BC Sports Hall of Fame celebrating 55 years honouring past and present achievements
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
“I love hearing stories of athletes who go on to become Olympic champions saying they remember coming to the sports hall as a kid and being inspired by a display or a story. Even just hearing from a visitor that they didn’t know about a certain athlete or event and learned something new. That makes it all worthwhile right there.”– Jason Beck
The BC Sports Hall of Fame is celebrating its 55th anniversary in 2021. The museum was founded in 1966 by Eric Whitehead and a group of individuals with an unmatchable passion for sports. Whitehead was a curator for the museum during its formative years and was later named honourary curator in 1975. Two years later, he was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in the builder category.
The museum has a long and rich history that includes its plethora of inductees, special displays, and events commemorated at its site located at Gate A at BC Place Stadium. Over 64 teams and 417 individuals have been inducted. In addition, the official website for the BC Sports Hall of Fame is proud of its involvement in the community: “The BC Sports Hall of Fame is committed to working collaboratively with the community. Through museum displays, educational programming, and outreach, the Hall advances its mission of building outstanding community legacies by honouring the past and inspiring the future.”
Jason Beck has been the full-time curator at the BC Sports Hall of Fame since May 2006. He later added the title of facility director in 2013. He is proud of what the museum has achieved in its fifth decade of operations. “I’m most proud of how the BC Sports Hall of Fame’s reputation and name really mean something to the public, even to those outside of the sports community,” Beck said in an email interview with the Other Press. “I’m proud of the relationships we’ve developed and fostered across the sports spectrum. We’re here today because people care about the BC Sports Hall of Fame and that celebrating our best in sport matters. I love hearing stories of athletes who go on to become Olympic champions saying they remember coming to the sports hall as a kid and being inspired by a display or a story. Even just hearing from a visitor that they didn’t know about a certain athlete or event and learned something new. That makes it all worthwhile right there.”
In terms of new exhibits, Beck says a new Vancouver Canucks gallery was being organized and planned, but unfortunately, it was put on hold due to the pandemic. “We have been discussing some potential ideas with the Whitecaps and Canada basketball,” Beck said. “I’ve wanted to do an exhibit on BC sport photography for years and hope that comes to pass sometime soon. Another idea that excites me is an exhibit on innovations and inventions in BC sport—everything from Debbie Brill’s ‘Brill Bend’ to Alex McKechnie’s ‘Core-Board’ and many others. There are so many stories of BC individuals who created something new that changed sport worldwide.”
Sports enthusiasts can also peruse a section of the museum dedicated to Vancouver’s professional sports teams (Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Whitecaps, and BC Lions). Interestingly, from December 2017 till May 2019, the museum had a unique temporary exhibit honouring the late-night sports television program, Sports Page, which was a nightly staple for Vancouver sports fans from 1977 till 2001. Beck was involved with the planning and organizing of the Sports Page exhibit and has fond memories. “That exhibit remains one of my favourites for a few reasons,” he states. “One, I grew up watching Sports Page and was a huge fan of the show, so working on this brought back tons of great memories and I learned a lot about the show that I didn’t know prior.”
Beck gathered material for the exhibit by interviewing over 50 Sports Page alumni (on-air hosts to off-camera staff). Some of the people included Barry Macdonald, Don Taylor, Mike Hall, Dave Randorf, Trevor Henderson, and others—who all shared incredible stories. “Then getting all the alumni to gather for the exhibit opening, which turned into a big Sports Page reunion for many who hadn’t seen one another in decades in some cases. I just remember looking around the exhibit and seeing people hugging and reuniting everywhere you turned—it really was special.”
Although the museum has had to adjust to the pandemic—including being closed for several months when lockdowns had begun in March 2020—the museum is continuing to work the best they can under the current provincial health guidelines. Recent new exhibits include the Greg Moore Gallery honouring the late race car driver, and Maple Ridge native—who died in a tragic car crash in October 1999. As well, there is the Vancouver 2010 Gallery for people wanting to relive all the exciting moments from the 2010 Winter Olympics. The classic Hall of Champions exhibit is dedicated to BC Sports Hall of Fame inductees. Another special exhibit is “Paddles Up!” as it merges the BC Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival Society to celebrate sport and diverse cultural expression in BC. Other notable exhibits include the special Terry Fox and Rick Hansen Galleries, and the Indigenous Sports Gallery which honours and celebrates Indigenous and First Nations athletes.
Lastly, Beck states that of all the many exhibits at the BC Sports Hall of Fame, one that stands out for him is the Indigenous Sports Gallery: “I really like our Indigenous Sport Gallery because it was a truly collaborative gallery working with Indigenous sport leaders and peoples from across BC. It was groundbreaking, the first permanent gallery devoted to Indigenous sport in North America, possibly the world. We highlighted many Indigenous athletes and stories that were not well known but should be and some are much more so now because of it. The opening of the gallery was probably the most emotional I’ve experienced; it was just unbelievable.”