A pair of Olympians and a Stanley Cup winner are among the inductees to the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.
The six inductees, three men and three women, represent the sports of hockey, rowing, basketball, boxing and softball.
This year’s class is made up of four athletes and two officials.
The inductees will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in June.
Rothesay’s Cynthia Johnston is one of the province’s most decorated basketball players, part of the bronze-winning New Brunswick team at the 1985 Canada Games.
While Johnston’s career would take her to the world stage, she had humble beginnings on the Rothesay Commons basketball courts.
“I would go every day, every night, whenever I had a free moment, I would just go and play and play pick up with whoever was there,” said Johnston.
She would go on to be part of Canada’s national women’s basketball team over 14 years, participating in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, as well as playing 12 seasons as a pro in Europe.
Even though she experienced a lot of success on the court, it was the relationships she made with her teammates that stand out to her today.
“The friendship of my teammates, the experiences that we shared and the sort of combined camaraderie of having a similar focus, that’s really a connection that makes it all really worthwhile,” said Johnston.
Johnston would play professionally until she was 36-years-old.
She said she hadn’t picked up a basketball for a decade after retiring, until her two children forced her into a friendly competition.
“They doubted that I even had ever played,” said Johnston.
“We were at a park or something and I took a couple of shots.”
Fredericton’s Jane Thornton was on Canada’s national rowing team for a decade.
Thornton said she wasn’t interested in sports as a youngster and didn’t come from an athletic family, but a returning Olympian sparked her interest.
“We had an Olympian, Don Dickinson, he would come back after the 92 Olympics… and he wanted to start a rowing team of kids essentially going into high school,” said Thornton.
“I just ended up joining my friends on a learn-to-row course and eventually got hooked.”
Her start in the sport was a little rocky.
She remembers a warm-up run with her teammates that tired the then-unathletic teen out so much, she hid behind a stack of towels until the training session was over.
But she stuck at it and credits the sport for a lot more than just increasing her endurance.
10:35Rower Jane Thornton is inducted into New Brunswick’s Sports Hall of Fame
“It helped my grades, it helped my concentration, it helped just even from a social stance,” said Thornton.
“And, of course, I think when I started seeing all of these things happen and this massive change, that it really made me really want to stay and actually think about performance rather than just survival.”
She won a world championship in 2006 in the women’s coxless pairs and narrowly missed out on a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the women’s eights.
- Ed Blanchard, a Saint John boxing official, represented Canada at 16 international competitions. He also officiated 75 Canadian Championships and six Canada Winter Games.
- Guy Pellerin, from Shediac, has been a hockey referee for 30 years. He officiated over 500 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League games and now is the leading official of the league’s Maritime Division. He has also officiated at two World Juniors and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
- (Posthumous) Jim Riley of Bayfield made waves in two sports. As a hockey player he won the Stanley Cup in 1917 with the Seattle Metropolitans, the first American club to do so. He also had brief careers with baseball’s St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles) and Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins), making him the first man to play both sports professionally.
- (Posthumous) Softball player Janiva Willis of Irishtown represented New Brunswick at the 2001 Canada Games before spending several years on Canada’s national team, winning a silver medal at the 2007 Pan-American Games. She played college softball at Winthrop University in South Carolina and still holds several team records and is inducted into the school’s own athletic hall of fame. Willis died in a traffic accident in Texas in 2016 at the age of 33.
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