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Sport Newfoundland and Labrador Hosts 2018 Stars and Legends Awards Gala

April 23, 2018

St. John’s, NL – Sport Newfoundland and Labrador presented nine provincial sport awards and officially inducted four individuals into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame at its eleventh annual Stars and Legends Awards Gala on Saturday evening.

“Our Stars and Legends Gala allows the province to showcase and celebrate the incredible talent that Newfoundland and Labrador’s sporting community has to offer,” said Doug Fowler, President, Sport Newfoundland and Labrador. “We have such an amazing group of accomplished athletes this year, and it’s wonderful to acknowledge their hard work and determination.

More than 300 athletes, coaches, volunteers and sporting enthusiasts attended the event at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland to recognize the best athletic achievements the past year. Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s award selection committee chose the recipients from a list of nominees compiled by 16 member organizations across the province.

The 2017 award winners are:

Jr. Female Athlete of the Year: Maggie Connors (Hockey)
Jr. Male Athlete of the Year: Campbell Clarke (Rugby)
Executive of the Year: Kevin Higgins (Baseball)
Official of the Year: Scott Critch (Basketball)
Team of the Year: Team Gushue (Curling)
Volunteer of the year: David Coates (Baseball)
Coach of the Year: Peter Densmore (Rugby)
Senior Male Athlete of the Year: Liam Hickey (Sledge hockey and Wheelchair basketball)
Senior Female Athlete of the Year: Heather Healey (Baseball)

* Biographies for each of the recipients are below

The Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony also paid tribute to the four new inductees, who were selected by the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame Board of Governors and announced earlier this year. The 2018 inductees are:

Laura Breen in the “Athlete” category (Soccer)
Benedict Dunne in the “Athlete/Builder” category (Track & Field, Soccer)
John McGrath in the “Builder” category (Soccer)
John Slaney in the “Athlete” category (Hockey)

*Biographies for each of the inductees are below.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame recognizes and honours individuals on the basis of playing ability, sportsmanship and character and who have achieved extraordinary distinction in any sport, whether that be achieved in amateur and/or professional athletics.

Sport Newfoundland and Labrador is the volunteer organization committed to the promotion and advancement of amateur sport throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Sport Newfoundland and Labrador represents 55 provincial sport organizations and more than 70,000 individual members, offering a broad range of programs and services.

Annual Award Winner Bio’s

Junior Female Athlete of the Year Maggie Connors had a ground breaking 2017 calendar year in hockey. She was one of three players from the province selected to Team Atlantic that competed in the National Under 18 Championship in November. The 17 year old who plays for Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota during the hockey season, was the hero in the first game of the tournament when she scored the winning goal to upset the eventual championship winner, Team Ontario. Her Game Winning Goal, gave the underdog Team Atlantic, a 2-1 victory. The team would eventually fall out of medal contention but Maggie led her team in scoring and was later selected to the National Under 18 team that competing in the World Championships just this month where she was once again an impact player. Maggie is second on her club team in scoring where she plays in the Pre-School circuit. At the end of December 2017 she put up an astonishing 20 goals and 24 assist for 44 points in just 40 games this season.

Junior Male Athlete of the Year Campbell Clarke of St. John’s has had an extraordinary year representing the Rock at U16, U18, and U19 levels. A gold medal at Easterns and subsequent bronze medals at both U19 and U18 National tournaments is truly incredible. Campbell was named MVP in numerous games at Eastern and National Championships. His performances have been so impressive that he made the Canadian U19 team as a 16 year old.

Volunteer of the Year David Coates volunteer activities for sports in 2017, specifically baseball, are almost immeasurable. As an administrator for CBS Kiwanis Minor Baseball, David was responsible for the supervision of summer staff, administering the summer program, and serving as a liaison between the local association and town officials on facility upgrades, improvements and issues. As a coach, David served a number of teams, including the CBS Storm in the St. John’s Amateur Baseball Association, the CBS Raiders in the Junior A provincials, and the Baseball NL Provincial 15U Team that competed at the 15U National Championships. David was also the Host Committee Chair for Baseball NL Atlantic 13U AA Championships that were hosted by the province in CBS. David and his host committee put off a very successful event that players, coaches and parents were very complimentary of his hard work, passion and dedication to ensuring a successful event for everyone involved.

Executive of the Year Kevin Higgins once again led a very successful program that saw significant registration growth (8% increase in 2017). He is also responsible for everything from hiring staff to the final execution of summer programming. Kevin was responsible for many initiatives for Gander Minor Baseball, including hosting a provincial championship and working with Town officials to ensure facility upgrades and improvements for his program, all on his own personal time, usually after work and on weekends. Gander Minor Baseball has enjoyed great success in recent years under Kevin’s guidance and commitment. Kevin also served as the head coach of the Baseball NL 21U Provincial Team that competed at the 21U Nationals for the first time since 2013; resurrecting a program that Baseball NL is committed to continuing attending.

Coach of the Year Peter Densmore has had an excellent year coaching a number of Rugby teams in 2017. He was the head coach for Holy Heart Men’s Rugby, head coach for Vandals RFC who won the Sully cup-Senior men’s B division, and head coach for the Rock U18 team. As a past Canadian National team player and Rock Rugby championship winning captain, Peter’s drive and enthusiasm has rubbed off on the teams that he coaches. The Vandals B team winning the senior men’s division as well as two medals, gold at Easters and Bronze at Nationals with the Rock U18’s is a testament to his commitment to excellence.

Official of the Year Scott Critch is the only member of Newfoundland Association of Basketball Officials (NABO) in the modern International Basketball Federation (FIBA) era to earn a FIBA card and worked 3 FIBA tournaments. He is a member of the MUN University Panel where he is the Crew Chief, a member of the National Basketball League of Canada, where he works games in St. John's, also as Crew Chief, and has worked numerous University Sport Men's and Women's Championships, as well as Canada Games and U15 and U17 National tournaments. Scott promotes fair play rules within the NLBA Minor framework. He ensures new officials are mentored by senior officials to make their first experiences meaningful. Follow up is done by mentors under Scott's leadership to try to retain new officials, usually done after games/tournaments. Scott ensures that both new and old officials are treated fairly within the organization. Within his local and provincial executive, Scott follows protocol and sticks by the book.

Team Gushue have had a phenomenal year becoming the 2017 World Men’s Curling Champions. They have won 3 grand slam titles including Tour Challenge-Tier 1, Masters of Curling, and the Meridian Canadian Open. They went on to win 2 other world curling tour events; Swiss Cup Basel, and Stusellls Toronto Tankard and no one can forget their 2017 win of the Tim Horton’s Brier held in St. John’s. The team spent the better part of the year ranked as the number one team in the world. Their dedication and hard work has certainly paid off in 2017.

Senior Male Athlete of the Year Liam Hickey had a very successful year in 2017, competing for Canada in sledge hockey at an international invitational in Italy where he helped Canada win Gold. This was followed by an outstanding performance at his first Sledge Hockey championship with Team Canada in South Korea where he was in the top 5 scoring and scored the game-winning goal vs. arch-rival USA in the Gold Medal Game. He then represented Canada at the Junior (Under23) World Championships in Basketball where he led the team on and off the court, helping Canada to a 6th place finish. Later in the year, Liam once again represented Canada at the 2017 World Sledge Hockey challenge where Canada lost a close championship game to the USA, with Liam scoring one of Canada’s goals.

Senior Female Athlete of the Year Heather Healey once again enjoyed a successful 2017 season, both in Newfoundland and Labrador and abroad. A member of the Senior intermediate Feildians in the St. John's Amateur Baseball Association, Heather was selected as a member of the St. John's Junior Capitals that won the 2017 Junior Provincial Championship. Heather also participated in the Senior Women's Nationals as a member of the 20U Prospects Team, pitching a win against Quebec. Heather was also selected as a member of the Baseball Canada Senior Women's National Team that competed in a development series against USA Baseball. As a member of the New England Sox, an all-female baseball team in the United States, Heather played in and won three invitational tournaments in the United States as a member of the Sox.

Hall of Fame Inductees – Biographies

Laura Breen – “Athlete”

Throughout her career, Laura Breen has demonstrated she is one of the premier soccer players in our province. As a university athlete, she was selected as a first Team All Star on multiple occasions for the Atlantic Conference as well as at the National Collegiate level. Named female player of the decade for 2000-2009 by the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association, her skill in multiple positions stood out far above the rest. Twice Breen was selected to the Canadian Intercollegiate team, which represented Canada at the World University Games in Thailand (2007) and Serbia (2009). A player for our province at national championships, Breen was scouted 4 times receiving invitations to attend National Team training camps for the 2011 Canadian World Cup team, Canadian Women’s U17 World cup camp in 2002, and the Canadian National U-15 Girls training camp in 2000 and 2001. Breen has played for the National Senior Women’s Jubilee Trophy championship as a member of Holy Cross/Kirby team where they finished in first place going on to win the provincial championships from 2007-2010 and in 2013. Throughout her time playing in the Jubilee league, she was named Top scorer, top defender, and MVP multiple times. Breen was named to the Jubilee Trophy League’s All Star team from 2004-2010 and in 2013. She was also a skilled player for Memorial playing in the Atlantic University Women’s Soccer League from 2004-2009. Breen was recognized for her accomplishments throughout her university career named AUS rookie of the year in 2004, a top scorer in 2006, AUS MVP in 2008, she was named to the AUS first team all star from 2005-2009, and Memorial University female MVP from 2005-2009. Her record of accomplishments and achievements had her named Female Athlete of the Year twice for both Memorial University and Sport Newfoundland and Labrador and St. John’s. Memorial has further recognized Laura with an Athletic Honour Society Award and she has recently been inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association Hall of Fame. She is currently an Assistant Coach at MUN since 2010.

Ben Dunne – “Athlete/Builder”

For close to fifty years Ben Dunne has been a prominent member of the sporting community in Newfoundland with success as an athlete and an influencer for track and field, soccer, hockey, softball and cross-country running. Throughout his life long commitment to sport, Ben was always one to roll up his sleeves and dig into the unglamorous tasks, which bring success to the participants and longevity to sport. Looking at his involvement in running, you can see his passion not only to perform but also to promote and see the sport flourish over his years of involvement. A long time runner, Ben competed in multiple marathons and road races, winning many, including the 1977 Tely 10. He was a member of MUN's cross-country team for three years and a provincial coach from 1973 to 1981. He went on to officiate at multiple events such as the Canada Summer Games, and attended orienteering-training camps for national track and field in Ontario and New Brunswick. Ben was the volunteer provincial coordinator of the Terry Fox Run from its inception in 1980 until 1985. He was also a member of the coaching staff for the World track and field championships in 1998, and was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Track and Field Association’s Hall of fame in 2012. This same passion was evident when Ben decided to get involved in soccer. Not only did he certify himself to coach at the Canada Games level, he also took on the task of promoting and building the game for young women. This commitment to growth and development of women’s soccer first began at the club level in Mt. Pearl, eventually leading to greater involvement at the regional and provincial levels. Ben has coached multiple teams including the 2002 and 2005 teams at the National Jubilee trophy soccer championships as well as being the head coach for the 1993 Newfoundland and Labrador soccer team at the Canada summer games. He helped women’s soccer grow with his year round involvement organizing a senior women’s league in the metro area, and through all his efforts programs for women have grown leaps and bounds since the nineties. Many young girls became part of national team programs and earned university scholarships in large part to Ben for starting and keeping programs running. Ben has been an integral part of the sport scene in this province. He received a certificate of Recognition by the Canadian Federation of Provincial School Athletic Associations for dedicated service and was presented with a certificate of merit from the Government of Canada for his contribution to sport. For his contribution to sport in Mount Pearl, he was awarded the City Builder Award in 1988. For outstanding volunteer service to the East Coast Trail Association, in 2010 he was awarded The Flamber Head Award and he was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.

John McGrath – “Builder”

John McGrath has been involved with the sport community since the 1970’s. His dedication to sport, especially soccer, lead to much growth for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He chaired the Newfoundland Soccer Association Discipline Committee from 1970-79 and served as president from 1979-1981. He helped to establish the Masters Soccer Division and established the first coaching and Referee development clinics in Newfoundland Soccer Association history. Looking to enhance participation and sport development, McGrath guided and encouraged provincial youth soccer committees to allow sponsoring/hosting of soccer tournaments in all districts of the province in a given year. His strategic and long term planning resulted in a five-year calendar of hosting tournaments. This calendar was unanimously endorsed by the NSA membership and it paved the way for future involvement of all districts in hosting soccer on a rotation basis. His continued dedications to soccer lead him to create the Newfoundland Soccer Hall of Fame, which still exists today. Always looking to highlight and grow the sport of Soccer, he was responsible for the winning bid to host the Canadian Under-18 Male Soccer Championship in 1981. This competition was hosted in Burin and was extremely successful bringing exposure to the Burin Peninsula and enhancing the peninsula’s ability to host competitions of such calibre outside the St. John’s area. John was excellent at selling the province as a qualified site to host high end quality competitions to the Canadian Soccer Association alongside Gus Etchegary and Ben Lake. He would use his skills to look after the technical and logistical aspects of hosting competitions including high calibre events such as the World Cup qualifiers at King George V soccer field in 1985 or the FIFA Under-18 World championship regional play down in 1987 with the help of Gus Etchegary and Ben Lake. These events brought exposure to the development of soccer in this province and gave residents the opportunity to witness a level of competition they would never normally have the opportunity to see. As his term as President of the NSA came to an end, he created a fee structure that would end his presidency with a surplus of funds. Understanding the importance of quality coaching, this was to be used for retaining professional coaching in order to enhance the technical development of the sport. In 1994 he was elected as a member of the Commonwealth Games of Canada Association holding the responsibility of drafting contracts with athletes, coaches, and officials who attended various Commonwealth Games Competitions. His sport career continued as McGrath would move onto the SportNL Board of Directors in 1987 where he held positions until 1995. Along with Angela King, they established the Frank Graham Provincial Volunteer of the Year Award with the Edward Phelan-Graham family. He was responsible for creating a Sport Jury System which was a vehicle that assisted the member provincial Sport Organizations with a mechanism to mediate disputes within their own organization. His skill in this area had him called up by the Department of Sport and Recreation to mediate conflicts and issues dealt with eligibility issues related to the Canada Games. John McGrath has had his hand in many aspects of Soccer and Sport organizations throughout the years. His dedication has lead to many milestones in this province and recognition pieces highlighting our provinces accomplishments.

John Slaney – “Athlete”

Defensemen John Slaney of St. John’s enjoyed an exceptional hockey career that included outstanding junior performances, record setting American Hockey League seasons and a rewarding National Hockey League career. While playing for the Cornwall Royals of the Ontario Hockey League for just over three seasons between 1988 and 1992, he accumulated 94 goals, 168 assists for 262 points and was named Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year and the Ontario Hockey League Most Outstanding Defenseman for the 1989-90 season. The highlight of his junior career came as a member of Canada’s National team when he scored the dramatic game-winning goal against Russia to secure the 1991 World Junior hockey title. Slaney was a first-round draft pick by the Washington Capitals in 1990 and went on to play in 268 NHL games with Washington, Colorado, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville and the Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring 24 goals with 70 assists for 94 points. In his American Hockey League Debut in 1992 with the Baltimore Skipjacks, Slaney picked up a goal and an assist. He went on to play in 693 American Hockey League games with Baltimore, Portland, Cornwall, Wilkes-Barrie, and Philadelphia scoring 166 goals with 353 assists for 519 career AHL Points, which were all career records for an AHL Defenseman at time of his last game. Slaney was voted the AHL top defensemen for the 2000-2001 and 2001-2003 seasons, winning the Eddie Shore trophy twice which is presented to the AHL’s best defenseman. He owns AHL records for points by a rookie with 20 goals and 46 assists for 66 points with the Baltimore Skipjacks in 1992-1993, as well as the most career goals by a defenseman at 166, and most goals in one season with 30 in 1999-2000. Slaney was the first defensemen in AHL history to record 500 career points. He was named all-star five times and was team captain of the AHL All-Star Classic held in St. John’s in 2002. Slaney, who finished his playing career in Europe, returned to the AHL as an assistant coach with the Portland Pirates in 2011. He is a member of the American Hockey League’s Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame in 2017.

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