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Sports Hall of Fame honours Class of 2021

November 25, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Robert Belardi

It’s been two very long years. 

It felt strange to put on a nice pair of pants and a nice pair of shoes, even to lift a blazer and swing it through my arms before gathering my things and leaving the house didn’t feel right. There was a quizzical look on my face as if this was a past time. But it was actually happening.

Last Thursday, at the Royal Venetian, the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame held their Induction Celebration Dinner to honour the latest inductees into the Hall of Fame family. 

Of course, respecting COVID-19 protocols, it was quite different than what you might imagine. After providing all of your credentials to the staff upon entry, there was a room where everyone congregated in. This room had a woman playing the harp and a violin full of glitter.  There was an open bar and some food you can eat. It wasn’t your traditional sit-down dinner and chance to mow down a five-course meal. Rather, it was more inclusive and more social than any other event I had previously experienced.  

From about 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. guests mingled and had the chance to speak with former Hall of Fame inductees who were wearing their illustrious green sweaters. It was also an opportunity to speak with the inductees being honoured that night. 

At 7 p.m. all guests were redirected to the next room where rows of chairs had been organized with a Hall of Fame handbook and a bag of popcorn on every seat. Cameras had been stationed behind all of the seats high on their tripods and a wonderful stage had been designed, ready to walk the latest inductees in the Hall. 

Javid Khan, President and Chair of the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame, got things going and re-introduced all of the past inductees into the Hall. Then everyone stood and applauded as the newest members of the Hall of Fame were welcomed inside. 

Scott Harris of Stonehaven Financial and Mayor Tom Mrakas came forth to share some kind words, before emcee and former Canadian sports broadcaster with TSN Rod Black came forward to begin the introductions. 

Before each newest member had the chance to come up and say their speech, a beautiful rendition was put together on video. It captured the inductees’ most formidable achievements while being accompanied with interviews from their family members, friends and members of their previous sporting entity. 

The first person introduced was the late Brendan Macken. His story was presented by his daughter Helen Conzelmann. 

Macken was one of Canada’s top ranked tennis players, winning the Canadian Open Doubles championship in 1946 and winner of the singles championship in 1950. He was inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991. He moved to Aurora in 2010 and was a resident up until his death.

He passed away at the age of 97 on March 12, 2020 and his daughter said their father would have been ecstatic if he was here today. 

“Dad would have been thrilled to of been recognized for his successes as a tennis player, but even more excited to be the centre of attention again,” Conzelmann said, and the crowd responded in laughter. 

“When he passed away on March 12, 2020, two days later Ontario entered its first COVID lockdown. We were unable to host the celebration of his life. This makes tonight more special.”

Next up was Colin Graham.

Graham was a local maverick in his own right having been involved in hockey and lacrosse in Aurora. He had a monumental impact in girl’s hockey locally and helped start up the Aurora Panthers, now known as the Central York Panthers.

He was also a co-host of Aurora Sports Beat, along with past inductee Lowell McClenny on local cable television. 

“To all the organizations I was a member of. To the Aurora Minor Hockey Association. To the Aurora Minor Lacrosse Association. And the Aurora Girls Hockey Association – now called the Central York Panthers Association – thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow with your organizations just as my kids grew, too,” Graham said. 

Just as Graham helped begin a hockey association for girls in the Town it was the next inductee, Lois Thompson, who helped begin the Aurora Ladies Softball League. When she arrived in Aurora in 1968 and only the men were playing ball, she asked herself why there wasn’t a ladies league. 

“Wednesday night became the ladies’ night out to play ball. I’m happy to report that after 40-plus years you can still drop by Town Park on Wednesday nights in the summer,” Thompson said. 

Throughout her career, she initiated the expansion of the Aurora Diggers Softball Association. She went to volunteer her way up to Softball Ontario and Softball Canada. 

She recently earned the Town of Aurora Volunteer Service Award for over 40 years of volunteer commitment and, within her video, the numerous accolades from softball’s governing bodies that she never told anyone about were shared.

She is a member of the Softball Ontario Hall of Fame as well, and Thompson still volunteers today. 

And last but most certainly not least, Aurora resident since the late 80s and former NHL forward for the New York Rangers Steve Vickers was the final inductee of the night. 

The 10th overall pick in the 1971 NHL Entry Draft went on to spend 10 seasons in the NHL. Vickers won the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year and was the first ever player to score a hat trick in consecutive games. 

During his playing career, Vickers shared a funny story when he first began dating his wife Joanne. 

“She went to a game once at Madison Square Garden. She said, ‘oh how long do games take?’ I said ‘oh, about an hour. 60 minutes.’ And I was playing and it was one of those games that was about three hours,” Vickers said as the crowd laughed. 

“Lots of fights. She caught on. We got married and it’s been 42 years now. People in New York said it would never last.” 

Vickers arrived in Aurora and got involved in local hockey. His children all played sports in the Town. 

In 2009 in the book “100 Ranger Greats”, Vickers was ranked the 18 best Ranger in history. 

To all of the inductees, The Auroran congratulates all of you in your latest achievement. You have done so much and have been exceptional role models for the youth in the Town. 



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