Former Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth will be inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame this year.
“It was quite flattering and honouring,” he said, about being told a week ago. “Being a part of the sports hall of fame, especially here in Alberta – it’s where I was born, where I was raised – it’s quite a thrill and an honour for me.”
Eleven athletes and one team have been selected for the honour in 2017.
Inductees include Olympic medallists, world champions and pioneers “who have dedicated endless hours to build sport and sport legacies to where they are today,” a news release from the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum said.
Smyth played 19 seasons in the National Hockey League, the majority of which were spent with the Oilers.
Ten years ago today, the Oilers traded Smyth to the New York Islanders. However, through a 2011 trade, he was reacquired by the copper and blue.
The veteran and fan favourite announced his retirement in 2014 and played his last NHL game in Edmonton on April 12 of that year.
“I have a deep passion and deep love for the game,” Smyth said. “I feel free when I get on the ice. I love that feeling being on the ice and the competitiveness and the thrill of scoring and being a factor in the game.”
Smyth said he can’t take all the credit. He said his four kids and wife have supported him through thick and thin.
“I wouldn’t be up here today without my teammates. They’ve helped me along my career, whether it be here in Edmonton, whether it be in Colorado or Team Canada for that matter. I’m very fortunate to be a part of great times that allowed me to give me that opportunity to succeed on in life. This is just another feather in the cap.”
The only team being inducted into the Hall of Fame is the 1984/1985 NAIT Ooks Men’s Hockey Team, the first men’s post-secondary varsity hockey team from western Canada to win every regular season and post-season game. That season, the team set six Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Championship records, including most goals and most wins.
The other 10 individuals to receive the honour this year are:
- National boxing champion Rick Duff
- Olympic medallist, swimmer Keltie Duggan
- Former president of Baseball Alberta, Doug Jones
- World Cup winning alpine skier, John Kucera
- Tennis athlete, coach, official and volunteer, Hans Maciej
- Founder of Edmonton Basketball Officials Association, Herbert McLachlin
- Golf champion Marilyn Palmer O’Connor
- Squash athlete, coach and volunteer, Sharon Trenaman
- Sports reporter for the St. Albert Gazette, Jeff Hansen
- Rockford Peaches softball player Betty Carveth Dunn (one of only 65 Canadians to play for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League)
Dunn, who is 91 years old, said it will be “pretty nice” to be inducted alongside Smyth. She’s a lifelong sports fan.
“I didn’t know anything else and so sports was my thing. I just loved going to everything. Any kind of sports is good for me,” she said.
“I was a great fan of Gretzky’s. Gretzky was my idol. I cried when he got traded.”
She said playing baseball gave her great joy, but it was also hard work.
“I did my whole life what I love to do – play ball.”
“We played ball, I would say, eight hours a day,” Dunn said. “I didn’t pitch a lot of games but I pitched batting practice every day. Every day. You were almost worn out.”
She said the movie A League of Their Own was able to shine a spotlight on the movement to get women involved in sport.
“It was wonderful because nobody here knew about A League Of Their Own, Canadians especially. I had memorabilia put away in a trunk and just left it there until the movie came out. I brought it all out and showed people.”
She said more needs to be done to recognize women in baseball.
“When I wanted to be a coach for the boys little league, the men said, ‘No, women didn’t know anything about baseball.’ So I just kept pestering and pestering and finally got a team. They gave me a farm team first, then gave me a major team. I think we came second in the league at that time.”
“Took me a couple years but I finally got it.”
This year will be the 60th anniversary of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.