The French name for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is “Le Panthéon des sports canadiens”. I like that – not just a hall, but a temple, dedicated to the gods.
In the shadow of the old Paskapoo Ski Hill, on the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics, a reincarnated Pantheon, opened on Canada Day, 2011 in Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park, 3,400 kilometres from its original location.
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame was spawned in 1955 and originally located in Toronto on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition. Attendance had been tanking since its locker-mate, the Hockey Hall of Fame, vacated for better digs in 1993. The hall had been without a home since 2006 when the Toronto location was leveled to make way for BMO Field.
It took about eighteen months and $30 million to build the new 44,000 square feet facility. More than 50 interactive exhibits as well as a 120-seat theatre and 11 galleries feature an array of Canadian sporting success stories. Judy shadow boxed with Lennox Lewis, caught a 92 mile an hour fastball (ouch!), recorded her own sports broadcast, and perfected her front crawl with tips from Olympian swimmer Alex Baumann.
Figuring prominently around the hall are seven magnificent bronze statues designed and produced by StudioEIS, a Brooklyn, NY-based sculpture factory. As well as Olympic gold medal diver Sylvie Bernier and hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, sculptures include figure skater Barbara Ann Scott; track-and-field star Phil Edwards as well as Ron Turcotte, jockey of Northern Dancer and Secretariat; cross-country skier Herman “Jack Rabbit” Johannsen and curler Sandra Schmirler.