Sports hall will be a Baron landscape

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame is full of sports royalty, but this is the first time that a Baron has made it in.

Joining a list of inductees this year that includes speed-skating great Catriona Le May Doan and cyclist Steve Bauer, is The Toronto Sun's own George Gross, fondly known in newspaper circles as The Baron.

The current corporate sports editor of the Sun, Gross' writing career spans more than 45 years.

"I always said, they're running out of names, that's why they picked me," said Gross said yesterday, with a chuckle. "There are so many great Canadians that have done so much more."

The honour represents the fourth Hall of Fame induction for Gross. He also has earned a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Slovak Hockey Hall of Fame and the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame, as well has receiving the Order of Ontario in 2003 and the Olympic Order in 1994.

Not bad for a man who came to Canada in 1950, after escaping from the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia with two dollars in his pocket and a minimal grasp of the English language. He began his journalism career with the Toronto Telegram in 1959 and remained there until the paper's demise in 1971 when he joined the Sun as sports editor.

Gross said his highlight as a journalist was winning the 1974 National Newspaper Award for his exclusive on the defection of Czech hockey star Vaclav Nedomansky.

Although born in Czechoslovakia, Gross is a proud Canadian.

"I lived one-third of my life in the country I was born in and two-thirds of my life in Canada," he said. "Am I Canadian? Absolutely. And I first came to that conclusion in 1966 at the world ice hockey championships in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia."

At that event, Canada was playing the Czech team in the semi-final round when a Czech player skated over the hand of goaltender Ken Broderick, cutting the ligaments in the Canadian's hand. In his infinite wisdom, the Swiss referee nailed Broderick with a two-minute penalty for tripping.

"I went berserk," Gross said. "I tore down to the referee's dressing room and screamed at him: 'You must be a damned Communist!' And he said: 'I am a member of the Swiss Communist party.' I couldn't hit him, but I wrote a blistering article. That's when I realized I was Canadian."


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