March 9, 2011
Legends Jenkins, Hawley, Chuvalo ... need a homeSearch on for place to honour Ontario's best
By BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Ferguson Jenkins and George Chuvalo are homeless.
Two of Canada’s greatest sports legends could use a leg up.
Just don’t expect to see them hanging out on the street corner holding a styrofoam cup.
Personally, both still have a kitchen table under which to tuck their knees; it’s their home at the Ontario Sport Legends Hall of Fame that needs a permanent address.
“We’re not looking for a building, we just need a place to showcase the greatest athletes that have ever played or were born in Ontario,” said Hall chairman Bruce Prentice. “What we envision is a city park, or a walkway or a street along which we’d put up pedestals with plaques commemorating people like George Armstrong, Sandy Hawley, Russ Jackson and the Chuvalos of our memory.”
In other words more like Canada’s Walk of Fame than the Hockey Hall of Fame. Currently the hall is looking at two possible sites; one along Bremner Way just outside Toronto’s Rogers Centre, the other located in Belleville. Prentice isn’t picky about where the Hall might call home, as long as it happens.
“The Rogers Centre would be nice because of all the traffic it gets but we’ll go to any city that’s interested.”
Twenty Ontario communities were solicited in the spring of 2010; 10 responded but so far the hall has been unable to reach agreement on power-sharing and finances. “We’re not interested in bricks and mortar other than a souvenir shop. We don’t collect artifacts other than a couple things,” said Prentice, “that I’ve got tucked away in my shed.”
So far progress moving anything out of that shed behind his Toronto Beach area home has been exasperatingly slow.
There were reports last year that Belleville’s Brock Trail would be an ideal location. “The ambiance of putting the pedestals that we have along that trail would work out very well,” Prentice said.
But it hasn’t happened. Yet. He’s hoping a small city such as Peterborough, Kingston, Windsor or Sarnia might, like St. Mary’s (home to Canada’s baseball hall), or Fredericton (home to New Brunswick’s provincial hall), become intrigued at the potential promotional and marketing possibilities.
It wouldn’t exactly be Cooperstown. It would likely only encourage a few tourists to stop by but every year it would bring visitors and dignitaries for the induction ceremonies. The benefits might be minimal but so would the cost. A municipality would have to invest somewhere between $1 to $3 million “but there wouldn’t be any maintenance or up-keep because we’re not asking for a hall or anything ... just a place to put the pedestals,” said Prentice.
The hall was formed in 1995 by Prentice who was also originally involved in setting up Canada’s Baseball Hall of Fame. But it’s always been marginalized and between 2004 and 2008 didn’t even elect anyone. “It just isn’t right that Ontario’s athletes shouldn’t be honoured. Every state in the U.S. has a hall of fame, other provinces, even cities, have halls and so do most sports. It’s time we recognized our own heroes and found a place where they can be celebrated and remembered.”
The inductees last year included Dave Keon, George Armstrong, Bobby Baun, Howie Meeker, and Dr. Ron Taylor. Past members include Ferguson, Chuvalo, Sandra Post, Bill Crothers and Sandy Hawley.
Duly elected. Duly inducted. But no place to go.