Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1985, the City’s Centennial Year, for the purpose of recognizing the outstanding achievements in sport of individual athletes, builders, teams and special award persons. The Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame identifies and honours, not only contemporary individuals, but also those who have excelled in sport at some time since the founding of Lethbridge.
The Sports Hall of Fame is administered by a Board of Directors, volunteers representing various sectors of the sports community.
Origins of the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame
The City of Lethbridge celebrated its Centennial in 1985. In planning for the celebrations, the Lethbridge Centennial Society struck a sub-committee to consider ways in which Lethbridge might showcase its rich sports history. The sub-committee, consisting of Gary Bowie, Keith Robin and Mal Clewes thought that a hall of fame could be established to recognize Lethbridge residents who had excelled as athletes, coaches and sport organizers.
A number of Lethbridge citizens with a strong sports background were recruited to serve on a board and the first meeting of the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors was held on June 14, 1984 with Mal Clewes serving as chair. The Board included the following members:
Brian Bourassa – City of Lethbridge administrator responsible for sports facilities and programs.
Dr. Gary Bowie – University of Lethbridge professor, multi-sport coach and organizer of countless school and community sporting events.
Marge Clark – former high school teacher and coach of the provincial champion Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Clipper Queens basketball team.
Carol Gemer – former Canadian national track and field champion athlete who provided service as a coach and official at the local, national and international levels.
Reno Lizzi – Lethbridge businessman and sports personality who organized and promoted a variety of sporting events with a special emphasis on baseball and tennis.
Hector Negrello – former member of the World Champion Lethbridge Maple Leafs Hockey Club who coached and organized hockey and baseball for decades.
Don Pilling – former sports editor of the Lethbridge Herald and one of the City’s foremost sport historians. Don’s guidance enhanced innumerable Lethbridge sporting activities over the years.
Dr. Keith Robin – Lethbridge Community College instructor and administrator who provided leadership for a variety of community initiatives.
Peter Smith – former Exalted Ruler of the Lethbridge Elks Lodge No. 37 who provided financial and organizational assistance for the Sports Hall of Fame.
Dianne Violini – perennial national champion bowler who promoted the sport for young and old. Dianne also served as the first secretary of the Sports Hall of Fame.
Wilma Winter – University of Lethbridge professor, coach of national champion women’s basketball team and supporter of a wide range of university and community activities.
Mal Clewes – Lethbridge Collegiate Institute principal who helped coordinate local and provincial sport programs for Alberta high schools.
The Board developed by-laws and became registered as a society under the Societies Act of Alberta. Guidelines were established for the induction of athletes, teams and builders and a banquet was planned to provide recognition for inductees.
The Lethbridge Elks Lodge No. 37 became a major sponsor of the Hall of Fame and enabled the creation of a portable display of inductee photographs and biographical information. A logo was approved and nominations for the first inductees were solicited.
The inaugural induction ceremony was held on April 27, 1985 at the Lethbridge Lodge with Brent Seely serving as Master of Ceremonies and G.S. (Joe) Lakie as Guest Speaker. A total of twelve athletes, six teams and twenty sport builders were inducted including the World Champion Lethbridge Maple Leafs Hockey Club, 1950 -51 and the Canadian Champion Lethbridge Broders Chinook Basketball Team, 1958 -59.
The banquet was attended by six hundred people and set the stage for an annual event that celebrates the rich history of sport in our fine city.