North Delta-raised Jeff Francis pitches for Colorado Rockies during a MLB game in 2012. (submitted photo: BC Sports Hall of Fame)

Delta’s Francis among five athletes named to BC Sports Hall of Fame

Kirk McLean, Alex Stieda and Sonja Gaudet among other 2020 inductees

North Delta-raised baseball player Jeff Francis, former Canucks goalie Kirk McLean and champion cyclist Alex Stieda are among 2020 BC Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

The five athletes, three builder-coaches, a team, one pioneer, one media member and a W.A.C. Bennett Award winner were named Tuesday (Oct. 29) during a media event at the hall, located at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.

The other two inductees in the 2020 athletes class are Sonja Gaudet (wheelchair curling) and Brent Johnson (football).

In the builders/coaches category, Harry White (golf), Bill Mitchell (wrestling) and Valerie Johnson (trampoline gymnastics) were announced as inductees.

As a team, the 1979-80 University of Victoria Viking’s men’s basketball squad will become hall members.

Duncan-born hockey pro Robin Bawa will be inducted as a pioneer (as the first Punjabi-Canadian NHL player), Cleve Dheensaw as a media member and Kathy Newman as winner of the W.A.C. Bennett Award.

• RELATED STORY, from May 2019: South Surrey rugby player ‘extremely honoured’ to be inducted into BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Growing up, Francis played for North Delta Blue Jays in the BC Premier Baseball League before moving on to UBC, where he played for three seasons and set 11 team pitching records. Last March, the Thunderbirds retired Francis’ jersey #16 and created a tribute to him on the right-field wall of the university’s Tourmaline West Stadium.

Francis was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the first round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft, and he went on to become one of the best Canadian pitchers to ever play in the league.

“During an eleven-season major league career, perhaps Jeff’s best was 2007, when as a member of the Colorado Rockies, he compiled a 19-9 win-loss record, 165 strikeouts in 34 starts, and helped the team advance to the World Series,” a hall bio says. “In doing so, Jeff became only the second Canadian to pitch in a World Series game and the first Canadian starting pitcher to win a postseason game.”

Francis, who now splits his time between homes in London, Ontario and Denver, Colorado, represented Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games. That same year, he retired from Major League Baseball after playing in 254 regular-season games, compiling a 72-82 win-loss record with a 4.97 earned-run average and 869 strikeouts.

Tom Mayenknecht, Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame, called the hall’s class of 2020 “a terrific cross-section of the personalities and teams that make the history, heritage and culture of sport in British Columbia so notable and inspiring for the next generation of young people in B.C.,” he said in a media release.

“On behalf of our Board of Trustees and management team led by Chief Executive Nicholas Cartmell, along with our Selection Committee and Foundation Board, we’re looking forward to celebrating their achievements provincially, nationally and globally at the BC Sports Hall of Fame Induction Gala on June 4, 2020.”

That night, the gala will be held at Vancouver Convention Centre. A limited number of early-bird tickets are available now on the BC Sports Hall of Fame website (bcsportshall.com), starting at $3,000 for a table of 10 and $300 for single seats.

The BC Sports Hall of Fame celebrates “extraordinary achievement in B.C. sport history and inspires future generations to make their dreams come true.”

Since 1966, 406 individuals and 63 teams have been inducted into the hall, which attracts an estimated 35,000 visitors annually with its collection of 27,000 artifacts and 100,000 archival documents.

CLICK HERE to see the hall’s searchable list of honoured members.

The following are bios for all 2020 inductees, as submitted by BC Sports Hall of Fame.

ATHLETE

Sonja Gaudet – Wheelchair Curling

“In 2006 she was selected to be a member of Team Canada for the Paralympic Games, where she is currently the world’s most decorated wheelchair curler. Sonja helped Canada win three Paralympic gold medals (2006 Torino, 2010 Vancouver, 2014 Sochi) and served as a Canadian Paralympic opening ceremonies flag bearer during the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics. Sonja lead Canada to their first World Wheelchair Curling Championship (2009) and won a total of three during her career (2011, 2013). She became the first curler to innovatively use a balance post attached to her wheelchair, which allowed her to sit up straight and have greater accuracy (2009). Sonja was also the first wheelchair athlete inducted into the Curling Canada Hall of Fame (2013).”

Alex Stieda – Cycling

“Alex became the first North American to wear the yellow race leader jersey at the Tour de France for one stage in 1986 – a jersey awarded to the leader in each various stage of the race. He is still one of only two Canadians to date to accomplish this feat. He also captured four other classification jerseys on Day 2 of the 1986 Tour de France, ultimately finishing 120th overall out of 200 starters. He is a two-time Canadian Olympian, finishing 10th in the men’s points race and the top-16 in the men’s individual pursuit at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.”

Jeff Francis – Baseball

“Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 1st round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft, Jeff went on to become one of the best Canadian pitchers to ever play in the Major Leagues. During an eleven-season major league career, perhaps Jeff’s best was 2007, when as a member of the Colorado Rockies, he compiled a 19-9 win-loss record, 165 strikeouts in 34 starts, and helped the team advance to the World Series. In doing so, Jeff became only the second Canadian to pitch in a World Series game and the first Canadian starting pitcher to win a postseason game. Jeff retired from Major League Baseball in 2015, after playing in 254 regular season games, compiling a 72-82 win-loss record with a 4.97 earned run average and 869 strikeouts.”

Brent Johnson – Football

“Regarded as one of the CFL’s greatest Canadian defensive players of all time, he played his entire 11-year career (2001-11) on the defensive line with the BC Lions. During 185 regular season games he compiled 225 tackles and 89 sacks (holding the record for sacks with the BC Lions). He played 184 consecutive regular season games – missing only one for the birth of his son – showcasing his exceptional durability as a defensive player. Brent helped the BC Lions win two Grey Cup Championships (2006, 2011), was a two-time winner of the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award (2005, 2006), and is the only Canadian to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award (2006).”

Kirk McLean – Ice Hockey

“Kirk McLean is one of the greatest goaltenders in Vancouver Canucks history, with over 11 NHL seasons with the team (1987-98). At the time of his departure in 1998, he ranked as the Canucks’ all-time leader in all major goaltender statistical categories: games played, wins, and shutouts. In the 516 regular season games Kirk was with Vancouver they won 211 games, recorded 20 shutouts and had an 3.28 goals against average. He helped lead the Canucks to Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final. He’s remembered best for his remarkable sliding save in overtime of Game 7 during Vancouver’s first round series.”

BUILDER/COACH

Harry White – Golf

“Born in Vancouver, Harry White was an influential figure in the BC golf community for over sixty years as a player, coach, instructor, administrator, organizer, and volunteer. His dedicated work at the grassroots level of the game helped develop some of Canada’s top amateur and professional players. This includes Richard Zokol, Jennifer Wyatt, James Lepp, and Rick Gibson, as well as many BC Junior and Canadian Junior Champions.”

Bill Mitchell – Wrestling

“Bill Mitchell devoted nearly 30 years to BC and Canadian wrestling as a coach, manager, and administrator at the provincial, national, and international levels. He also had a nine-season career in the CFL as an offensive lineman and kicker – winning the accolade of CFL All-Star in both 1961 and 1962. Bill was the Canadian wrestling team coach and manager at the 1988 Olympics, 1986 Commonwealth Games, and 1985/1986 World Wrestling Championships. He founded the BC-Japan cultural exchange, which allowed Canadian and Japanese wresters to learn wrestling and culture in a new country. He was also the Chairman of the Junior World Wrestling Championships hosted in Vancouver (1981).”

Valerie Johnson

“Born and raised in New Westminster, Valerie is considered among Canada’s best trampoline coaches with a career spanning over 45-years. Her career has also included periods as an outstanding international athlete and an International Trampoline Federation judge. Valerie twice represented Canada as an athlete at the Trampoline World Championships (1972, 1974) and became Canada’s first-ever national champion in the sport (1971).”

TEAM

1979-80 UVic Vikings Mens Basketball Team

“The 1979-80 UVic’s Vikings Men’s Basketball team won UVic’s first Canadian national university basketball championship, defeating number-one ranked Brandon University in the final 73-65. This began a remarkable run of seven consecutive CIAU national basketball championships for the UVic’s men’s basketball team from 1980-86, at the time it was a CIAU record. They were the first team in Canada West history to go undefeated (20-0) during regular season play. Team Members: Ted Anderson, Bill Chapman (manager), Reni Dolcetti, Jim Duddridge (assistant coach), Kelly Dukeshire, Bruce Hamilton, Chris Hebb, Craig Higgins, Ian Hyde-Lay, Gerald Kazanowski, Gregg Kazanowski, Tom Narbeshuber, Eli Pasquale, Ken Shields (head coach), Billy Turney-Loos, Norm Vickery (assistant coach), Mickey Welder.”

PIONEER

Robin Bawa – Ice Hockey

“Robin Bawa was the first athlete of South Asian descent to play and score a goal in the NHL, suiting up for the Washington Capitals on October 6, 1989. He inspired a generation of South Asian Canadians to play and pursue hockey. He had a twelve-year professional hockey career, briefly playing for the Vancouver Canucks (1987-1999). In 61 HNL regular season games, he scored six goals and one assist for a total of seven points. Including minor league he played 851 games, scored 195 goals, and had 240 assists for 425 total points.”

MEDIA

Cleve Dheensaw

“With nearly forty years experience reporting and writing for the Times Colonist in Victoria, Cleve Dheensaw is considered the foremost authority on Vancouver Island sport. Particularly amateur sport, earning a reputation as one of BC and Western Canada’s most respected sportswriters.”

W.A.C. BENNETT AWARD

Kathy Newman

“Kathy Newman served as Executive Director of BC Wheelchair Sports Association for 25 years, helping it become world-renowned for providing opportunities for people with disabilities to lead active lives and pursue athletic dreams internationally. She worked to increase participation rates in wheelchair sports, creating national and provincial programs to increase awareness for the Wheelchair Loan program and Bridging the Gap program.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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