Family central to Hall of Fame inductees’ journey

Family: it is what gets us through the daily grind, pulls together in the tough times and the good.

On Friday at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum the class of 2017 gathered and with some of the provinces’ most accomplished athletes on hand the conversation was less about trophies, medals and awards and more about the people who got them there.

Eleven athletes and one team were inducted into the hall Friday, and while all were humbled and honoured for the opportunity to be part of such an illustrious class, they all circled back to their family.

Betty Carveth Dunn for example, a spry and witty 92-year-old, was selected as a pioneer for her work in baseball. Dunn was quick to point out without family, her accomplishments building the sport of baseball might never have been recognized.

“It’s a great honour, especially for my family, too. They were the ones that really pushed it. It’s the ultra,” said Dunn, the oldest person ever to be inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

Dunn in her brief time in front of the audience, joked about once pitching 13 innings for the Rockford Peaches in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 40s. She added her two pitches were a mean fastball and a suckerball.

“it was a spinner. Looked like it was coming very fast, but it didn’t. They’d swing before it ever got to the plate,” she said.

She also mentioned her other family, the Peaches and the opportunity she’s had to see them again at various ceremonies including the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. She was among 64 Canadian women that played in the AAGPBL.

“We have reunions every year,” Dunn said. “You have a lot of friends, that’s where you meet friends, playing ball.”

Captain Canada Ryan Smyth stood out among the class of honourees, but said as much as the award means to him, it was important to recognize the sacrifice and pride his family had about the induction.

“Being raised here in Alberta, with my parents the time and the commitment that parents put in,” he said. “To see it come through, to this level is not just for me it’s for my family. My wife and kids have sacrificed a lot. That’s truly what it’s all about.”

Smyth who played the majority of his career with the Edmonton Oilers, including the year he retired in 2014 said the support he received in his home province is something he’ll never forget.

“Growing up in Banff, obviously a big Oilers fan. Very fortunate to play 14 years here in the province,” he said.

“I lived and played my dream at home. Loved every minute of it. Appreciated the people and the commitment that they showed– got their bums in the seats to cheer on their team. I was just fortunate and blessed to a part of it all.”

The 41-year-old added that even celebrating the other nominees is an important part of his family being on hand Friday.

“Just hearing the other inductees get up there and talk. Betty is 92-years-young. It’s very special for my son and daughters to hear that and to see that things are possible,” Smyth noted.

There was also Rick Duff, who holds a career boxing record of 251 wins and 13 losses. He boxed in the 1984 Olympics alongside the legendary Lennox Lewis and travelled the world with the sport.

When Duff got the call in January for the Hall of Fame, he reached out to his son who had been with him along the boxing journey. His son passed away shortly after hearing about the induction, but the rest of Duff’s family was on hand Friday for the ceremony.

“It hit me hard. I spent four or five days with him before he passed,”Duff said. “It brought me back, it brought us closer like we were when we were together boxing and travelling the world together. It was quiet nice to feel like we were together again.”

Duff was also a member of the only Canadian boxing team to ever defeat the Americans. He said representing Canada was the highlight of his career.

“Basically the experience, representing my town, my province and my country. What an honour. I fought hard for the red and white. I was never going to quit. That was a proud moment,” he said.

A family all on their own, members of the 1984-85 Ooks were also on hand at the ceremony. The Ooks were undefeated, 30-0 on their way to the national title that year along with winning a Christmas invitational tournament in Switzerland. They are one of just five North American collegiate hockey teams to be undefeated for an entire season.

Keltie Duggan (swimming athlete), Doug Jones (baseball builder), John Kucera (alpine skiing athlete), Hans Maciej (tennis builder), Herbert McLachlin (basketball builder), Marilyn Palmer O’Connor (golf athlete), Sharon Trenaman (squash athlete) and Jeff Hansen (Bell Memorial Award- sports writer) were also inducted.

Dunn perhaps was able to summarize best why so many family and friends came together to celebrate so many accomplished athletes at the event.

“Sports are just wonderful for young people,” she said. “keeps you out of mischief.”

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