 years.
Some individual sports in Canada, like hockey and football, have specific buildings that are halls of fame and museums, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame has more than 100,000 artifacts, but only 2,000 are on display, while some are on loan, to tell the stories of more than 680 inductees.
A Canadian Sports Museum focused on the development of all sports, the athletes, coaches and builders, would be a strong addition to the Lebreton Flats project, which will be home to the city’s new main library and could be the site of a new arena as well as many other places where people can congregate.
The museum could also feature the skis of Olympic champion Anne Heggtveit and the tea set she received from the Ottawa mayor, the spikes belonging to Olympic sprint champion Donovan Bailey or the speed skates of four-time Olympic medallist Gaetan Boucher.
“I have his skates from Sarajevo (the 1984 Winter Olympics, where he won two gold medals and one bronze),” Leduc said. “But no one at the speed skating hall of fame wanted them. I’m sure people would be interested to see them. They were given to me by Gaetan Boucher himself.”
One day, Tobi Nussbaum visited Leduc’s neighbourhood as a city councillor about a civic matter. When Leduc published his book, Lace Up, A History of Skates in Canada, he sent a copy to Nussbaum, who is now the CEO of the National Capital Commission, which is overseeing the development of Lebreton Flats.
Nussbaum is aware of Leduc as he sent a thank-you card to the author. Maybe it’s time for Leduc to drop Nussbaum a note to discuss his idea for a Canadian Sports Museum.
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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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