By Lethbridge Herald on May 4, 2015.
Cal O’Brien deftly avoided taking any credit for a Hall of Fame life, Pius Labolevech is pretty sure his dentist is building a million-dollar home thanks to his teeth and Dave Wells? Well, Dave Wells loves his mom.
Add in third-generation Hall of Famer Darin Gibson cracking wise about his dad, Billy Gibson, “slipping one past the goalie” and it was that kind of night at the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday at the Enmax Centre lounge.
The Hall inducted long-time coach and administrator O’Brien alongside another high school coach in Labolevech and high school sports supporter/columnist/administrator and organizer Wells. They also sent in the 1966-67 Lethbridge Junior College Kodiaks championship basketball team and local taekwondo builders Gibson and Colin Nonomura.
Labolevech got the biggest laughs as he told the crowd his ailing health had his doctor giving him six months to live, causing his dentist to start pulling his teeth — and charging him full price for it.
There are four houses worth more than a million dollars in Lethbridge, the long-time Coaldale Kate Andrews coach joked, but there will soon be a fifth. Labolevech was inducted not just for his coaching career but also as one of the people behind moving the South Zone high school basketball championships into bigger, better venues like the University of Lethbridge and eventually, the Enmax Centre.
Labolevech also insisted that, almost a month before his 80th birthday, he planned to outlive his prognosis.
The crowd of more than 200 also saw the Kinsmen male and female sportspersons awards handed out to Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jim Steacy and U of L Pronghorns basketball standout Kim Veldman. O’Brien, who could have been inducted partway through a coaching and teaching career that had him in charge of two Pronghorn basketball squads and a host of very successful Catholic Central teams, insisted he simply surrounded himself with good people. O’Brien said part of his success was serendipity, too, as he spotted a young girl bouncing a basketball lefthanded down the road while he was driving to work. That girl turned out to be Hall of Famer and Canada West women’s basketball all-star — and LSHOF inductee — Dori Rodzinyak.
Rodzinyak, now Dori Johnson, was one of the evening’s MCs alongside another inductee in track athlete Carole Gemer.
Dori turned out to be the backbone of a provincial championship team for O’Brien, who took credit only for having good friends and co-workers. He coached almost every sport under the sun in his time at CCH, including stints as the men’s and women’s coach at the U of L. He coached CCH to a league title 13 years after delivering the game-winning touchdown pass for those same Cougars.
Wells has been a columnist in The Lethbridge Herald for decades but has also contributed to local sports as an adviser, confidant, organizer and relentless promoter.
He was sure to thank friends and family but saved his best moment to steal a page from J.K. Simmons’ Oscar speech and reminded everyone to call their mothers.
After that, he made sure to thank his mom, Mona, proudly seated in the crowd.
Gibson and Nonomura co-founded a taekwondo studio in 1994 and since then have worked at the national level and beyond. Gibson, whose father and grandfather are both inductees, said he was a happy accident in his parents’ life, and that his hockey-star father “slipped one past the goalie” to have his youngest son. The joke brought groans from the crowd but Gibson rightly pointed out his father — an Olympic gold-medal winning hockey player and larger-than-life personality — would have “loved that one.”
Gibson’s grandfather, James, is in as part of the Supinas Senior Soccer Club from the 1930s.
The 1966-67 Kodiaks were led by another Hall of Famer in coach Gary Bowie, who said he is as proud now as he was in 1967 when the team won the Western Inter-College Conference championship and were 17-1. Bowie also took the stage as part of the Lethbridge Sport Council board to announce that organization was renaming its Spirit in Sport award after local sports supporter and LSHOF treasurer Knud Petersen.
The spirit in sport award started in 2010, when it was given to Petersen.
Steacy was celebrated not just for his Kinsmen award but was also presented a sculpture by George Gemer, himself a champion hammer thrower before his long, Hall-of-Fame career as a coach — and now a sculptor. Gemer was asked to make the piece by Steacy’s mother, Debby, who died last year and he only recently finished it.
The presentation was one of many which had the crowd on its feet.
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