A large crowd was on hand last Saturday at the Nanaimo Museum, there to witness the induction ceremony for the four new additions to the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame.
First to be honoured was local hockey player Gene Carr, who followed in his father Red’s footsteps to the National Hockey League and now joins him as a hall of fame member. Poor health prevented Carr from attending the ceremony, but accepting on his behalf was good friend Jim Robertson.
Carr grew up playing hockey here in town, then joined the junior A Kelowna Buckeroos when he was just 15 years old. He was scouted by Patty Ginnell of the Flin Flon Bombers and played with that team for two years. In 1970 he was the Western Canada Junior Hockey League rookie of the year and the following year was on the first all-star team.
It was also in 1971 that Carr was drafted to the NHL and he had the honour to be the first player from Western Canada to be selected in the first round. In a strong draft that saw Guy Lafleur the first pick, Carr was fourth overall, taken by the St. Louis Blues.
Traded to New York, Carr played four years with the Rangers and twice made it to the Stanley Cup finals. His speed as a skater was legendary, but a series of injuries unfortunately hampered his career. Beginning in 1973 Carr played for five years with the Los Angeles Kings, then had stints with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Atlanta Flames. Due to his injuries he retired from hockey in 1979, having played 465 regular season games in the NHL and 35 playoff games, scoring 84 goals and 144 assists.
International field hockey star Sue Reid was the second of this year’s inductees. Reid developed a love for the sport after being introduced to it while at Woodlands Secondary. She played on several provincial teams and while attending the University of Victoria won three Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union championships. As an all-star on teams that won four conference championships, Reid was nicknamed ‘the Rock’ for her strong, solid play.
Named to the Canadian field hockey team in 1992, Reid participated at the Olympic Games that year in Barcelona, where the team placed seventh. Subsequent years saw her compete for Canada at the World Cup and the 1995 Pam Am Games in Argentina.
Inducted as a sports builder last Saturday was long-time coach Les Varro, known locally as Mr. Boxing. Born in Hungary, Varro was a boxer himself when younger, then turned to coaching after moving to Nanaimo in the early 1970s. He began coaching at the Nanaimo Boxing Club, with a sign on the building stating, ‘It’s better to build a boy than mend a man.’
During the next three decades, Varro trained countless local boys. Among them were many who won provincial and national titles, including Bill Bain, Alan Brown, Steve Varro, Mickey Griffin and Canadian champion Jack Snaith. He was head coach for the B.C. team that won a national gold medal in 1975 and that same year was coach of the Canadian team for the Olympic trials in Montreal.
Varro worked tirelessly at promoting the benefits of amateur boxing. In 1992 he was presented with the Harold Mann Award for outstanding merit for his contributions to the success of amateur boxing in B.C. He retired in 2004 after 34 years as head coach of the Nanaimo Boxing Club, having been a positive influence in the lives of hundreds of young people.
Inducted to the hall of fame in the team category was the Margaret Fuller curling rink, winners in 1957 of the highest level of national curling available for women at that time.
Skip Fuller, together with third Pat Good, second Sylvia Koster and lead Edna Quinney, won Vancouver Island championships four straight years from 1954-57. The team captured the B.C. championship in 1957, earning the right to represent the province at the Western Canadian Championships in Saskatoon. The competition was in effect a national playoff, as it included Quebec as well as Prairie and Western representatives. The Fuller team dominated, topping the field with a 7-1 record and making them the top women’s curling team in the country. Regrettably, there was no world championship for women curlers in those days.
Gene Carr, Sue Reid, Les Varro and the Margaret Fuller curling team: four excellent additions to the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame.
Whatever your sport, a reminder in closing to play your hardest, play fair, and show good sportsmanship.
To read a related article, with another photo from the ceremony, click here.