Two elite athletes and a legendary community builder were inducted into the Orillia Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Long-time junior, minor, and AAA hockey volunteer, Dave Dunn, headlined the class of 2023 in the builder category.
“This is an honour that I did not expect,” Dunn told a packed audience at Hawk Ridge Golf Club. “I just like to do the work in the background for whichever organization it may be that I’m with.”
Dunn first got involved in minor hockey back in 1982 when he served as the bench boss for his son’s team. Shortly after, he decided to serve Orillia Minor Hockey as vice president. He would go on to be a part of the executive of several local junior teams and continues to help with the Jr. C Terriers.
“Some of the best people I’ve known have been because of hockey,” he said. “They truly came to give their time for their kids and their love of the game.”
Dunn says he is proud to have helped players who went on to play in the NHL. He is also proud of the players who went on to have life success after hockey, achieving scholarships, and going on to having successful careers as business people, police officers, and educators.
“Whenever I run into former players and coaches and we are able to catch up and talk about the old days, that is truly my reward in all of this,” he said. “It has always been about the kids and helping them chase their dreams, whether it be in hockey or not, it’s just one more stepping stone to the future.”
John French, one of Orillia’s top hockey players of all time, won Orillia Minor Hockey’s Doc McKinnon Memorial Trophy for his ability, leadership, and sportsmanship as a youth. French says his parents, Clayt and Leslie, played the biggest role in the success of his career.
“They supported our entire family when it came to sports,” he recalled. “They both were excellent athletes in their own right.”
French remembers during the winter months as a youth, his father would be out making a rink for him and his siblings Allen, Jim, Tim, and Joanne to practise on.
“I remember mom and dad would get up every weekend at six or seven in the morning to drive one of us to the rink for a hockey or ball game,” he recalled. “They were always there to support all of us children.”
French says competitiveness was instilled in him at a young age. His mother was his first hockey coach, and possibly the first female hockey coach in Orillia and maybe even Ontario, he noted.
French recalls a time when he was playing in a beginners league, and his mom would give him extra playing time when their team matched up against the team his dad was coaching.
“I’d come off the ice and sit on the bench for my next turn to go out,” he said. “Without anyone knowing it mom would move me up on the bench so I would get on the ice more often. This only happened when mom’s team played dad’s team.”
After two years with the Toronto Marlboros, French was drafted 52nd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1969-70 NHL draft. He played two seasons in the AHL before going on to a successful career in the WHA.
“There are a lot of people who helped me throughout my sports career,” he said. “I would not be standing today if it wasn’t for them. They know who they are, and I thank them.”
French recorded 300 points in 420 professional games. In 1972-73, he skated alongside his childhood friend from Orillia, Rick Ley, playing for the New England Whalers. That year, the Whalers won the Avco Cup and French led the team in scoring. Ley was inducted into the Orillia Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Olympic field hockey player Alan Brahmst had a successful career on and off the field. In 1999, Brahmst led Canada to the gold medal at the Pan American Games. He would represent Canada again in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics.
Brahmst grew up in Hamburg, Germany, before moving to Orillia as a teenager where he played multiple sports at Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute, where he played multiple sports.
“This was a super welcoming town,” he recalled.
While he enjoyed trying new sports, he missed playing field hockey, which he had played for years in Germany. Brahmst credits his gym teacher, Daryl McKenzie, for helping him connect with Field Hockey Ontario, helping him pursue his childhood passion for field hockey.
“He got the number for Ontario Field Hockey and had me playing again a year and a half after I came to Orillia,” said Brahmst, who travelled to Toronto most weekends to chase his dream.
Brahmst was a key member of one of the first ever junior national Canadian field hockey teams, and then the first-ever national team. He represented Canada at four Olympic Games and multiple World Cups as a player and a coach.
“I’m really grateful about all the good things Orillia has given me,” he said. “I’m humbled that I’m inducted with these guys.”
There are now 30 inductees in the Orillia Sports Hall of Fame.
Original Article By: Tyler Evans
Site: Orillia Matters
Date: May 14, 2023
Link to Original: Link to Orillia Matters