Johnson's long known the true spirit of the Games

Robin
Robin Short
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Newfoundland sports icon added to Games Hall of Honour

Of all the highlights and medal performances he's seen over the years - and Blair Tucker's gold-medal swim at the Aquarena in the 1977 Canada Summer Games at St. John's ranks way up there - Don Johnson's favourite Canada Games memory involves a Newfoundland athlete who finished last 36 years ago.

"It was in Swangard Stadium at the 1973 Games in New Westminister-Burnaby, B.C.," Johnson recalls. "It was a Newfoundlander and a native kid from the Northwest Territories pole-vaulting. They pole-vaulted at the 12-foot level while everyone else was at the 15, 16, 17-foot level or whatever it was.

Don Johnson of St. Johns was one of seven people inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour Friday night in Summerside, P.E.I. Photo by Robin Short/The Telegram

Summerside, P.E.I. -

Of all the highlights and medal performances he's seen over the years - and Blair Tucker's gold-medal swim at the Aquarena in the 1977 Canada Summer Games at St. John's ranks way up there - Don Johnson's favourite Canada Games memory involves a Newfoundland athlete who finished last 36 years ago.

"It was in Swangard Stadium at the 1973 Games in New Westminister-Burnaby, B.C.," Johnson recalls. "It was a Newfoundlander and a native kid from the Northwest Territories pole-vaulting. They pole-vaulted at the 12-foot level while everyone else was at the 15, 16, 17-foot level or whatever it was.

"Anyway, that Newfoundlander and the fellow from the Territories pole-vaulted for about 45 minutes. They got up around 14 feet and the Newfoundlander didn't get over. When the Territories kid finally got over, the Newfoundlander and him hugged and the stadium went up in applause. There were about 20 other pole vaulters on the field watching, and they stood up and cheered with the rest of the fans.

"Boy, I don't know the Newfoundland kid's name, but I do know that's when it hit me as to what these Games are all about ... two kids respecting one another.

"It's funny, but that one moment has stayed with me all these years."

For his involvement in 10 Canada Games with Newfoundland teams in an executive capacity and as a member of the Canada Games Council, Johnson was inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour Friday night, just prior to the opening of the 2009 P.E.I. Games.

Also added to the Hall of Honour, awarded to people who have "contributed immensely to the Canada Games movement," were fellow builders Bob Secord, Roly McLenahan, Bill Clarke and John Wilbert.

Athletes Dave 'Eli' MacEachern and Cassie Campbell, both of whom went on to the Olympics, were also honoured.

Johnson's initial involvement in the Canada Games began at those 1973 Games in B.C., when he was Newfoundland's assistant deputy minister for sport, and lasted until the 1991 Winter Games, which were staged in P.E.I., ironically enough.

It was but another honour for Johnson, a former Newfoundland and Canadian Amateur Hockey Association president.

He is also a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame, the provincial hockey and softball Halls of Fame and the Royal St. John's Regatta Hall of Fame.

Johnson's achievements in hockey are especially noteworthy. He was the driving force behind Newfoundland's joining the CAHA, having Canada withdraw, and later re-enter, the International Ice Hockey Federation and was a chief organizer for the early Canada Cup hockey tournaments.

But, he said, this latest Canada Games honour is just as special.

"It's a bit overwhelming," Johnson said. "It sort of struck me a lot harder than I thought it would. We're only the second group to ever go in, so it's very special to me. It's one of the highlights of my career."

Following the ceremony, one of the many congratulations Johnson received came from double Olympic gold medal speedskater Catriona Lemay-Doan, a 1983 and '87 Canada Games alumni.

"I'm only a little guy from Newfoundland," said Johnson, "and when someone of her athletic status says, 'Mr. Johnson, I have to shake your hand,' it really tells you something about this.

"How proud am I."

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canada Games Council, Johnson's, Newfoundland and Canadian Amateur Hockey Association Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall International Ice Hockey Federation

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Canada, St. John's Summerside Swangard Stadium New Westminister-Burnaby Northwest Territories

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  • Viking_Alumni
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Congratulations Mr Johnson! All your hard work and support for amateur sport in NL is truly remarkable...congratulations again.

  • Viking_Alumni
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Congratulations Mr Johnson! All your hard work and support for amateur sport in NL is truly remarkable...congratulations again.