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Wetaskiwin honours great community athletes and sports contributors

More athletes and sports community contributors will be inducted into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame on March 19.
Larry Hodgson

Another batch of Wetaskiwin’s revered athletes and sports community contributors will be inducted into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame on March 19.

During the 11th annual induction ceremony the inductees presented and celebrated will be accomplished hockey and baseball player Larry Hodgson in the Athlete category, skilled volleyball player Natalie Reimer Anderson in the Athlete category, Larry Ethier in the Builder category for his contributions coaching volleyball, Phyllis and Bob Cleland in the Builder category for their efforts in competing in and supporting curling and baseball in the community and the the 1991-92 Icemen Hockey Team in the Team category for their ground-breaking and outstanding year.

Following the banquet at the Best Western Wayside Inn Banquet Room a presentation will honour each of the recipients with small and larger plaques. Each individual or team is presented with a smaller personal plaque and the larger ones are proudly displayed in the community. “We unveil a big plaque that’s placed in the Wetaskiwin Arena,” said Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame president Sandy Wright.

“They were chosen for their accomplishments and what awards they’ve won,” said Wright.

Each year, after nominations are submitted to the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame committee vote upon those new to the pool and nominations kept of file, voting is based upon contributions and who is already memorialized in the Hall of Fame, says Wright.

Larry Hodgson

During the 11 years Hodgson spent attending an Ermineskin Indian Residential School he developed a vivacious passion for competitive sports and learned how to play hockey and baseball. The skills he developed allowed him to play on teams across Alberta and in Europe.

Hodgson passed his love of the game on to his grandchildren as well as other youths of Maskwacis. When not playing sports he remained involved through coaching, mentoring other coaches, mentoring youths and working in hockey schools.

One of Hodgson’s largest accomplishments as an athlete is scoring the fastest three goals in competitive hockey. In 1956 he scored three goals in 20 seconds while playing for the Ponoka Stampeders. From 1955 to 1956 the Stampeders also won the provincial title and the Western Canada Championships.

Hodgson received offers to play minor professional hockey in Omaha and Fort Wayne but chose to play professionally in England, where his team travelled to Amsterdam, the occupied Czech Republic and Germany.

In his later years Hodgson continued to play on many seniors teams, both locally and internationally as well as follow his grandsons blooming hockey careers at the University of Alberta and the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Natalie Reimer Anderson

During her volleyball career at Wetaskiwin Composite High School and the University of Winnipeg Reimer Anderson won three provincial and two Canadian championships. She was female athlete of the year three times, was awarded all-conference three times, tournament all-star at the Canadian level four times, all-Canadian twice and academic all-Canadian four times. Reimer Anderson finished her volleyball career playing professionally.

During Reimer Anderson’s Grade 12 year her volleyball team moved to the 4A level and began competing against much larger schools. In 1991, as a member of the team, she was inducted into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame.

While playing for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen Reimer Anderson was named to the all-conference team and during the years 1993 to 1996 the Wesmen reached the Canadian university championships. Reimer Anderson was named to the all-Canadian team twice and was a Canadian tournament all-star in each of the three years. She also was awarded the National Tournament Sportsmanship Recognition Award in 1996. In 1996, her graduating year, she was the Great Plains Conference Female Athlete of the Year, the GPAC nominee for Canadian University Athlete of the Year and was named the University of Winnipeg Female Athlete of the Year.

After graduating Reimer Anderson spent two years playing professionally in a European league in Esmonz Portugal in 1997 and Maylan-La Tranche France in 1998.

Following that she continued to be involved by coaching at high school, college and university levels.

Phyllis and Bob Cleland

The Cleland’s have been involved in curling and ball for most of their lives as well as well as being involved in youth sports at a community level.

Both Phyllis and Bob were ball competitors. From 1965 to 1985 Phyllis pitched for various Wetaskiwin ladies teams. Her teams won several berths to the provincials and in 1975 won the provincial silver medal.

Bob played ball for Wetaskiwin teams in the 1960’s and 1970’s as well as other teams in the area. In 1997 Bob was a member of the Falun men’s slo-pitch team that represented Alberta at the Canadian Slo-pitch Championships. In men’s slo-pitch Bob also won a bronze medal at the 2009 55-plus Alberta Summer Games and a gold medal in the 2011 55-plus Alberta Summer Games. As well as competing in ball, both Phyllis and Bob organized and coached ball teams.

Phyllis and Bob have both also competed at the highest levels of curling against many of the most well known curlers of the era, including: Baldwin, Gervais, Watchhorn and Northcott. Bob has won a silver placing at the Massey Ferguson Provincial Play-downs, berths to the Northern Alberta Curling Association play-downs.

Phyllis and Bob teamed up and representing Wetaskiwin won four more berths to the NACA mixed play-downs in 1967, 1968, 1970 and 1985. In 2013 Bob and Phyllis won a gold medal at the 55-plus Alberta Winter Games in the 70+ Mixed Curling event. In 2015 Bob continued his winning ways and won a bronze medal at the 55-Plus Alberta Winter Games in the Men’s 70 Plus division.

Phyllis was a director of the Wetaskiwin Curling Club for a number of years and during the 1980’s and 1990’s she taught junior curling at the club. As well, from 1991 to 1993 Phyllis coached the Wetaskiwin Composite High School boys team and from 1992 to 1995 she coached the Wetaskiwin Composite High School girls team. In the 1990’s as a level 3 curling coach Phyllis also coached both a junior men’s competitive curling team and a junior ladies competitive team, both teams were from Wetaskiwin. At the 1997 junior ladies provincial play-downs Phyllis received the coaches award.

Larry Ethier

Ethier coached volleyball in Wetaskiwin for 23 years. During his years of coaching, his volleyball teams won eleven provincial championships, made three appearances at the national championships and won a national bronze medal. Larry also established the Wetaskiwin Volleyball Club.

Between 1976 and 1992 Ethier’s Wetaskiwin Composite High School volleyball teams won six provincial championships. Four of the provincial championships were with the boys teams and two were with the girls teams. During 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1984 boys teams each won the 3A provincial title. His 1989-90 girls won the 3A provincials and the next year the girls chose to play at the 4A level against much larger schools and again won the provincial title. The 1990-91 girls team with Ethier as their coach was inducted into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 for their outstanding achievements. During Larry’s coaching years at Wetaskiwin Composite High School there wasn’t a year when his team didn’t represent their zone at the provincial championships.

In the spring of 1978 Larry established the Wetaskiwin Volleyball Club Avalanche. In the club the juvenile boys’ teams won the provincial championships, represented Alberta at the national championships and won the bronze medal at the national championships. The Midget team represented Alberta at the Western Canadian championships and the Bantam team won a provincial championship.

Icemen Junior B Hockey Team

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Icemen Hockey Association and in the 25 years of the team’s existence over 400 players have had a chance to play junior B hockey in Wetaskiwin. In that time approximately 20 players have been awarded over $15,000 in scholarships.

The 1991-92 Icemen Team was very competitive considering they were a first year team in the Northeast Junior Hockey League. In exhibition games before the league play commenced the new Icemen were undefeated. The team ended the regular season with a 31-5 win-loss record for a second place finish in the league.

The team also had five players, two coaches and one manager traveled to Lloydminster to take part in the league’s all-star game.

During the quarter finals of the league playoffs they defeated Slave Lake and in the semifinals defeated the Vegreville Rangers. They went undefeated in both series and advanced to the league finals against the Lloydminster Bandits who were the defending league and provincial champions.

In the league finals the Icemen won the first two games against the Bandits. As the playoffs continued, the Bandits won the next two games to tie the series and then each team won one more game taking the finals to game seven. After a great battle the Icemen lost 5-2. Lloydminster advanced to the provincials and then to the Western Canadian championships. They won both series without a loss. In the 1991-92 season, the Icemen was the only team to defeat the Bandits.