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Markham to honour its athletes with hall of fame
All-sport hall of fame will be housed in the city’s new Pan Am Centre, as a legacy project of the Games.
June 29, 2015
Noor Javed

Which GTA municipality has produced a host of world champions, NHL stars and Olympic athletes?

We won’t hold it against you if Markham wasn’t the first to come to mind. But the city wants to change that, and is hoping the opening of a Sports Hall of Fame to celebrate the athletic achievements of its residents will help.

Last week, the city council approved the hall of fame project, to be set up in the new PanAm Centre. The city wanted to find a way to ensure that Markham’s contributions to sport was recognized even after the games were over.

Toronto has its famous Hockey Hall of Fame, but not one dedicated to all sport. Aurora established one in 2013, and Hamilton has had one since 2010.

“Our mission was to come up with a legacy project that would linger on and on and on once the games are over,” said Ron Anderson, chair of the sport development committee, which came up with the idea. “We decided that we had this building, this key focal point for sports, but we didn’t have a place to recognize all the people with links to Markham who are athletes,” he said.

He added that the Pan Am building is booked every weekend for sports events until next spring, making it accessible to the public, too. The halls of the centre would serve at the platform to exhibit plaques and pictures honouring athletes going back to the 1800s.

So what are the criteria for being nominated? Candidates must have a widely recognized connection to Markham, including: being born in Markham, growing up there, living or working in Markham at the time of achievement, or a member of a team competing for Markham.

“There are a number of residents who, for example, are currently or were at one point athletes who have won Olympic medals,” said former Olympian Bill Crothers, one of the minds behind the Hall of Fame project and how it should be structured. “That’s a pretty high standard,” he said.

Crothers won the silver medal for 800m run in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

The city will pay for the $25,000 upfront cost, but it’s expected the program will become financially sustainable. The nomination period is likely to open at the end of the year, and the process will be open to everyone, including non-citizens. The first induction ceremony will be in the fall of 2016.

Some of Markham’s top athletes:
Michelle Li, considered Canada’s most successful female badminton player. The 23-year-old is a two-time Pan Am champion and Commonwealth Games gold medalist. She had Canada’s best showing at the London 2012 Olympics, where she finished fourth in doubles. Ranked 15th in the world, the athlete has become ambassador for the sport in Canada.

Cliff Thorburn, a world snooker champion. In 1980, he won the World Snooker Championship, becoming the first non-Englishman to win the title in almost 100 years. He also became the first player to ever score a perfect match in the championship, sinking 15 red balls, 15 black and all the colours in order without a break. He is a member of the order of Canada and an inductee in the Canadian Hall of Fame.

Gillian Apps, one of the longest serving members of Canada’s national women’s hockey team. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time world champion and five-time world silver medalist. She also comes from a long line of hockey heritage. She is the daughter of NHL-er Syl Apps Jr., (also a Markham resident) and granddaughter of Leaf legend Syl Apps.

Steven Stamkos, team captain for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who plays centre ice for the NHL team. He was the first overall draft pick into the NHL in 2008. He won a silver medal at the World Championships in 2009.