Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame honours founding member
By Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly
The Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (WBSHF) has recently announced one of its founding members as an inductee for their Class of 2016. Not only a founding member, the inductee – undoubtedly – has more local sports knowledge, than any other resident living in the Wood Buffalo region.
For over three decades, Curtis (CJ) Phillips has written and broadcasted hundreds of stories for numerous Fort McMurray media outlets on local athletes and sports organizations; including his current position as a writer for Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference and as the Sports Information Officer at Keyano College.
Among a long list of achievements, Phillips is also responsible for bringing the Challenge Cup to the community, which he first established in 1983. The Cup is a year-long series of high school athletics competitions, which has students battle to win the recognition of being the best in Fort McMurray.
“The commitment Phillips has shown to the local sports community has been unparalleled in our region’s history,” WBSHOF President Wade Kolmel stated in a release. “Phillips is one of main reasons the WBSHF exists in the capacity it does today. We’re honoured to celebrate his passion for the local sports community during this year’s 10th annual induction dinner.”
Phillips, a contributor of Connect Weekly – which features his Catch You on the Rebound column, said his dedication of writing about locals is all about giving each individual athlete the professional treatment they deserve.
It was advice he received from his role model and father George Phillips, who was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and St. John’s Ravenscourt Sports Hall of Family in 2010 before passing away on May 29, 2015.
“My father gave me the best advice when I came here in 1982. He said, ‘Treat each athlete and team like they were members of the NBA, NHL, NFL, etcetera’,” Phillips recalled. “Plus, I believe that each, and every individual, is a story in itself. So, there is never a shortage of material. Sports are more than just numbers… there is a strong human element.”
The strong human element Phillips describes had directly impacted him 16 years ago when he watched the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on their home rink at the Casman Centre. The Oil Barons had just won the 2000 Royal Bank Cup for the 30th Junior “A” National Championship on May 14, 2000.
Phillips calls it his most memorable sports moment in the Wood Buffalo region.
“When they were skating around the rink with the Cup held high, a few tears, like many of those in attendance, streamed down my face. It was one of the rare moments that I allowed myself to sit back and soak everything in.”
Taking a look back through sports history since his arrival, Phillips shared how a lot has changed. He also explained that though the community is now offering world-class facilities – and has more people involved in sports; it still ultimately takes an athlete with a healthy mind and body to be among the best.
“There are more sports offered now and we are hosting more provincial and national events. The sports cycle is also much more permanent. Sometimes, in the past, when one key individual left the picture, the sport in question may have died out,” he shared.
“Now I believe, with a larger populace, there are more ideas and more volunteers sharing the work load. Plus, there are more professional coaches and individuals involved in sport for profit. But, sport is still a luxury in life, whereas health and education are a necessity. To become a world-class athlete you do not need world-class facilities.”
The 10th anniversary celebration for the WBSHF society will be held at one of the region’s world-class facilities – The Shell Place – on June 16 with a Class of 2016 Induction Dinner, which will host Olympic gold medalist and Canadian curling ambassador Kevin Martin as the guest speaker.
Phillips will be joined by fellow 2016 inductees, including: local curling champion Lori Olson-Johns, Keyano Huskies men’s volleyball athlete Alwyn Piche and Special Olympics advocate Ernie Kimball.
With the four coming together with local champions to celebrate the advancement of sport in the region, Phillips describes his honour as humbling.
“To be honest, it is humbling as sports has done much, much more for me than I could ever do for it,” he said. “I always joke that I wish I could be like the character in the movie Multiplicity, where he is cloned in order to keep up with all of his various goals. The enjoyment for me, be it writing, announcing, coaching, organizing is in the process.”
Tickets for the event are $100 each, with tables of eight available for $800. Sponsorship opportunities also remain available for the event, and inductee tables are available for sponsorship as well.
Learn more at www.woodbuffalosports.com.