Hockey Hall of Fame announces nomination process and website
It’s about time.
That was the sentiment Tuesday in Regina as the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame unveiled its nomination process.
Despite producing a disproportionate number of National Hockey League players, the province has never had a venue to celebrate its hockey legends. That will change next summer in Swift Current.
The Credit Union I-Plex will be the site of the Hall of Fame. For Mick MacBean, co-chairman of the Hall’s 11 member Board of Directors, the nomination process is a big step. “Today marks the culmination of one of the processes where we’re now ready to go to the public with the induction process that Jack Brodsky has led.”
MacBean, along with Board director Jack Brodsky, Minister of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport Bill Hutchinson, and former NHL star Tiger Williams, spoke at the press conference.
Each expressed their excitement about the upcoming nomination process.
The public is encouraged to visit www.saskhockeyhalloffame.com and download nomination forms.
The Hall is looking for players, coaches, builders, teams, officials and grassroots contributors hailing from Saskatchewan. 10 players, five builders, five teams, as well as officials and one grassroots builder will be the first inductees at a ceremony in Swift Current next August.
Nominations must be received by September 1st, and the inaugural class will be announced on January 20, 2012, which happens to be Hockey Day in Saskatchewan. The nomination panel will be made up of seven people, including two members of the media and Tiger Williams.
Who the first inductees should be was a fun topic for debate.
“ You start looking at the selection of players in Saskatchewan, it’s absolutely unbelievable,” said Tiger Williams. “Gordie Howe, Johnny Bauer, the list goes on and on. We are at the center of hockey as far as I’m concerned, and now we get to tell the rest of Canada.”
Reaching this point was not easy for MacBean and his colleagues. What started as an idea from Wymark’s Marc Habscheid three years ago ended up in a province wide effort to make the Hall a reality. MacBean remembers visiting with hockey fans throughout the province.
“ We didn’t have one rejection from anyone to sit on the board because everyone in Saskatchewan gets hockey. They’re passionate about it and people were surprised we didn’t have a Hockey Hall of Fame. We do have a good sports Hall of Fame, but nothing specifically for hockey. So everyone understood the need.”
The work is far from over for MacBean and the Board. Funding still needs to be found for the venue’s construction, which will be located next to the curling rink at the I-Plex.
“ The City of Swift Current has been a great partner,” MacBean noted, “and we have agreed that we will go out and fundraise to develop all that space. Our fundraising challenges are big. We’re going to have to raise three-quarter of a million dollars to develop this space and make it a real attraction.”
Attracting tourists traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway will be key to the Hall of Fame’s success. The Board of Directors are choosing a design that is a “must-see, top-end venue,” that will attract hockey fans from across the country. The tourism impact on the city is not lost on Minister Hutchinson.
“This is going to give them yet another reason to visit Saskatchewan and spend a bit of time. Maybe spend a few dollars. It is really going to help put Swift Current in particular and Saskatchewan in general on the map.”
Hutchinson said although the Provincial Government has not been asked to help with funding, they are expecting a proposal within the next few months.
The next step for the Hall of Fame will be establishing a fundraising program. Businesses throughout Western Canada will be approached to contribute. MacBean, a Swift Current native now living in Calgary, is confident Saskatchewan will step up to the plate.
“There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm due to the economic boom. There’s also a large corporate presence in the province right now. So I hope it’ll translate to the fundraising efforts.”
MacBean also encourages local residents to volunteer for a committee that will organize next year’s inauguration. Once the fundraising efforts are complete, a call will go out to the public for volunteers.
For former Swift Current Bronco Tiger Williams, the Hall of Fame’s success will depend on the community’s passion for hockey.
“I think it means everything. This is a big deal for us in Swift Current. I hope everybody in the Southwest appreciates the effort the Board of Directors have put into it.”
As MacBean prepares to hit the road to fundraise, he could not help but share his enthusiasm for the future.
“ We’re going to create a top tier venue to host and honour these people who are being inducted. I think this is going to be a real jewel for the city.”