A pair of Olympians and Stanley Cup winners were among those inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.
The six appointed, three men and three women, represented hockey, rowing, basketball, boxing and softball.
This year’s class consists of four athletes and two officials.
Inductees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in June.
Cynthia Johnston of Rothesay is one of the province’s most accomplished basketball players, part of the bronze-winning New Brunswick team at the 1985 Canada Games.
While Johnston’s career would take him to the world stage, he had humble beginnings on the Rothesay Commons basketball court.
“I would go out every day, every night, whenever I had free time, I would just go and play and pick up with whoever was there,” Johnston said.
She went on to be part of the Canadian women’s national basketball team for 14 years, participated in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as well as playing 12 seasons as a professional player in Europe.
Although he’s had a lot of success on the pitch, it’s the relationships he made with his team-mates that stand out for him today.
“The friendships of my teammates, the experiences we share, and the kind of mix of friendships that have the same focus, it’s really a relationship that makes it all really worthwhile,” said Johnston.
Johnston will play professionally until he is 36 years old.
He said he didn’t take up basketball for a decade after retiring, until his two children forced him to enter a friendly competition.
“They doubted that I ever played,” said Johnston.
“We were in a park or something and I took some photos.”
Jane Thornton of Fredericton was on the Canadian national rowing team for a decade.
Thornton said he had no interest in sports as a youth and did not come from an athletic family, but the return of the Olympians sparked his interest.
“We have an Olympian, Don Dickinson, he’s coming back after the 92 Olympics … and he wants to start a kids rowing team that’s basically going to high school,” Thornton said.
“I just joined my friends on a rowing course and finally got hooked.”
The start in the sport was a little rocky.
He remembers a warm-up run with his team-mates that exhausted the then-unathletic teenager, hiding behind a pile of towels until the training session was over.
But he did it anyway and credits the sport for more than increasing his endurance.
10:35Rower Jane Thornton inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame
“It helps my grades, it helps my concentration, it helps with even social attitudes,” Thornton says.
“And, of course, I think when I started seeing all this stuff happening and this massive change, it really made me really want to stick around and really think about performance rather than just surviving.”
She won the world championship in 2006 in the women’s coxless pair and narrowly missed out on a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the women’s eight.
Other appointed persons
- Ed Blanchard, a Saint John boxing official, represented Canada in 16 international competitions. He also led 75 Canadian Championships and six Canadian Winter Games.
- Guy Pellerin, from Shediac, has been a hockey referee for 30 years. He has officiated over 500 games for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and is now the principal official of the league’s Maritime Division. He has also refereed 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 a brief career with St. Louis Browns baseball (now the Baltimore Orioles) and Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins), making him the first 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 the Canadian national team, winning a silver medal at the 2007 Pan-American Games. She played collegiate softball at Winthrop University in South Carolina and still holds several team record and was 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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