BLG Awards salute excellence in ‘dramatically’ improving U Sports
Winners of annual honours exemplary in academics, sport and leadership
It was a crazy idea, Doug Mitchell readily admitted, but 25 years later, it has become synonymous with Canadian university sport excellence.
The BLG awards — named after Mitchell’s law firm Borden Ladner Gervais — were created in 1993 to heap some much-needed recognition onto the best and brightest in the classroom and on the field/ floor.
And here we are celebrating the quarter-century anniversary Monday at the Martha Cohen Theatre when, starting at 7 p.m., the 2017 BLG awards will be handed out.
So, 224 nominees and soon-tobe 50 winners later, even Mitchell, the instigator, did not foresee such a long and distinguished run.
“Definitely not,” he said. “It was kind of a wild idea that I had after I came back to Calgary from my five years of secondment to the CFL as commissioner. I had seen while I was there how much focus the U.S. universities and colleges get on their athletes and on their sports programs and thought what can I do that might increase the profile in Canada of the university sports?”
Mitchell came up with the concept and readily received support from TSN and from local media.
“The only difficulty we had was the CIAU (now U Sports), didn’t like it,” Mitchell said.
“They said it’s coming out of Calgary so that means Calgary would win it all the time. So the U of C athletic director (Bob Corran) went to them and said this is something that is gift-wrapped and handed to you and it would be foolish not to approve it.
“I have to give all these people credit for standing behind it and saying, yes, we’re prepared to support it.”
Each passing year, Mitchell continues to be amazed by the quality of the student-athletes and their ability to combine excellence in their studies and in their chosen sport.
“The rewards aren’t all about academics, but everyone who has been nominated has been a great student,” he said. “It’s also about athletic success, sportsmanship and leadership. How they have the time for both is incredible.
“It’s very exciting. We’ve been having lots of support. Our firm has gotten behind it, the media has been great and some of our sponsors have been with us from Day 1, which is incredible. It goes to show how important people feel it is and how university quality has improved dramatically.”
Monday’s winners will each receive a $10,000 postgraduate scholarship, while all finalists will take home a commemorative gold ring.
The following are the worthy candidates for the 2017 BLG awards:
FEMALE Sarah Bujold
Sarah Bujold is the Atlantic conference nominee, a star hockey player out of St. Francis Xavier University. Originally from nearby Riverview, N.B., Bujold is the first female in her sport from her school to be nominated for the BLG, which is surprising given the X-Women’s perennial success in the AUS. The 21-year-old was clearly the dominant player over the 2016-17 season, as in 24 regular season games she amassed 24 goals, including six game-winners, and 43 points. She was also second in the nation with a plus-29 plusminus ratio.
A soccer star out of the Universite de Laval, Arielle Roy-Petitclerc was presented with the U Sports Player of the Year award, the third Rouge et Or individual to win it. A midfielder, she finished tied for first place in her conference with 18 points, including 10 goals, in 14 games. And at nationals, she put in an all-star performance to lead Laval to its second title in three years. Roy-Petitclerc was also a key cog in Canada’s University Games squad which finished fourth, this nation’s best result, in the summer of 2015 in South Korea.
Originally from Vancouver and now calling Calgary home, Claire Sumner is a standout cross country runner at Queen’s who has taken after her mom Kate and her aunt Alison and has seen her own national and international career take off. Last fall, Sumner was an unblemished 3-for-3 in her U Sports competitions with the Gaels. She also led her school to a second-place finish at nationals, the best result for the women in 13 years. On the international stage, she placed fourth at the NACAC championships in Florida and 52nd out of 104 competitors in her IAAF world championships debut in Uganda in late March.
Danielle Brisebois continues the UBC Thunderbird tradition of vying for the BLG award as she is the seventh finalist from this school over the past nine years. A native of Caledon, Ont., Brisebois was instrumental in the T-Birds’ national volleyball title this season at Toronto. She averaged tournament highs in kills and points per set, including an amazing 20 kills in the 3-1 gold-medal win over topseeded Alberta. Brisebois will now set her sights on continuing her volleyball career on the international stage with Canada and hopes to parlay her varsity resume into a professional career in Europe.
MALE Philippe Maillet
Over his four-year hockey career at the University of New Brunswick, Philippe Maillet has become one of the most potent attackers ever in the Atlantic conference and in U Sports. The right winger has scored 60 goals and 106 assists in 101 regular season games, an average of 1.64 points per game. He was named U Sports hockey player of the year in his fourth season — his finest — when his 23 goals and 32 assists led the nation in scoring. He followed that up with a brilliant playoff which ultimately led to UNB winning its second consecutive national crown. After his university season, Maillet signed on with the L.A. Kings farm team in Ontario, Calif.
In just his second year of eligibility, defensive lineman Mathieu Betts with the vaunted Laval Rouge et Or has dominated at his position. He was named national rookie of the year in 2015 and followed that up this past season with the J.P. Metras Trophy as most outstanding down lineman. In his rookie campaign, he set a record with 12 quarterback sacks and continued where he left off in his sophomore season, adding nine QB takedowns in eight regular season games. His 21 total sacks are only 5.5 off the Laval record and 10.5 away from the conference career mark. His efforts were huge in helping the Rouge et Or to yet another Vanier Cup win.
Jonathan Lao was a U Sports soccer sensation right from the get-go, when he was named the nation’s rookie of the year and a first team all-Canadian. Success, as it were, has followed him ever since. Last fall, he became only the second York University player to take home U Sports Player of the Year honours leading the Lions to an undefeated regular season, a conference silver medal and sixth spot at nationals. Lao has spent five years with the national team program and played two seasons in the German Liga 3 before returning home to resume his studies.
Born and raised in nearby Port Coquitlam, B.C., it was only fitting that Ryan Sclater should join Trinity Western University and ply his prodigious volleyball talents at that institution. And he did so, with a flourish. The 6-foot-6 outside hitter won a starter role in the fall of 2014 with the Spartans and quickly became someone to be relied upon. Sclater starred in his final season, finishing fifth in the country in kills and points per set, as he set single-season and career TWU marks in both of those categories. He was instrumental in the Spartans’ repeat as national champions.