Two inductees who reached the pinnacle of their sport and three who helped others attain theirs, will be welcomed officially into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame Museum in November.
Announced on Tuesday as the newest inductees into the hall were the 2004 Memorial Cup champion Kelowna Rockets (team); Glen Mervyn (athlete), a silver medalist in rowing at the 1960 summer Olympics in Rome; Gillian Thomson (builder), who has earned provincial, national and international recognition for her volunteer work in sailing; and Brenda and Mike Van Tighem (builders), tireless and highly respected track and field coaches and volunteers for more than 20 years in Kelowna.
Up against the Guelph Storm, Gatineau Olympiques and Medicine Hat Tigers, the Western Hockey League champion Rockets went undefeated in round-robin play, allowing just two goals in three games behind the goaltending of Kelly Guard, who would go on to win the most valuable player award.Captained by Kelowna’s own Josh Gorges and playing on home ice, the 2004 Rockets completed the magical story by winning the Memorial Cup, emblematic of junior hockey supremacy,
Facing Gatineau in the final, Guard and his teammates again shut the door and defeated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions 2-1 in the final on goals by Randall Gelech and Justin Keller just 3:06 apart in the third period.
“The best memories you have of winning are of the battles you go through with the guys,” said Gorges in a recent interview with Justin Fragapane of canadiens.com. “You come out of a game and look around the room and all you see are guys who are banged up – they’ve got ice-packs on their shoulders on their knees, cuts and stitches – and you know how tired they are because you know how tired you are.
“When you win together you become friends forever. Most of those guys who I won with on that team are all still my good friends today.”
In a recent 10th anniversary tribute by Kelowna Rockets play-by-play announcer, Regan Bartel, Gelech was quoted at the time of the Rockets’ win as saying after the final buzzer:
“I think I have broken down in tears about three times”, he said after the final buzzer sounded. “I never dreamed in a million years that this would ever feel this good. Now that we’ve done it, it feels like I need to wake up. It feels like a dream,” added Gelech, who was selected the Memorial Cup all-star team that year and went on to play seven years of minor pro hockey.
Many of the Rockets on the Memorial Cup team went on to play in the National Hockey League including Gorges (San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens), Shea Weber (Nashville Predators), Blake Comeau (New York Islanders, Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets), Kyle Cumiskey (Colorado Avalanche), Troy Bodie (Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs), D.J. King (St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals), Cam Paddock (St. Louis Blues) and Mike Card (Buffalo Sabres).
Other members of the team, many of whom went on to play professional hockey in North America and Europe, were Nolan Waker, Chris Ray, Simon Ferguson, Brent Howarth, Justin Keller, Patrik Valcak, Bichal Blanar, Kevin Reinholt, Stewart Thiessen, Darren Deschamps, Brett Palin and Derek Yeomans.
Marc Habscheid was the head coach, assisted by Jeff Truit, Larry Keating, Ryan Huska and Kim Dillabaugh.
It was announced in January that the 2004 Rockets will also be inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton on July 25.
The stroker for the 8s rowing team that won the only Canadian medal (silver) at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Glen Mervyn will join teammate Don Arnold of Winfield in the Central Okanagan Sports Hall Of Fame Museum.
Mervyn, who died of cancer at age 63 in 2000, was also a member of the University of B.C. 8s team that won a gold medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Wales in 1958. He also stroked for the 8s team that rowed to silver at the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago.
Mervyn enrolled at UBC in 1957.Born at Pender Harbour, B.C. in 1937, Mervyn moved to Kelowna with his family in 1945. He began rowing with the urging on Kelowna’s Ray Bostockin 1955 and with only four months of training with Bostock, Russ Ensignand Budge Winters, won a B.C. championship title.
His wife, Christina Mervyn, was in attendance at the Kelowna Museum on Tuesday and said her husband would have been “quietly thrilled” at being inducted to the hall of fame.
“He was humble guy about it (Olympic silver) because he always thought it should have been gold,” said Christina with a smile. “But as he got older, the medal did get shinier, especially when he realized it was the only medal Canada won that year.
Christina Mervyn said she will always remember Glen as the most positive and encouraging person who “never said never”.
“He always said that if you wanted something badly enough, you could do it.”
Mervyn, inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1978, was true to his word when in 1987, at the age of 50, he connected with the Kelowna-area cycling community and expressed interest in participating in road racing and time trialing.
Combining local support and guidance with his own dedication and scientific approach to training, he went on to win the silver medal in the road race at the Canadian masters cycling championships in 1989.
Continuing his pursuit of excellence, he returned to the national championships in 1990, 1991 and 1992, where he won gold each year in either the road race or the time trial.
Mervyn’s accomplishments at the Canadian national level took him to the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, where he won the gold medal in the time trial event three consecutive years and the road race gold in 1991.
Following his three-year battle with colon and liver cancer, Mervyn made a triumphant return to the World Senior Games in 1997 where he won the gold medal in the road race and a silver in the time trial.
It was at that event he was presented with a special Courage To Come Back Award by the organizing committee.
Gerry Morrison, who nominated Mervyn as an inductee, competed with his friend at national and international cycling and cross country events.
He said he was inspired by Mervyn when he was alive and still is.
“I’ll always remember him saying: ‘Gerry, if you have anything left after a competition, you didn’t go hard enough.’
“And when he was in the hospital with cancer, he told me: ‘Look at me and remember, if you want to do something, do it before your time is up.”
Mike and Brenda Van Tighem
Fixtures in Kelowna for almost 20 years, the Van Tighems, both school teachers, were the heart and soul of track and field in the Central Okanagan before leaving for Calgary in 2001.
Mike Van Tighem was among several Kelowna citizens who revived the Kelowna Track and Field Club in 1983 and helped organize the construction of the track at the Apple Bowl.
Among other national medalists under his tutelage were Aundrea Bertoia, Carmen Ballard, Gillian Moody, Teena Kripps, Jennifer Newton, Johanna Symes and Molly Bannerman.He was a founding member of the first Jack Brow Memorial Track and Field Meet in 1985 and went on to coach national middle-distance runners —Brenda Shackleton, Tania Jones and Malindi Elmore, the latter going on to represent Canada at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Mike Van Tighem also coached Canadian track and field and cross country teams at various international events and was a sought-after on-sight track and field announcer for national and international meets.
Brenda Van Tighem, a Level 4 NCCP coach, was also a long-standing committee member for the Jack Brow Memorial and was the first Hershey track and field co-ordinator for the B.C. Interior.
She too coached Canadian national teams and coached some of Kelowna’s top athletes — Laura Walberg, Karen Gubbles, Tracey Melesko, Olivia Smoody, Ardin Harrison, Kyle Guthrie, Lauren Siebel, Natasha Brisotto and Amanda Stearns.
“Both Mike and Brenda are kind and generous people with a passion for track and field,” said Don Bertoia, who spoke on the couple’s behalf at the hall of fame announcement. “They don’t have children of their own, so they adopted each of the athletes and dedicated themselves to caring for and developing their talents.
“While they played a significant role in helping athletes reach the podium at many different levels, they believed the measure of success was in the athletes being satisfied with their performance.”
Bertoia, who ran (800 metres) for Canada at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, added that the Van Tighems were and still are ‘very well respected’ throughout Canada and put Kelowna on the map when it came to track and field.
Malindi Elmore said the Van Tighems created an environment of excellence and inclusion for all their athletes.
“They were outstanding role models, always acting with integrity, encouraging others to be the best they could be through hard work, dedication and sportsmanship.
“Not only was athletics alive and thriving in Kelowna during their years here, but hundreds of lives were touched and profoundly impacted by Mike and Brenda’s involvement.”
Bertoia passed on a message from the Van Tighems, who are still in Calgary, but are expected to attend the hall of fame induction ceremony in November.
“This is a tremendous honour — an honour that has been made possible only because of a small group of people who had the foresight and initiative to form the Kelowna Track and Field Club in 1983,” they said. “The founding group was made up of people of the highest integrity who formed the club for the best possible reason — the kids. If it wasn’t for those to formed and developed the club, we would not be receiving this recognition today. Thank you.”
Described as an organizational powerhouse at the local, provincial, national and international level of sailing, Gillian Thomson will be inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall Of Fame Museum as a builder.
Still active as a member of the Canadian Yachting Association board of directors and the International Federation for Disabled Sailing, Thompson was president of the Central Okanagan Sailing Association from 2004 to 2007 and director for Learn to Sail programs at COSA and B.C. from 1994 to 2011.
Perhaps her most significant legacy as a volunteer will be the impact Thomson has had on females in the sport.The Kelowna native played a major role in COSA being recognized as having the best sailing school in Canada in 1991 and 2000 by the Canadian Yachting Association. She was also named B.C. Sailing’s volunteer of the year in 2007.
“There is no one in Canada who has turned more females on to sailing than Gillian,” said Ron Rubadeau, a former superintendent of the School District 23 and a sailing enthusiast. “It’s not her job, it’s her passion. Gillian has worked the phones, rallied the neighbourood and tamed the waters to become both an exceptional sailor and sailswoman.”
Dan MacAfee, a past president of COSA, said the role modelling Thomson provides to girls for the sailing community is evident as the number of female sailing instructors is either equal to or exceeding those of males.
“Gillian exemplifies what Aristotle was talking about when he wrote about excellence. ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’
“Gillian’s habit is to show us an inspired future by leading through example.”
While Thompson will be inducted to the hall as a volunteer, she has been competitive at the national and international level as well.
She won a gold medal at the 1992 women’s Hobie 18 world championships, a silver medal at the 1993 worlds, and claimed a silver medal in the Hobie 16 Trapseat Sailing event at the 1998 Pan American Games.
“The establishment of the Central Okanagan sports hall of fame was exciting when it was formed a few years ago, but I didn’t expect to be standing up here with the inductees,” said Thompson on Tuesday. “It’s a really big honour and I am truely humbled.
“Sport in Kelowna has always been a big part of my life and my family’s life. It’s a big part of the culture in Kelowna. Just to be a part of that connection is thrilling.”
The new members of the Central Okanagan Sports Hall Of Fame Museum will be inducted officially on Nov. 20 at the Coast Capri Hotel.
Tickets for the breakfast gala will be on sale at the Kelowna Museums.
Founded in 2008, the first inductees to the Central Okanagan Sports Hall Of Fame Museum were the 1958 Kelowna Packers hockey team.Past Inductees
2009 – Joanne Ritchie, Rick Folkcurling team, Jack Brow and the Athans family.
2010 – Jay Christensen, Don Arnold, Teddy Bears basketball team, Mervyn Andrews and Henry Tostenson.
2011 – Lawrence Nagy, Eric Tasker, Joan Campbell, Dan Bertoia and Aundrea Bertoia.
2012 – Ermina Russo, Alex Recsky, Barry Urness, 1998 Okanagan Sunand Glenn Ennis.
2013 – Brock Aynsley, Blair Chapman, Wayne North and the 1988 Sutton junior women’s curling team.
Nominations are forwarded from the general public and scrutinized by a nomination committee, a selection committee and the sports legacy committee.
For more information on the Central Okanagan Sports Hall Of Fame Museum here.