By RYAN MCCRACKEN on December 30, 2020.
The Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame will get one new, but familiar face, as well as its first group following Tuesday’s announcement that late boxing coach Bill Page and the Medicine Hat Hockey Hounds will be the Wall’s newest inductees in 2021.
While a ceremony date has yet to be determined due to public gathering restrictions, City of Medicine Hat recreation manager Natalie Sauer says the inductees will be honoured at some point in the New Year after putting in decades of tireless work across Medicine Hat and beyond.
“They’re very well deserving,” said Sauer. “In both cases, they were nominated by people in our community who really felt they have done a tremendous amount, which they have. The Hockey Hounds were in the category of builder and sponsor, and Bill Page was in the coach and builder category – and they fit beautifully well in either one of these categories.”
Sauer says the Hockey Hounds will be the first group to join the Wall, which will honour every member who ever spent time on the organization’s board over the past five decades.
“This is really exciting, to have an association as part of the Sports Wall of Fame,” said Sauer. “That’s a history of 50 years of people who have been on the Hockey Hounds board who will be recognized as part of this induction.”
Page helped found the Medicine Hat Boxing Club in 1975 and went on to train athletes of all skill levels right up until his death in 2016. Medicine Hat Boxing Club coach Kerry Fahlman says news of Page’s induction came as no surprise, as he put in countless hours helping young boxers find their passion in the sport, and treated everyone like an Olympian.
“He’s deserved it for all these years. I guess my only wish is that it would have come when he was still alive,” said Fahlman. “He treated everybody the same. Everybody that came into that gym, in his mind, was a champion. That was probably the most special thing about Bill, was the way he treated others. And not just athletes – coaches and everybody. He pretty much dedicated his life to boxing and helping kids.”
Page earned a Civic Recognition Award in 1996, and was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He was also well known for making bull rope whenever he wasn’t training the next generation of boxers.
After he passed away in 2016, Page’s name was added to the local boxing club’s annual memorial tournament -Â the Nieman-Page Memorial – alongside fellow founding member Ev Nieman.
“He definitely was a legend, and not just locally, but nationally,” said Fahlman. “People knew Bill right across the country because he was on the Canadian amateur boxing board too, so he knew everybody. I already let some folks at Boxing Alberta know about it and everybody’s excited and happy for him.”
The Hockey Hounds have had their paws in the local hockey scene for 50 years, helping shape the city’s young players through their volunteer work with organizations across Medicine Hat. The Hounds have also been providing sponsorships, scholarships and the famous Hockey Hounds Major Bantam Hockey Tournament on an annual basis ever since the club’s inception in 1970.
“Fifty years of supporting the community for hockey and other small adventures has been something we’re very proud of. You don’t realize how many hours people have put into it,” said Hockey Hounds president Rod Dunham.
“We wouldn’t be able to do it without the volunteers in Medicine Hat.”
On top of providing a stage for bantam draft candidates to showcase their skills in front of WHL scouts, the major bantam tournament provides an annual boost to the local economy with teams from across Western Canada making the trip out with their families to compete and spend time in the Gas City. This year’s tournament – what would have been the 50th annual – had to be cancelled as a result of the pandemic, but Dunham says the Hounds are already hard at work planning next year’s event.
“The minute the tournament is over, you’re always starting next year’s tournament right away,” he said. “You’re booking ice, hotel rooms, all that kind of stuff. It’s all got to be booked for the following year because it’s the same date every year -Â the third weekend of November.”
Check out Thursday and Saturday’s editions of the News for more on Page and the Hockey Hounds.