PORT HAWKESBURY: They are well known throughout the area and, thanks to the 2017 Port Hawkesbury Sport Wall of Fame induction ceremony, future generations will know them as well.
“We gather today to celebrate the fact that our town continues to generate top champions, top coaches, and top athletes,” said Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, speaking to a capacity crowd who gathered at the Bear Head Conference Centre for the November 19 ceremony.
“The inductees represent our town in ways that make us so very proud. They represent us in ways that exemplify dignity, respect, excellence, and sportsmanship.
“We are inducting Jason Lukeman, a provincial, national, and international swimming champion; Jerry Burke, a multisport athlete of hockey, baseball, basketball, and softball; William Joseph [Billy Joe] MacLean, a leader, a builder, and a believer in sports, recreation, and infrastructure; and last but not least, the 1984 Chafe’s Irving Cardinals, who put Port Hawkesbury on the map with their win of the Maritime championship baseball titles.”
The ceremony saw all inductees presented a piece of Nova Scotia Crystal, a framed certificate, and a copy of a framed portrait by artist Lisa Harrison. Harrison’s portraits now hang in the Wall of Fame, an exclusive piece of real estate located in the mezzanine area of the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s rink.
Lukeman, who started winning national-level swimming medals at the age of 12, was the first inductee of the ceremony. He remained a national-level swimmer until his retirement at the age of 26.
During his time in the pool, he set 98 provincial age group and senior individual records; helped set 17 age group and senior relay records; and set 12 age group and senior east coast records.
His list of accomplishments doesn’t end there, as he visited the Canadian Youth Championships in 1987 and 1988, winning two gold medals and a silver; the Canada Games in 1993, winning a gold and two bronze; and the CIAU championships in 1994 and 1995, winning two gold and three silver.
Lukeman was a two-time Sport Nova Scotia Athlete of the Year, and a two-time Athlete of the Year at the University of New Brunswick. He was a four-time Nova Scotia Athlete of the Month, and a seven-time Nova Scotia Swimmer of the Year.
“I had an opportunity a few years ago to meet Tiger MacKie, one of the Wall of Fame inductees,” Lukeman said. “Anybody who knew him knew what kind of a fierce hockey player he was with a fierce personality. I always liked that about Port Hawkesbury. I always liked when someone from here likes to stand up for something.
“That’s the kind of thing to me that Port Hawkesbury and Cape Breton represents.”
The second inductee of the day was Burke, who has the distinction of being a two-time inductee to the Wall of Fame. In 2013, he was inducted as a member of the 1967-68 Strait Pirates, who took the Atlantic Junior B title. (Billy Joe MacLean was also honoured as a member of that team, and he was inducted in the 2017 class just minutes after Burke).
Burke’s name is familiar to local sports fans, as he was not only a legendary Pirate but also a competitor on the Junior A level with the Cape Breton Metros. In 1969, he was not only the Metro’s captain but he also was the leading scorer and a second team all star.
Burke was a force on the ball field as well, as he celebrated two Richmond Amateur Baseball Association (RABA) league championships in 1973 and 1974 with the Louisdale Baracos. With the St. Peter’s Royals, he attended the 1978 Canadian Championship.
In softball, he was a standout with the Port Hawkesbury Hawks, the Port Hood Royals, the Senior Antigonish Bulldogs, and other local teams.
In addition to his athletic feats, Burke is noted as a volunteer coach, referee, and a supporter of minor hockey.
“I’m very happy and humbled to be accepting this award today,” Burke said, and he went onto share a couple of funny stories regarding his playing and officiating career.
He reminisced about a game he refereed between the Strait Pirates and Antigonish Bulldogs, back at the MacIsaac Memorial Rink in Port Hawkesbury. This particular night, the Bulldogs had the Pirates’ number.
“I was leaving the referee’s room and going by the Pirate dressing room, and one of the Pirates came out,” Burke said. “He was coming behind me, and he said ‘Hey, Burke, you must have eyes in the back of your head.’ I took that as a compliment, turned around, and thanked him. He said ‘because you don’t have any in the front.’”
MacLean was the third and final individual inductee of the day. As mentioned before, he is now a member of the Wall of Fame twice-over, as he was induced for serving as the president of the 1967-68 Strait Pirates during the 2013 induction ceremony.
He remained involved with the Pirates following the Atlantic championship win, and also served as the president of the local minor hockey program. He played hockey, as well.
The former mayor was a great hitter on the baseball field. In addition to playing, MacLean also coached, umpired, and served as a sponsor for teams at the minor, Junior, and Intermediate levels. He was well known to many teams in the Richmond County area.
It is perhaps as a builder where MacLean made his greatest impact on local sports, as he chaired the building committees for both SAERC and the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. He has a plaque dedicated to him in the Believer’s Hall at the Civic Centre.
With that, during his time in legislature, he served as Minister of Culture, Recreation and Fitness.
“I used to lay in bed and say, ‘how can I change the face of the community?’ How can we change the outlook and the thinking?” he said. “You work hard at it, you remain determined and you don’t give up.”
MacLean said he and his wife, Glenda, have had a wonderful life together in his time helping to lead the town.
“We’ve thrown the challenge to move Port Hawkesbury ahead with a new council and a new mayor, and I know they’ll do a good job,” he said.
The final inductee into the Wall of Fame was the 1984 Chafe’s Irving Cardinals, a team that won both the Nova Scotia and Atlantic Midget A Baseball titles.
Making history with that squad were coaches Dan Willie MacDonald and Hughie MacDougall, along with Robbie Wyre, Pat MacIntyre, Robert Ryan, Barry MacNeil, Angus MacDougall, Collie Hayes, Dean Martin, Lennan MacDonald, Wade MacNeil, Carl MacMullin, Kevin MacRae, Darren MacDonald, Kenny MacIntyre, John MacNeil, Frankie MacIntyre, Carl Mooring, and Dave MacIsaac.
Like Burke and MacLean, the Sunday induction made Dave MacIsaac a two-time member of the Wall of Fame. He was formerly ushered in for his work with volleyball.
An interesting fact about the squad is that every player who tried out earned a place on the team.
Speaking on behalf of the Cardinals was Hughie MacDougall, who coached not only the 1984 Cardinals (with Dan Willie MacDonald) but also this season’s Midget A provincial champions, the Strait Area Sting.
“We had a banquet in 1984 where the 1954 team [which also won provincials] presented trophies to our guys,” MacDougall said. “And at a Friday night Pirate game, the 1984 team passed out certificates to our guys. It was a very nice thing.
“I was going to say a little something about each of the guys, but that would take too long. All of them are great men, and I had such a great time coaching them over the years.”
The Sunday gathering was the fifth induction ceremony for the Wall of Fame. The Wall of Fame committee members included Hughie MacDougall, Roy Sturmy, Roy Dobson, Terry MacDonald, Paula Davis, and John Davis. Davis served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
“The portraits will be installed in the mezzanine in the near future, and we hope you come back to see them and the other people on the Wall of Fame,” Davis said.