By Darren Lum
It’s no surprise that COVID-19 put a delay on the plans for the Haliburton Highlands Hall of Fame’s first induction ceremony that was originally planned for October of 2020.
Like the high-level athletes they want to recognize, the people behind the hall of fame have continued to work towards their goal to recognize the men and women who have contributed to the Highlands community or have represented the area with character and athletic achievement, whether as a professional or as an amateur.
Scott LaRue, chairman of the hall of fame’s management committee, said in an interview several weeks ago though they’ve been set back by a year, he is eyeing the future with optimism and holds true to the original vision that remains at the foundation of the effort, which began close to three years ago.
“We want to identify and honour the people that actually represented Haliburton County in sports in an extraordinary way. They’re not an average person. They’re a person that has excelled in sports in the county, male or female in whatever sport,” he said.
Corroborating what individuals achieved will depend on word-of-mouth and from newspaper articles. The categories for inductees will be athlete, builder and teams. Inductions will be every two years. The first group of chosen inductees were supposed to have been inducted in October with a ceremony held at the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre in Haliburton.
LaRue said the first inductees have been chosen, but he wasn’t divulging who specifically was supposed to have been recognized. He offered this hint.
“It’s fairly probable, let’s put it that way, that anybody who has a picture on the [A.J. LaRue Arena] will be inducted. Anybody that has made it to as far as they can go in their sport, whether it’s amateur or professional. If they get to the top [coming] out of a little town like this then they’re probably well-qualified to be an inductee,” he said.
The painted murals on the arena LaRue referenced are of retired CFL player Mike Bradley, retired NHL players Ron Stackhouse, Bernie Nicholls, Cody Hodgson and current NHL player Matt Duchene. LaRue also named his father for who the arena is named after for his contributions to hockey and the community, and Olympian hurdler Lesley Tashlin, who competed at the summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.
LaRue didn’t specify how many inductees were chosen for the first year, but said there will be some who will be inducted posthumously. All living inductees must have been retired for five years, or if they’ve moved to the county must have been a resident for the past five years.
“They got to have earned the right to be in the Hall of Fame of Haliburton not only by being a professional in some other place or home, they got to show they are willing to work in the county in sports,” he said.
Since this effort began, the hall of fame has always planned to use the auditorium space on the second floor of the A.J. LaRue Arena.
The hall of fame became a member organization of the Haliburton County Community Co-operative in the spring of 2019.
As a result, the co-operative committee’s Jim Blake the hall of fame committee and acts as representative for the co-operative.
LaRue said there are benefits to joining the co-operative such as being covered for liability insurance and they provide $500 seed money. Also, he adds Blake is an asset to have on the committee because of his experience and knowledge of the area.
The expected success and the continued drive to see the hall of fame come to fruition comes down to the people behind it, serving on the board and on the sub-committees.
“It’s all pulling together towards next October so you [might] run into the odd roadblock. The people we have, you couldn’t get a group of better individuals as far as knowledgeable and willing to spend time and so on and so forth,” he said. “Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with it other than the interruption with COVID-19, which set us back a year.”
The hall of fame committee includes chairman, LaRue, secretary treasurer, Roger Dart, Dysart et al Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy, members Roger Trull, Jim Bradley, Kelly Mitchell, Don Popple, Paul Morissette, and Blake.
LaRue said the hall of fame website is close to being active, and a logo is currently in the process of being completed. These will be based on other examples taken from other halls of fame throughout Ontario. Many of these action items are being executed by the hall’s sub-committees for induction, fundraising, website, sports history, selection, nomination, induction plaques and logo.
Also, discussions are ongoing related to the inductee plaques, which will include a picture of the individual or teams, complemented with a write-up of their career and why he/she/they have been inducted. The plaque sub-committee will decide what the plaque’s final form takes, he said.
This hall isn’t just about Haliburton, but is for all of the Highlands.
Despite what some might think is a Haliburton-centric initiative, LaRue said, he welcomes people from all over the Highlands, including Minden to join the effort to bringing the hall of fame to life.
“We haven’t forgotten about Minden at all. It’s just that I started this organization and my idea was to always have it in Haliburton,” he said.
Currently, the call for sports artifacts is on hold until the venue is secured and ready for display.
The aim is to have memorabilia that is relevant to the inductees put on display.
“It will be a rotating type of thing,” he said. “Every two years we’ll rotate the memorabilia so people won’t be looking at the same thing forever.”
LaRue hopes this hall of fame will be good for the community and for visitors.
“Have people come into Haliburton and want to take a look at the people that were prominent in the sports world of Haliburton County. Basically it’s another attraction for tourists and people that come up here,” he said.