Sports Hall of Fame honours 2017 inductees, high school stars
BY MARGARET CALDBICK
Staff Five area sports greats were officially inducted into the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame (GSHOF) last week at a banquet with some 375 people in attendance at the Maxville & District Sports Complex.
The new inductees are Gerald Blair, Edwin Hay, Andre Poirier, Jean-Guy Ractliffe, and Serge Vaillancourt.
Accepting on behalf of her late husband, Gerald M. Blair of Maxville, who died in 2002, were his wife, Lorna Blair, and their son, Ken, who flew in from Alberta on the same flight as past GSHOF inductee and former CFL placekicker John “J.T.” Hay (1991) to attend the banquet.
Gerald Blair played for the Maxville Millionaires, in 1955 taking on the mantle of coach. He would continue to coach local teams, and his many contributions to the game included supporting travelling hockey teams.
Ken Blair described his father as “a large man, a quiet man, who liked to play with his big toys—his big bulldozers—in the summer, and in the winter, he loved immensely spending almost every day at the old Jubilee Area in Maxville.”
Gerald Blair, a decorated WWII veteran, ran a heavy equipment and construction business for fifty years and helped build Maxville’s curling club, of which he was a charter member. He also constructed local football fields and baseball diamonds.
Ken Blair pointed out John Morris at a table and said he recalled his father spending many hours with Mr. Morris’ late mother, minor league coach and past GSHOF inductee Gwen trophy when he was 17, and won a scholarship to Canton College in New York State where he scored 27 goals over his two-year stint with the ATC Norsemen.
Later in Buffalo, André Poirier played at SUNY for the Bulls. He collected numerous collegiate sports awards.
He continued to play hockey throughout his life on many teams and in many leagues, including 15 years with the competitive Orleans Old Comforts. He was also instrumental in finding sponsors for the reinstated women’s hockey program at the University of Ottawa where his daughter Roxanne played.
In her gracious acceptance speech, Suzanne put herself in her late husband’s shoes to thank his family, friends, relatives, and neighbours who helped and encouraged him. She also mentioned by name the people who
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kindly picked up a young André as he hitchhiked to Alexandria to play hockey.
“He would have also thanked everyone who helped him grow stronger,” said Mrs. Poirier. “JeanYves Jeaurond, Stanley Fraser, Gwen Morris, Gary Shepherd, Gerry Simpson, Billy Urquhart— there were so many.”
“And oh, I forgot to mention Pierre Brunet who ran the canteen at the arena,” she added, to applause from the audience. “He would feed André many, many Saturdays.”
The next inductee at the podium to receive his induction plaque was Greenfield resident Jean-Guy Ractliffe, an international sidecar racing champion and a worldrespected chassis designer and builder in the sport described as “the weirdest, most terrifying motorsport there is.”
Mr. Ractliffe thanked the GSHOF for recognizing the sport of sidecar racing, his sponsors, his friends, and especially his wife, Christine, and often co-rider, ”for hanging in there.”
Hanging in there is right when you consider the physics of sidecar racing. As Jean-Guy’s co-rider, Christine Ractliffe is required to shift her weight precisely to guarantee that the balance on the vehicle is perfect for every turn. In the straightaways, co-riders tuck as down as far down as possible to achieve aerodynamic efficiency.
The last inductee of the evening was the ever-effervescent Serge Vaillancourt, who was introduced by his younger brother, Michel Vaillancourt. He described his brother’s remarkable career which began a left-fielder at age 14 with the Alexandria men’s league when he won rookie of the year. The next year Serge switched to pitching, and over the 16 years that followed, he pitched an estimated 1,200 games, striking out approximately 15,000 opponents.
Michel Vaillancourt, a former teammate of his brother’s, described several highlights of Serge’s career, including a certain Moose Creek fastball tournament which included teams from the powerful Ottawa Metro League that showed up with two, three, and in some cases, four pitchers.
“That particular weekend, after winning the first two games, we had to play three games on Sunday,” he recounted. “Serge pitched all three games, winning the quarters, the semis, and a 5-0 win in the final—all against Ottawa teams. An amazing performance.”
Mr. Vaillancourt concluded by introducing “The greatest fastball pitcher ever developed in the county of Glengarry County, my brother Serge.”
Serge Vaillancourt thanked his first coach, Mike Depratto, for his nomination, the GSHOF Board for considering him worthy of the honour, and congratulated the other inductees saying, “It’s truly a privilege to be joining the Hall with such an outstanding group.”
He also passed on his congratulations to the junior athletes and concluded by thanking his former teammates for their spectacular play. “They made me look good.”
The banquet’s guest speaker was veteran hockey player, Green Valley native, and Cornwall Nationals head coach Joel Trottier, who captained the Nats early in their inaugural season, capping off a pro career that saw him playwith 12 teams in the US and in Europe. In
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INDUCTED: Sitting on the dais in front of the inductee portraits by GSHOF artist Deborah Kerr are, from left, Serge Vaillancourt, Jean-Guy Ractliffe, Suzanne Poirier (accepting for the late André Poirier), Edwin Hay, and Lorna Blair (accepting on...
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