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Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame celebrates 50 years

‘A community has a number of threads that, when tied together, they become a tapestry. Sports is one of those threads,’ says hall of fame board chair
Mark Rich, chair of the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame, poses in the hall of fame room in the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena with a portrait of William 'Scotty' Carmichael, founder of the hall of fame.

Mark Rich recalls that many years ago, as a 10-year-old minor hockey player, he was in attendance for the first-ever Collingwood Hall of Fame awards ceremony.

Now Rich serves as chair of the organization, which is celebrating 50 years this year of memorializing the contributions of local athletes and sport builders in the town, since local media personality William ‘Scotty’ Carmichael started the organization in 1974.

“Every town has a personality that acts as a historian, promoter, entertainer or a journalist. Scotty Carmichael had all those traits,” recalls Rich. “He wrote about these stories.”

Rich remembers Carmichael’s show Let’s Talk Sports which aired at 4:50 p.m. every Friday.

“He would regale you with stories about Collingwood’s history in sports. As a kid growing up in Collingwood, I would listen to them all,” he said. “He would do minor hockey scores and you would hope your team was listed.”

Collingwood’s Sports Hall of Fame came into being on Feb. 16, 1974, when 25 former Collingwood athletes were inducted by the selection committee which included Carmichael (chairman), Nip Spooner, Jack MacMurchy, Dr. Donald McKay, Bob Bush, John Freudeman and Paul Hawman.

Hall of Fame inductees were presented with silver medals through the Canadian Mist Distillers, a practice that continues to this day. It was held at the Collingwood Legion, and Rich has memories of the first ceremony as his minor hockey team was in attendance.

“My team had just won the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (final) and the Silver Stick,” said Rich. “I remember sitting in a hall of cigars and smoke. The place was jammed. We were the outliers, being a bunch of 10-year-old kids.”

“They got up and told stories, like a roast,” he said, with a laugh.

“The hall of fame took off.”

Following the first year, local lawyer John Bulmer and Kip Brown decided to lend their talents to the ceremonies, which included bringing structure and formality to the proceedings.

“(They) built the bones to what the hall of fame is now,” said Rich. Brown is still on the hall-of-fame committee today.

Initially, Rich says the hall of fame only existed in people’s minds up until 1984, when the hall of fame room was constructed by closing in the mezzanine in the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena where it still stands today, with the walls adorned with photos of builders and athletes that helped create the rich sporting heritage of Collingwood.

The funds for the endeavour were raised by asking for donations, with the organization taking in $2 or $3 in some cases, with the largest donation Rich can recall being $50.

“Everything was donated. There was no money required from the Town of Collingwood. It was local companies and people,” said Rich.

Currently, the walls of the hall of fame room feature 162 local builders and athletes who have moved into a professional sports career or achieved either amateur or professional championships, including a portrait of Carmichael.

Annually, the hall of fame committee accepts nominations for inductees. A selection committee comprised of athletes who were previous winners review the nominations to make a recommendation to the committee about who should be given the award annually.

“We’re looking for a person who brings pride, respect and a sense of achievement to the Town of Collingwood through their actions as an athlete, or building of sport,” he said.

While celebrating 50 years of sport this year, Rich’s eyes are also on the future, and said his priorities include succession planning.

“What we need is a younger generation of people to come in with a passion and understanding and a want to be involved,” he said. “It’s a long-term, fun commitment.”

In 2013, the organization released a history book of all the inductees from 1974 to 2012. This year, the organization is considering creating an updated version to celebrate the 50th anniversary. The organization is also considering providing a retrospective of past award winners from a variety of sports as part of this year’s ceremony.

“A community has a number of threads that, when tied together, they become a tapestry. Sports is one of those threads that touches everybody, whether you’re involved or a spectator,” said Rich.

Nominations for inductees into the 2024 sports hall of fame are currently open until March 29, with this year’s inductees to be announced in May. The awards ceremony takes place in October.

To learn more about the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame including how to nominate someone as an inductee, click here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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