SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - A crowd flowed in the Credit Union Place on Friday evening to celebrate and welcome the diverse range of champions into this year’s P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame.
Notable figures included Kathy O’ Rourke and her brother, Peter MacDonald, from the sport of curling, Loather Zimmermann, the founder of fencing on the province, and Gerard Smith for his great feats in hockey, basketball, and harness racing.
“It’s an amazing honour to be inducted into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame, and then, of course, to go in with your brother who really has been my mentor for this whole career. It’s really special that way,” chimed O’Rourke, who was accompanied with 11 family members.
“It’s been a family affair,” acknowledged MacDonald. “I had the opportunity to bring Kathy into the game because she’s my younger sister, and so it’s been quite something to see her skills develop over the years and for her to become one of the best lady curlers in the country.”
MacDonald noted the highlight of his career happened in 1999, playing with his wife Karen, sister Kathy, and her husband Mark O’Rourke when the Island team finished second in the national mixed.
“But the real highlight for me was watching Kathy come second in the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.,” remarked MacDonald. “I wanted to see her excel, and I am quite proud to see my sister accomplish so much with the sport of curling.”
Each of the honourees was presented with a pictured plaque and will appear in the P.E.I. Sports Halls of Fame with all the other great inductees who preceded them.
MacDonald admitted, “It’s an unexpected honour and privilege to go in with the athletes before me.”
Zimmermann was among the inductees. He founded the first fencing club on P.E.I., during the 1967-68 school year after being hired as a faculty member at Prince of Wales College. When the University of Prince Edward was formed later, so was the first UPEI Fencing Club.
“I started the club because I loved the sport and when I came to the Island from Germany and asked around there was nothing here, so in order for me to be able to fence, I needed components. The athletic director of the Prince of Wales suggested I form a club, and he helped to purchase equipment for 14 people,” explained Zimmermann.
“It was primarily a university fencing club, but then the president of UPEI asked if his boy could join and we ended up getting members from outside the school,” he continued.
“At the time not many people knew what fencing was about, and they based it as a form of swordplay from watching movies – it’s not the same thing. But the club has been around for 51 years, and it continues to attract new members.”
Zimmermann acknowledged he was surprised at his nomination into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame, and humbly added, “a little embarrassed.”
Gerard Smith has been inducted before with sports teams, but he said, as his eyes lit up, that to go in as an individual this time around “is a real honour.” Smith had a long career as a player and coach in many Island sports, including hockey and baseball.
“When you’re nominated and inducted you wonder if you are worthy. But ever since I knew I was going to be inducted I got a lot of phone calls, congratulations, and it really makes you feel honoured,” he said.
Smith said there have been quite a few highlights in his career.
“When I started out as a young athlete I never would have imagined ending up in the Hall of Fame, but I did the best I could every time I went on the field or on the ice and let the results speak for themselves,” he warmly smiled.