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The Evolution of the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame

The North Bay Sports Hall of Fame was founded at a meeting at Memorial Gardens Thursday, October 20th, 1977, but the idea had been propounded by Nugget writer Britt Jessup for many years in his various columns. The other key triggers were a sports recognition dinner organized by a group that included Ron Luesby, Bill Beckett and Ron Duffy and the writing of a draft constitution by Pete Handley

The constitution was approved and an executive elected on that October evening and the NBSHF has been active ever since.

C.M. 'Mort' Fellman was named Chair at that first session with Handley being elected Secretary and John Chomick, Merv Stoughton, Bill Beckett, and John Toswell, Directors. Jessup, Buck Kyle Sr, Jim Kelly and Duffy agreed to act as Chairs of the various decade Nominating Committees while Dave Saad was named Chair of Ways and Means.

In its better than thirty year existence the NBSHF has had only three Chairs. Fellman resigned for health reasons and Jack Leckie assumed the post February 21st, 1979 and directed the fortunes of the Hall for 17 years until September 10th, 1996 when Bill Jacko accepted the position. Leckie remained on the Board as Past President and for a number of years also assumed the duties of Nomination Chair.

Handley has been Secretary since that first meeting and has also been Treasurer since 1980. Saad has remained on the Board from the start and is currently Nomination Chair.

The North Bay Sports Hall of Fame became a Registered Charity through the Federal Government - Canada Customs and Revenue Agency - April 25th, 1979 (11905 9293 RR0001) and became an Incorporated body in 2005 (1644955).

The first informal induction of members took place as part of a Sports Roast at Pinewood Park Motor Inn on February 2nd, 1980. Five living members were informally installed - Pete Palangio, Regis "Pep" Kelly, Jim Kelly, Ab Demarco Sr. and Ken Wharram. Three deceased individuals were informally installed at a luncheon the same day, also at Pinewood - George Martyn, Gordon "Duke" Keats, and Lionel "Scoop" Lalande.

On November 8th, 1980 the NBSHF began a series of formal induction dinners with the first taking place at the Golden Dragon on Lakeshore Drive. That evening a total of 14 men were recognized as Bob Gracie, Ab Hansman, Herb Parks, Howard Teskey, Dom Scappatura and Major Leo Troy were inducted along with the eight listed previously.

Figure skater Norah McCarthy Kirby became the first female voted in as an Automatic Member in September 1982 while Norma Higgs received the necessary votes a month later. The first team to be Honoured (the Hall does not induct teams), was the North Bay Rinkey Dinks, a ladies softball team which captured an All Ontario Championship in 1929, the first provincial sports crown to come to the city. The team was honoured on February 27, 1982.

The Memorial Gardens Sports Arena has been the home of the NBSHF since day one with the support of then Arena's Manager Terry Talentino and the City of North Bay. A showcase was built in the 1980-81 school year by students in the building construction course at West Ferris Secondary School under the supervision of Stan Courtney. NBSHF inductee pictures and artifacts were displayed in the showcase in the front corridor of the Gardens until the Hall of Fame Room was constructed. In June, 1981, Talentino continued to show his support for the project by recommending a major facelift to the Gardens which entailed the construction of a small auditorium and second floor media room to replace a stage area at the north end of the building. City Council agreed with the plan in 1985 and a Provincial Infrastructure Wintario grant allowed the planned construction and other renovations and the NBSHF was permitted the use of the space on the first floor, which became known as the Hall of Fame Room. Two showcases were included in the plan and when the Room opened in 1987, the sports group soon filled them with local sporting artifacts and pictures. The walls bore the pictures of inducted Hall members and with the passage of time, and the cooperation of Gardens officials, the NBSHF expanded into other showcases in the Gardens corridors.

Each year since 1980 the NBSHF has held a Dinner which started out simply as an Induction celebration for new Hall members with each inductee receiving an impressive, hand inscribed scroll and a Hall of Fame pin. Various local sporting groups soon realized the importance and value of such a regular ceremony and began to ask to have their particular individual award included on the agenda. Each year at the Induction and Awards Dinner several more Hall nominees are inducted and a dozen major sports award winners are honoured. Included on the awards roster are the Jack Burrows Sport Achievement Award (formerly the Downtown Improvement Area and the USAF Sports Achievement Award - the oldest local individual recognition trophy dating back to 1966); the Judge H.J.Reynolds Memorial (Hockey); Al Brennan Memorial (Coach); Jim Aspin Memorial Award (Executive); Mitchell/Avery Memorial (Football); George Martyn Memorial (Basketball); Peter Palangio Sportsperson of the Year; Dominico Family Award (Softball/Baseball) (formerly Al Knapp Memorial Award); Britt Jessup Memorial (Outstanding Achievement by a local male athlete to the Ontario level); Mort Fellman Memorial (Outstanding Achievement by a local female athlete to the Ontario level); Pete Handley Friend of Sport Award; James Kelly Memorial (Team of the Year); Soccer Dedication Plaque. The recipients of all but one of the above awards are chosen by the North Bay Sports Awards Committee, which, although having close ties to the NBSHF, operates as a separate entity unto itself. The NBSHF thus not only inducts members from all areas of the North Bay sporting world - athletes, builders, coaches, officials, sponsors et al as well as honouring teams, it also reaches out to all local (and in some cases regional) sporting organizations by providing a vehicle to honour their individual achievements. In 2014 the Board agreed to expand the area from which candidates for induction can be nominated.

In the year 2000 the City of North Bay celebrated its' 75th birthday and the NBSHF originated, coordinated and organized a series of Best of 75 panels where the top ten female athletes, the top ten male athletes and the top twenty builders of sport as well as the top ten teams of the first 75 years were selected. A Best of 75 Dinner was held late that year, as part of the city's celebration of three quarters of a century, with proceeds going to equipment for the new North Bay Hospital.

The Hall of Fame has also supported a University/College Bursary which presented two awards to deserving students for a number of years, and has provided aid to Sport North Bay, an umbrella group which aims to provide a unified voice for sport, among other things. In 2010 the NBSHF instituted a $1000 award for a student in the new Physical Education Program at Nipissing University.

The NBSHF maintains a small museum of artifacts and showcases and adds to a collection of heritage sports interviews through the cooperation of Cogeco Cable. Local sports research is also carried out on a regular basis. The NBSHF has created several Powerpoint presentations for public display including the NBSHF Members, local Olympians and historic photos presentations. This web page is another example of how the NBSHF attempts to inform and reach out to the sporting community.

The Hall has embarked on a program to preserve and display heritage sports photos. As of this writing some 5,500 pics have been scanned and tagged. Through an arrangement with the Gardens, a series of wall cases were installed in the main inner lobby in order to display these historic photographs on a rotating basis. If you have any historic pictures that you would be willing to loan to the NBSHF, please contact Brent Pigott (705-495-1463) or Pete Handley (705-472-3573). The pictures will be scanned into our system and the originals will be returned.

2012 proved to be a most eventful year for the NBSHF with the writing and publishing of a book and the complete redesign of the Hall of Fame Room at the Gardens. The book, ”They Were Our Heroes” which contains bios of all Hall inductees through 2012 along with over a hundred heritage sports pix, was published with the help of Wingate Lottery. It was well received by the public with over 350 sales in just over a half year. The remodeling of the Room, occasioned by the fact that all available wall space had been utilized, was completed late in the year and involved a completely new plaquing system with up to date write-ups along with new flooring and lighting through the cooperation of the City of North Bay. The renovation project had been completed only a short time when the city announced a multi- million dollar upgrade of Memorial Gardens to accommodate the Brampton Battalion OHL franchise which has been shifted to North Bay. The work began in the spring of 2013 and the NBSHF is now housed on the walls of the North Concourse which has made more space available and has brought the member plaques and photos more to the attention of the public. The NBSHF Executive and the Planning Committee had numerous meetings with the City to discuss plans for the new NBSHF display areas. It is hoped that progress in this endeavour will be completed by the end of 2015.

The North Bay Sports Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization operated entirely by volunteers for the people of North Bay. It was created to "honour and perpetuate the names and deeds of those whose athletic prowess brought recognition to their community and to themselves; of those whose interest in and work for sport resulted in a climate which benefited athletes and athletics."

If you wish to nominate someone for consideration for induction into the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame, download the nomination form, complete, and return it to the committee for review.

The Hall’s Latin motto tells the story – Factis Eorum Reminiscere
“By Their Deeds Shall Ye Remember Them”

Updated July 22, 2014


North Bay Sports Hall of Fame