Touting its history and reveling in its own accomplishment borders on out-of-character conduct not generally associated with soccer in our country. But that is exactly the course of the evening in honour held at the Liberty Grand, Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Saturday night.
It was the eleventh annual induction banquet of the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Canadians truly did savor the puff-out-your-chest moment.
The Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum might be a newcomer compared to other such institutions organized to recognize the exceptional achievement of persons deeply involved in their particular sport, but that does not mean the Hall has not bounded forward in stature in just a few short years.
For sure, in the beginning, and no matter how modest those beginnings might have been when the first inductees came into the Hall, everyone involved celebrated fruition of an idea whose time had come. The good news is those people were not content with that.
Like everything having to do with soccer’s bursting popularity and growth, the Hall of Fame and Museum is keeping pace. Moving forward with the times without compromising the delicacy of the past.
Evident to a crowd of 310 persons in attendance Saturday was the ambition for bigger, better, higher profile things befitting the importance of an historical mission.
One outstanding moment came with Bob Iarusci’s introduction of the first Brian Budd Award for excellence in soccer plus another endeavor. The new award is so important because as in the life of Brian Budd, the standard is set high. The stipulation for candidates states “they must exemplify good character, show outstanding dedication, achievements and leadership in developing soccer in Canada and provide inspiration to past, present and future generations”. NHLer and national soccer team member Peter Zezel (1965 – 2009) was selected the inaugural recipient by the Board of Governors.
Because they were the state of Croatia’s first thrust of publicity into America, there was a media representative following the story of the 1976 North American Soccer League champion Toronto Metros-Croatia induction as the Hall’s 2010 Team of Distinction. He, Frank Jankac, happened to be sharing my same table and he related how the feats of this team carries a “near mystic image” in his homeland. And now their legend has been properly recorded in the history of our Canadian soccer achievement. The delight of the players and management on their center stage re-union was a joy to witness.
Thanks to the recognition this event brings into public view, it is a wonderful opportunity to recall important events before they fade from memory or learn facts and insight into our game we would not have otherwise known. Foremost, though if even for a few hours, is the rare opportunity to feel a part of the recording of history.
And that, soccer fans, makes for a memorable evening.
8 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE CANADIAN SOCCER HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM.
One. The Hall of Fame and Museum is a subsidiary of the Ontario Soccer Association and has the support of the Canadian Soccer Association. That said, the institution seeks to serve the interests of the sport throughout all Canada without exception.
Two. The museum and growing displays of artifacts is open to the public on days of special soccer functions, is free of charge, and is located just inside the main entrance of The Soccer Center, 7601 Martin Grove Road, Vaughn, Ontario. More information is available here.
Three. Canada’s only World Cup appearance was in 1986 and that team was honoured as the 2009 induction ceremony’s Team of Distinction.
Four. This year’s Organization of Distinction award went to the Vancouver Firefighters, a west coast fixture and model of success over many years.
Five. Three individual players – Silvana Burtini, Gordon Ion and Dr. Walter Proudoot Thomson – were inducted this year.
Six. Brian Avey of Ontario and Albertan Stuart Brown were inductees in the Builder category. The 2010 Pioneer category inductee is John Russell of British Columbia.
Seven. Honourary Chair of the 2010 Banquet is Tom Anselmi, Executive VP and COO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment
Eight. Noted soccer photographer and history buff, Les Jones is the Chairman of The Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum.