A decade ago, the late Dr. Barry Urness had a vision.
A staunch advocate of the value of sports to a community, Urness set out to establish a means of recognizing the achievements of athletes, coaches and builders in the Central Okanagan.
That vision continues to grow and evolve as the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame hosted its seventh annual induction ceremony on Thursday morning at the Coast Capri Hotel.
With the four newest entrants (listed below) this year, the hall has expanded to 28 official inductees. When all members of teams are taken into account, there are now more than 100 individuals with their names etched in the COSHF.
Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame managing director Pat Kennedy said the hall has come a long way since the Kelowna Packers’ hockey team was the first and sole inductee in 2008.
“We feel like we’ve established a bit of a history and a tradition in a relatively short time,” said Kennedy. “None of this would have ever existed without Barry (Urness), all those people in the community who also believed in the concept, and have since carried the torch for Barry.
“We feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”
As much as Barry Urness wanted to see a permanent, stand-alone home for the COSHF, the memorabilia and artifacts displays are currently being housed at the Capri Centre Mall in Kelowna.
And while a full-time location is on the executive committee’s wish-list for the future, Kennedy said the more immediate focus is continuing to expand the scope of the COSHF and its profile in the community.
“Our life certainly doesn’t depend on it but who knows, maybe in the three to five years we’ll be closer to having a permanent home,” he said. “Right now, without a physical building, the Hall of Fame is truly an event. And people who have attended our breakfasts know that, just how informative and emotional they can be.
“We’re looking at expanding our programming,” Kennedy added, “perhaps with satellite displays at sporting events, have our inductees going to speaking engagements. We are still young, we’re a non-profit and it all takes money, so we’re proceeding cautiously but diligently to keep growing.”
Jay Christensen was inducted into the hall in 2010. The former CFL player and Okanagan Sun player and coach said COSHF is an event that’s beginning to gain some traction and one that the local sporting community should be proud of.
“I think it’s a huge deal for athletes, coaches and volunteers, to come back and get that recognition, a reward for the time and effort they’ve put in. So many people behind the scenes have thankless jobs, and it’s great (the Hall of Fame) exists to recognize them,” said Christensen.
“The first couple of years, you didn’t hear much about it but I think people in the community are beginning to talk about it more and more, I get texts and emails about it now. Awareness is growing and that’s great.”
Whatever direction the COSHF takes in the future, Pat Kennedy said the core goals and philosophies remain the same.
“It’s really about continuing to recognize the achievements and contributions of those people who have done so much for sports in our community,” Kennedy said. “It’s not just about gold medals, just as important are the people who have helped build sports in this area. Their tireless work at the arenas, the soccer fields, the coaches and volunteers who simply make Kelowna a better place to live.”
For more information on the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame Museum, visit kelownamuseums.ca
The 2014 Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame inductees:
• 2004 Kelowna Rockets
Ten years after that triumphant Sunday in May, the Kelowna Rockets’ Memorial Cup victory continues to resonate with hockey fans in the Central Okanagan.
The Western Hockey League champs clinched major junior hockey’s ultimate prize on home ice with a 2-1 win over the Gatineau Olympiques in the 2004 championship game.
On Thursday morning, the 2004 Rockets were official inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in the team category.
The Rockets’ first ever CHL championship team was coached by Marc Habscheid and featured star players such as Josh Gorges, Shea Weber and Blake Comeau.
From the hosting of the event, to the quality of hockey played, to the hoisting of the Memorial Cup, Rockets’ V.P. of business development Gavin Hamilton said it was an unforgettable experience for the entire organization.
“For our team, it was a championship that we will never forget and this induction will help cement that legacy,” said Hamilton. “And for our (Hamilton) family it was 10 days in May that were the best we ever had.”
• Gillian Thomson—Builder
Gillian Thomson first made her mark in sailing as an elite competitor, winning a gold and silver medal at the 1992 and 1993 Hobie 18 women’s world championships, then a silver medal in the Trapseat 16 Pan American Games in 1998.
Thomson has since garnered provincial, national and international recognition for helping to grow the sport through her Learn to Sail and Disabled Sailing programs.
For Thomson, the recognition from her home community is both humbling and rewarding.
“I feel privileged to be part of the Central Okanagan sport community,” said Thomson.
“I think that sport in Kelowna is a big part of the culture, just to be part of that connection is thrilling.”
• Glen Mervyn—Athlete (deceased 2000)
After capturing a gold medal at the British Empire Games in 1958 and a silver at the Pan Am Games in Chicago in 1959, Glen Mervyn was part of Canada’s silver medal winning rowing crew in men’s eights at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. He later coached the men’s pairs team to a gold medal at the at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. At the age of 50, Mervyn became a national and world cycling champion in his age division.
Mervyn’s wife, Christina, who accepted the induction on his behalf, spoke about her husband’s humble yet competitive nature, and how the true significance of his silver medal win didn’t set in until many years after.
“He came very close and it was a great disappointment back then, but as the years went on it got shinier,” Christina Mervyn said. “I think when he realized what he had done to win that with that crew, he was pretty proud.”
Meryvn passed away in 2000 at age 63.
• Mike and Brenda Van Tighem—Builders
Mike and Brenda Van Tighem touched the lives of many young athletes during their time in Kelowna.
Among their many initiatives, Mike helped found the Kelowna Track and Field Club in 1983 and spearheaded the Jack Brow Memorial Meet, one of the premier track events in B.C.
Brenda spent 12 years as a coach with the Kelowna Track and Field Club coached Team B.C. athletes at nationals from 1990 to 2000.
Together, the Van Tighems coached a number of national and international calibre athletes, including Malindi Elmore, Brenda Shackleton and Tracy Melesko.
“This honour has really highlighted for both of us how fortunate we have been to have met and worked with so many outstanding people,” said Brenda Van Tighem, “and so many truly, memorable events. We’re deeply honoured by the recognition.”
The Van Tighems now live and work in Calgary.