There are two names synonymous with Richmond and sports and, between them, they’ve clocked up an incredible 75 years doing what they love.
But when you talk to Don Fennell and Jim Lamond about being two of this year’s 17 inductees onto the Richmond Sports Wall of Fame, a couple of simple words feature prominently in their past and present motivation: people and community.
The very modest pair — Fennel, the highly-regarded sports editor of the Richmond Review for 25 years and Lamond, a sports coach, official, administrator and founder of the Richmond Sports Council — although not known for their sporting prowess on any field, pool, diamond or rink, are undoubtedly worthy of their place on the Wall of Fame.
And on Saturday, when they’re permanently inducted onto the wall at the Olympic Oval, along with outstanding athletes, such as soccer’s Jason Jordan, rugby’s Jim Donaldson and swimming’s Turlough O’Hare, there will be few prouder than Fennell and Lamond.
“Well, I feel tremendously honoured and tremendously humbled at the same time; I’m not sure I deserve it,” said Fennell, who not only wrote about Richmond’s athletes, he spent countless hours getting to know the people involved and was often found at local rinks, pools, diamonds, tracks, gymnasiums and sport fields well after the work day had ended.
“The big thing for me was the opportunity to meet many wonderful people and watch all these careers unfold, whether it was post-secondary, going into a scholarship or someone developing a professional career. They were all very rewarding to be connected with.
“I was inspired by so many people, so much uniqueness; everyone brought a special something (to their sport).”
Lamond, current chair of the Richmond Sports Council and someone who has been immersed in volunteering at the highest levels for sport locally and across the country since the 1970s, said it’s “always nice to get honoured like this.
“But it’s very much about the people you meet over the years; I’ve met some great volunteers, who put so much into the sport they’re connected to and get little or no financial reward for it; they just love the sport and love the community.
“It’s those people that I’m glad to have known and some of which have gone on to become great friends.
“People often ask why I’ve put so much (into local sport), but I always tell them about a lifetime of amazing friendships.”
Asked what special memories stand out the most in his time spent either documenting sports in the community newspaper or introducing up and coming stars, Fennell is uncomfortable at being put on the spot, given the wealth of talent he’s witnessed during his career.
“I think of people such as Turlough O’Hare, who came out of the Richmond Aquanauts; Olympian swimmer Brian Johns; I remember him as a 10 or 11-year-old, almost from the outset he was tearing up provincial records,” recalled Fennell.
“I remember the bantam hockey team (that went to the provincials) with Troy Stecher and I remember Jason Garrison, who played for the Canucks and used to play for the Sockeyes.
“The Sockeyes coach at the time, Ron Johnson, was short of defencemen. Jason was playing as a forward, but Ron asked him if he could play defence. Well, he adjusted pretty well and ended up being a top defencemen in the NHL.”
And on Richmond’s most recent Olympian, racewalker Evan Dunfee, Fennell recalled first spotting a “skinny kid” who was a good swimmer at Watermania, not long after the facility opened.
Similarly reluctant to single out specific moments while serving the sports community in the city for almost five decades, Lamond cited his founding role in Richmond Sports Council among the highlights.
“It’s hard to say, there’s been so many and I’ve been connected to so many sports in Richmond over all those years,” said Lamond, who lives on Ash Street.
“Being a founding member of the sports council is something quite special to me, I guess, and I was with the B.C. soccer team that won gold in 1981 in Thunder Bay.
“I remember learning to referee, while coaching soccer; we got 100 questions about refereeing and off you went.
“We coached soccer on a Saturday, refereed youth soccer on a Sunday and everyone was a volunteer back then, coaches and referees.”
Also on his resume was involvement, either organizing or administrating, in the BC Summer Games, BC Senior Games and the Commonwealth Games bid committee.
During his career, Fennell — also a key organizer of the Richmond Sports Awards and the Richmond Sports Council — was known for going over and above the call of duty, attending sporting events at all hours and in all weathers, even after clocking off.
“I guess it was a feeling of community; this feeling that these (athletes, young and old) deserved some recognition,” he said.
“I felt like I was a conduit to go out and tell their stories; whether it was a youth game or something more competitive.”
So what’s Fennell doing these days? He’s writing a book.
It’s about “sports, that’s all I can say right now,” he said.
Sports, eh…you don’t say, Don.
This is the second year of inductions onto the Wall of Fame. The wall honours individuals and teams who have played significant roles in building Richmond’s sports community and/or excelled at their sport.
The Wall of Fame is at the Olympic Oval and is part of the ROX experience. Access to the wall and the accompanying History of Sport in Richmond exhibit is free.
Members of the public can submit nominations for the 2017 inductees, up to Dec. 31, via a form posted on the City of Richmond website at Richmond.ca/Sports.
This year’s inductees include:
Sam Gilmore– contributed to early development of lacrosse in Richmond.
Yuichi Akune – founded the Steveston Kendo Club, competed nationally and internationally.
Wally Iverson– competitive bowler and member of BC Bowling Hall of Fame.
Paul Alexander – long-time official and organizer with Richmond Rod and Gun Club and Shooting Federation of Canada.
Betty Hedges– a founder of the Richmond Swim Club, forerunner of the Richmond Kigoos.
Dennis Hedges– a founder of the Richmond Juvenile Soccer Association and active in building the Richmond Swim Club along with his wife, Betty.
Matt Phillips– founded numerous high school football programs in Richmond, member of BC Football Hall of Fame.
Ron White– founder of Richmond Raiders junior football club and BC Football Hall of Fame member.
Rick Henderson– founding member of Richmond Sports Council, founder of Richmond senior men’s and masters basketball leagues, coach for ringette, soccer and basketball and special athletics advocate.
Don Fennell – Richmond Review sports editor for 25 years.
Jim Lamond– coach, administrator chair and board member since the 1970s for Richmond Soccer, BC Youth Soccer and Canada Soccer, charter member and long-time chair of Richmond Sports Council.
Jason Jordan– Vancouver Whitecap and USL first division all-star and MVP.
Jim Donaldson– rugby international with 30 caps for Canada and 10 national championships.
Turlough O’ Hare– two-time Olympic swimmer, medallist at Commonwealth and World University Games, and winner of 37 national championships.
Avril Douglas– held three world records and 12 Canadian records in short distance running for masters athletes.
Gwen McFarlane– winner of numerous BC Seniors Games medals for running, has run 18 marathons as a master’s athlete, BC Masters Athlete of the Year in 2010, 2012.
1996 U-18 Air Attack Women’s Volleyball Team– winner of numerous championships including the Canadian Juvenile Nationals.