They’ve shared championships with their community. They’ve shared gold medals, an NHL record, fields of dreams.
This past weekend, they received a token of appreciation.
Wheelchair racer Michelle Stilwell, NHL player Alan Hill, soccer player Ernest “Fat” Edmunds and parks and rec builder Larry McNabb were inducted Saturday into the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame.
Edmunds and McNabb were honoured post-humously and Hill is retired from playing hockey, but Stilwell is still in the prime of her career so she said the induction came as a shock.
“I thought hall of fame is after you retire from sport,” she said. “So I just want it to be very clear that I’m not done. There is still many more things for me to do. But I am grateful for the recognition of my sport achievements to this point.”
Stilwell is a multiple-time Paralympic gold medallist, both in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing, and the world-record holder is bound for next summer’s games in London.
“I hope that my aspirations, as crazy and far-fetched as they might seem sometimes, continue to inspire and motivate people to find a way to welcome active living into their lives and maybe even set incredible goals for themselves and follow their own dreams,” she said. “My hope is that people will discover that with a positive attitude, anything is possible.”
Hill was inducted by his friend Bill Bestwick, who suggested that it was more difficult to break into the NHL in the mid-1970s when there were only 18 teams and far fewer roster spots available around the league.
“In that era, when you had to be tough and you had to be physical and it was a man’s game, you had to come prepared to play each and every night and do what it took to be a member of the NHL. Al did that,” Bestwick said.
Hill was there to accept his induction. He said Nanaimo coaches such as Cliff McNabb helped to toughen him up early in his career and helped prepare him for trying to crack the Philadelphia Flyers roster as a rookie.
“They were a very close-knit team and they didn’t like the kids coming in,” he said. “So it was a tough battle but it was a great experience and it was one of the funnest times in my life.”
Hill would go on to make his NHL debut with a record-setting five-point night, and ended up playing 13 years of pro hockey and coaching for nine years before becoming a scout with the Flyers organization.
“Now when I look back, I say, ‘Not bad for a skinny Nanaimo kid,’” Hill said.
The final induction Saturday enshrined Larry McNabb in the sports hall of fame in the builder category. Mayor John Ruttan, who inducted McNabb, said the term “builder” is appropriate for the longtime parks and rec chairman who led numerous sports facilities projects in the city.
“When there was something to do with children, with youth and with sports, he passionately backed it and he got everyone around him to back it,” Ruttan said. “He saw not only a vision for sports, he saw a vision for Nanaimo and I think Nanaimo’s a far better place today for all the things Larry McNabb did for us.”
The other member of the 2011 induction class, Ernest Edmunds, was honoured for his soccer exploits in the 1920’s and ’30s when he starred for various Nanaimo teams and also played for Canada internationally.