CALGARY — Two of Red Deer’s most decorated athletes have joined the Canadian sport’s elite by being part of the 2012 class inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Jamie Salé and Jeremy Wotherspoon were two of nine people that will be enshrined in the Hall as part of ceremonies in Calgary, Thursday.
The others included Salé’s partner David Pelletier, rower Derek Porter, bobsled pilot Pierre Lueders, soccer player Charmaine Hooper and Canadian hockey star Scott Niedermayer. Calgary Flames owner Daryl (Doc) Seaman, posthumously, and sport pioneer Marion Lay entered as builders.
Salé and Pelletier were the electrifying story of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. They skated a beautiful Love Story free program, only to be given the silver medal behind a Russian pair.
A judging scandal was revealed and the Canadians were awarded a second set of gold medals later in the Games. Figure skating’s judging system was overhauled after that.
“I don’t think we changed the sport,” Salé said. “Everybody that preceded us, we all contributed to getting us to that point.
“Unfortunately there was a really bad scandal or controversy that made that happen. It was time to make changes in our sport. It made our sport better. I’m really proud to be part of history now.”
Salé and Pelletier were married following those Games, but later divorced. Salé wed former NHL player Craig Simpson earlier this summer.
But Salé and Pelletier were comfortable and amiable Thursday as large screens at the Hall repeatedly showed images of their post-skate embrace of 2002.
“I had two posters as a kid in my room, Gilles Villeneuve and Wayne Gretzky, and they’re both in here,” Pelletier said. “To think I might inspire someone to achieve what they think is impossible is an amazing gift.”
Wotherspoon won 67 World Cup races in long track speed skating and still holds the world record in the 500 metres.
Canada’s Sports Hall Of Fame opened the doors on its new facility last year. The red and white structure at Canada Olympic Park now houses 529 inductees across multiple sports.
Also being inducted was one of Canada’s most decorated hockey players who has a unique post-career project. Scott Niedermayer has taken a stand on a controversial environmental issue.
For Niedermayer to line up alongside those against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that would run through British Columbia is conspicuous.
Georges Laraque’s involvement in the Green Party notwithstanding, few hockey players campaign on the environment.
Since retiring two years ago, Niedermayer, a four-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medallist, has become a spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund, which says the pipeline threatens the Great Bear Rain Forest on B.C.’s coast.
“I grew up in a small town in the mountains and our parents had us out doing things,” said the Cranbrook, B.C. native. “The more I travel, the more I appreciate and respect what we have in our country. I felt it was important to try and hold onto that.
“I’m just sharing my opinions on things, my beliefs. That’s part of being in a democracy, I suppose, or should be. I know people will disagree. That’s fine too, I think. Not quite as fine as if they agreed.”
Niedermayer won every possible hockey championship there is during his career, including the Memorial Cup, world junior hockey championship, world championship and World Cup.
The defenceman was captain of the Canadian team that beat the U.S. in overtime for gold at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Niedermayer, 39, won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils and another with the Anaheim Ducks.
Niedermayer and his brother Rob won a Stanley Cup together with the Ducks in 2007. They were also teammates on the Canadian squad that won a world title in 2004.
“I’ve been tremendously fortunate throughout my hockey career of playing with great teammates, for good organizations and getting a chance to play for Canada in a bunch of international competitions,” Niedermayer said.
“That has added up to some success and some championships and some great memories. This is a great way to sort of sum all that up. It means a lot to get recognized for your accomplishments over a long period of time. It means a lot.”
Niedermayer continues to work in player development for the Ducks. Niedermayer and his family live in Anaheim and drive an electric car. They spend their summers in the Cranbrook area.
Hooper helped pave the road to Canada’s Olympic bronze medal in women’s soccer this summer. Her header versus China at the 2003 World Cup propelled Canada into the semifinals for the first time.
She appeared in 129 international matches for Canada during her 20-year career and scored 71 goals. Hooper, whose daughter Charlie accompanied her to the Hall, had watched the Canadian women’s team in London with interest.
“It was really great to see how well the girls did,” Hooper said. “It was kind of a rough road, but in the end they received a medal. It was great for the program at this point in time.
“Hopefully they continue that upward move to 2015 and be amongst the top countries in the world.”
Porter won Olympic gold with the men’s rowing eight in 1992 before switching to single sculls and taking silver in 1996.
“There have been a lot of rowers go through this hall,” he said. “Just look at the old black and white photos flashing on the screen. Canada has a great legacy in the sport of rowing for sure. I think Canadians embrace the sport really well.”
The Victoria native was coached by Mike Spracklen, who was recently fired by Rowing Canada. Rowers have spoken for and against him. Porter is firmly in the first camp.
“I am pro-Mike Spracklen,” Porter said. “Without him, I would not have a gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1992 I can guarantee that.”
Lueders didn’t attend Thursday’s ceremony because he is currently coaching Russia’s bobsled team. The Edmonton native won two-man gold with brakeman Dave MacEachern in 1998 and followed that up with a silver in 2006 with Lascelles Brown.
Seaman, who died in 2009, was among the six Calgary businessmen who brought the Flames to the city from Atlanta in 1980. The Second World War veteran was a key figure in building of the Saddledome in 1983, which was part of Calgary’s plan to host the 1988 Winter Games. Seaman also established hockey foundations that built arenas and offered scholarship.
Lay won Olympic bronze in swimming in 1968 and went on to found the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport. She also helped Vancouver win the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics.