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2016 Awards

Year 19 – Tuesday May 16, 2017
Golf’s Steak House, Kitchener




Mark Scheifele – Ice Hockey


Coming into the 2016-17 NHL season, Mark Scheifele was pegged as a must-watch player set to break out in a big way. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound centre actually kind of broke out in the second half of last season, finishing 2015-16 with 17 goals and 37 points in his last 37 games. Over that stretch, Bryan Little became injured and was forced to miss time, which is when Scheifele started to tear it up. The top line job was quietly being passed from one former Barrie Colt to another. But until he did it over a full season, he couldn’t really gain superstar status.


If there was anything working against a potential star turn season for Scheifele, it was having the World Cup at the beginning of it. The September tournament got the season started off hot with high-end games right off the bat as opposed to easing into the water through pre-season. There was also the compressed schedule, partly because of the World Cup and partly because of the mandated bye weeks for each team. This has had an adverse effect on some players — mainly goalies — and could still lead to others slowing down during the stretch run. But that World Cup provided Scheifele an opportunity to play with some of the NHL’s best young talent on the under-23 Team North America, and get a unique perspective on the wing. “Playing in a tournament against the best is going to make you better,” Scheifele said playing on the wing because Connor (McDavid) was in the middle I think helped my game and helped me understand what it was like on the wing because I’ve never really played wing before. I learned a lot of things just by playing… I learned a lot of things by guys I was playing with and against and I think it was a huge step for me. “Obviously playing with Auston (Matthews) and Connor was pretty special. Those guys deserve the amount of attention they get because they’re unbelievable players and they’re only getting better.”


Somehow, he’s still not getting the recognition it seems he deserves. He didn’t even make the All-Star Game, as Patrik Laine got Winnipeg’s spot. This is the seventh overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft who was sent back to junior the next two years after he was picked. And then when he did stick in the NHL in 2013-14, he finished ninth in rookie scoring with 34 points and didn’t receive any Calder Trophy votes.


He’s a great example of why, if a highly-touted prospect doesn’t produce at the same kind of level as Matthews, McDavid or Laine early on, it doesn’t mean they’re a likely bust. With the base skill that made the player a coveted prospect in the first place, if he’s buying in and dedicating himself, the more likely outcome is patience paying off.


“You don’t see young men come into the National Hockey League with such an interest in making all parts of their game better, the way he trains, the way he researches the game, the way he practices,” head coach Paul Maurice said in this great video feature.


Scheifele is an Adam Oates student, as the Hall of Famer has become a private skill coach for some NHL players and emphasizes smarts and skill. The Jets centre eats and sleeps the game and, still just 23 years old, could even have a scoring title in his future.


Besides his tremendous natural talent and how he wants to keep improving on it, he truly is a fan of the game. What’s not to like?“


I don’t think there could ever be a day in my life where hockey’s not a part of it,” he said. “I literally live and breathe hockey and it’s the love of my life.” Take notice of Scheifele and consider him in debates that involve the best players in the NHL today. He’s already, quietly, become one of them.

(Sportsnet – Rory Boylen)


Mark Scheifele

Other Nominees:


Alec Elliot – Swimming


Competing in his first Paralympic Games in Rio, Alec Elliot surely impressed anyone who watched the swimming competition. In qualifying for his first Paralympic Games, Alec rose to the occasion in the most prestigious of all swim meets by setting two personal best times (in the 100 Breast and 50 Free), made three finals races out of his six events he was entered in and Alec narrowly missed a medal in the 100 Fly where he finished 4th.


Competing in his first Paralympic Games in Rio, Alec Elliot surely impressed anyone who watched the swimming competition. In qualifying for his first Paralympic Games, Alec rose to the occasion in the most prestigious of all swim meets by setting two personal best times (in the 100 Breast and 50 Free), made three finals races out of his six events he was entered in and Alec narrowly missed a medal in the 100 Fly where he finished 4th.Alec Elliot is a Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawk who represented Canada at the Paralympic Games based on his exceptional performance at the 2016 Olympic and Para-swimming Trials in Gatineau, Quebec. His results and first place finish in the 100 multi-class event, resulted in a world ranking of 5th in the S10 Class.


Alec Elliot, a native of Kitchener, Ont., continued his explosive rise in 2016 with personal bests in each meet that he participated including Dr. Ralph Hicken International Swim Cup, Canadian Para-swimming Trials, OUA Winter Invitational, Ontario Div. I Team Championships and of course the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Alec has been swimming for the Region of Waterloo Swim Club since a child and this year trained beside the Golden Hawks. It was being so close to this team that made him decide to enroll in Laurier as a freshman in September 2015. “It was important to me to join these guys as a teammate,” said Elliot about Laurier swimming. “They supported me this year and I missed them a lot when the University year was done. I want to be a part of this team.”


Alec was born with a rare condition called syndactyly, which limits the use of his hands and feet. Syndactyly affects only one in about 2,500 people; it is even rarer in both hands and both feet. Elliot is classified as a para swimmer, but his speed and times kept him a highly recruited athlete this year due to his speed and natural feel for the water.

(Wilfrid Laurier University)


When asked if he ever felt he was at a disadvantage, Elliot simply shook his head. He sees his Paralympic status as a way of achieving something that may have not otherwise been possible.

“It ended up being an advantage that I did get classed in. I probably wouldn’t have this opportunity without it, I’d have to work a lot harder to make the able-bodied team,” he said.


The trainer’s comment

It’s Elliot’s mentality that Witolla believes makes him stand out and has allowed him to achieve his status as arguably one of the top five para-swimmers in the world, right now.


“I have worked with para athletes for 25 years and the ones that are concerned about them being para athletes are not usually the ones who will be very successful,” said Witolla.


“The ones that will be successful are the ones that look at the way society wants you to look at them and say ‘look what I can do’… [Alec] has the right headspace for that.”


That kind of attitude has also allowed Elliot to train nearly seven days a week during the last year of preparation.


“It’s that mental toughness … the eye of the tiger that says, ‘I’m winning today, I’m beating everybody today,’” Witolla said.

Darryl Fitzgerald – Lawn Bowling


Darryl Fitzgerald is a bowler, a Lawn Bowler athlete. Darryl is not only a member of Team Canada but has taken on the responsibilities as head coach at Heritage Greens LBC in Kitchener, Ontario, Team Canada U25 and Canadian High Performance Team.


Darryl started regularly bowling at the age of 16. Initially, only once a week with his Dad and his friends who were part of a social group from his Dad’s work. Curiosity and the opportunity to spend time with his Dad began the obsession and passion for Lawn Bowling.


As Darryl became a student of the game and he found that the complexity of the game, the ever-changing strategy and the mental discipline it required was something far beyond any other sports that he played. It was not as physically demanding as other sports, but the mental toughness was extreme. Where most sports would be around a 50/50 mark for physical play to mental play, bowls had more of a 30/70 split for physical and mental.


2016 was an exceptional year for Darryl. He was a Champion in Fours, Provincials; Champion in District 7 Mixed Pairs; Champion District 7 Triples; perfect score in the North American Challenge as part of Team Canada and Viced Men’s Fours to a 1-2 record.


Coaching and competing at the highest level. He managed and coached the Ontario teams sent to represent Ontario at the Canadian Championships in Alberta – won 9 medals overall out of 18.


Managed and coached the Under 25 players sent to represent Canada in Australia at the World Junior Championships. No medals but a great experience for the youth playing bowls on the other side of the world.


Darryl is a leader – as an athlete and mentor. He has been instrumental in promoting, supporting and competing in the sport of Lawn Bowling at the local, provincial, national and international stage. His philosophical approach both as an athlete and coach embrace the ideologies – Perceive, Manage, Decision-Making, Achieve and Influence.


Alyssa Lagonia – Soccer


Alyssa Lagonia is a Canadian footballer from Kitchener, Ontario who plays for the Swiss club FC Neunkirch in the Nationalliga A. FC Neukirch is a Swiss women’s association football club based in Neunkirch, a municipality in the canton of Schaffhausen.


The football club was founded in 1963, yet a women’s team only started playing in the professional league system in 2006. The team has achieved impressive success – 4th place in the 2013-2014 season, 3rd place 2014-2015 and a 2nd place finish in the 2015-2016 season, due to the outstanding contributions of their captain, Alyssa Lagonia.


Alyssa was 3rd in the league in scoring with 11 goals during regular season and an additional four goals scored in the playoffs. During the 2016 season, in total FC Neunkirch played 32 games, including exhibition, league and cup play. Alyssa contributed to her team’s success with 23 goals and 35 assists.


Most important games have been against the two best teams in the league, FC Zurich and FC Basel. In the FC Basel game Alyssa’s team was losing 1-0 until the final 2 minutes of the game. Alyssa orchestrated a comeback with an assist to tie and a winning goal to beat the FC Basel.


Her success as a goal scorer continued into the FC Zurich final Cup Championship series.


Alyssa scored a goal and added an assist to upset FC Zurich for the first time in FC Neunkirch history to have beaten FC Zurich.


‘After she conducted numerous media interviews in German, Alyssa Lagonia was relieved to field questions in her native tongue in December 2016 and discuss her team’s 2016-2017 perfect 10-0 record through the first half of its schedule – defeating the big-city squads in the process.


When Neunkirch dumped usually infallible Zurich 2-0, the league’s big-money club, bolstered with plenty of Swiss national team players. Lagonia, a former Canadian national team member, scored the winner in that contest and assisted on the insurance marker.


“It would be like Stratford beating Toronto,” Lagonia reported this week. “No, someplace much smaller than Stratford.


”So far, the underdogs from Neunkirch have found a winning formula with their rag-tag assortment of players from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, England, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, the U.S., Austria, Spain and two Canadians — including fellow Canuck Amy Pietrangelo, of Laval, Que.


“It’s big news,” Lagonia, a two-time all-Canadian midfielder at Laurier and Canadian university’s player of the year in 2011, reported of her team’s slaying of Goliath.


“We even had a TV program about us. It seems everyone is rooting for us.”Lagonia, a five-year pro, knows she will never get rich playing the game. But she is one of the few Canadian female athletes who can make a decent living playing a team sport.


As team captain, Lagonia’s job requirements include staying longer at team functions and working harder than her teammates.


And in addition to training through the week and playing games on weekends, she is contractually obligated to work at a local winery, helping to bottle and display the wares, and perform some marketing duties. She’s not complaining.


“It’s the dream,” Lagonia said. “I tell my boyfriend, I’m going to work. And then he says, ‘You can’t call it work. You love it too much.’”

(The Record – Christine Rivet)


Influential person on my career:

Barry MacLean has had one of the biggest influences on my soccer career. He not only coached me in my 4 years at Wilfrid Laurier University but he was also a coach at the youth academy ‘Elite Athletes International’. EAI was an integral part of my development, which I frequented about twice a week on top of the club, school and/or Provincial commitments I already had.


Barry always believed in me and encouraged me to pursue the sport to my highest potential. He thought I could be one of the best and therefore did everything he could to get me to that level. It was Barry who recruited me to Laurier where I had one of the best experiences of my life. Laurier was not just a team but a family, and we were successful because of that. A team doesn’t become a family just on its own, it is the coaching staff that helps to create such an environment. Due to the team success and consequentially my own, I was discovered by the U20 Canadian National Team.  And it was Barry who kicked off my professional career as well. He served as my agent and found my first opportunity in England with the Doncaster Belles. I am very grateful to Barry for everything he has done for me and always giving me the confidence and strength to go that next step higher.


To aspiring athletes:

My path has not always been easy. No athlete’s journey is ever easy. So if you are looking for an easy way to success, you will never find it. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment, sacrifice and self-motivation to get what you want. No one will get you there except for you. That being said, it is important to surround yourself with people who support your decisions and believe in your abilities. Some positive encouragement in your corner is an invaluable asset.


Jamal Murray – Basketball


Jamal Murray was born and raised in Kitchener Ontario, attending Grand River Collegiate Institute, later transferring to Orangeville Prep in Orangeville where he and fellow prospect Thon Maker formed a duo that helped Orangeville Prep defeat many American Schools.


Murray loves the game of basketball and could play “for hours”, playing in a league for 10 year olds when he was six. By the age of 12 or 13, he began playing pickup games against top high school and college players.


Coach John Calipari, of the NCAA Kentucky Wildcats, recruited Murray on June 24, 2015, where he excelled as a top collegiate basketball player. As a freshman in the 2015-2016 season, he was featured on the Midseason Top 25 list for the John R Wooden Award and was named to the 35-man midseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy. Murray appeared in 36 games and average 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 40.8% from three-point range.


His 2016 one year college career was exceptional – Third-team All-American – AP; First-team All-SEC, SEC All-Freshman team; SEC All-Tournament team. These results forced Jamal to make a decision – turn pro after a single year of college, like Andrew Wiggins and move on to the NBA millions and celebrity that goes with it?


A decision was made – he booked his hotel room in New York for the 2016 NBA Draft.


On June 23, 2016, Jamal Murray was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft.


On August 9, 2016, he signed his rookie multi-year scale contract with the Nuggets.On November 13, 2016, he scored a career-high 19 points in a 112–105 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.


He topped that mark on November 22, scoring 24 points in a 110–107 win over the Chicago Bulls and on December 1, he was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in October and November 2016.


Jamal said it best about his opportunity and future with the NBA Denver Nuggets “Play-making, making that option that can pass for others and get others open with my shooting. Just going to be an all-around player, the player that you can’t leave open, the player you’ve got to pay attention to on the court at all times.”

(University of Kentucky)


Influential person on my career:

University of Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari


To aspiring athletes:

My advice to aspiring athletes is to stay true to yourself and stay focused on your goal. Don’t give in to what people say and give ears to people that have your best interest in mind.  For me, to stay on my path, I made a promise to myself to never give up no matter how mentally and physically challenging the games, practices or the days were.  I am fortunate to have my dad remind me of my potential. He would remind me that pushing through these tough times is what separates elite athletes. Look at each challenge as a chance to be better than the day before.



Be more.


Garrett Rank – Golf


Like most everyone else in the hockey world, Garrett Rank was just a guy taking a break from the ice and trying to put his golf game together when his phone rang this summer.


Like most everyone else in the hockey world, Garrett Rank was just a guy taking a break from the ice and trying to put his golf game together when his phone rang this summer.Why would the boss, the NHL’s Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom, be calling now? Hmmm…


“You drive a lot of miles, spend a lot of nights alone in a hotel room, and take a lot of crap out on the ice,” Rank, 28, said over the phone from an airport boarding lounge on Sunday, just days after receiving the call offering him full-time status as an NHL referee. “For that to come to fruition and payoff is a very special moment in my life, and my family’s life.


”On Monday morning Rank teed it up at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club in a threesome that included 17-year-old Justin Allen and 20-year-old Addison Coll. Together they formed the 11th pairing at the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship, where Rank would have to win this year’s tournament to improve on his finish from 2015 (a three-way tie for second).


The best golfer in the NHL has made the cut as a full-time zebra, a decision that sets a ticking clock to his golf career. But really, for the son of an Elmira, Ontario, referee, wearing the NHL shield is more rewarding than shooting 68.


And as long as he takes care of business as a zebra, the NHL has no problem with Rank’s golf aspirations.


“I can definitely manage it,” he said. “As long as I stay physically sharp during the hockey season and come out of the (season) in top shape, I don’t think I’ll have a problem playing a bunch of these amateur events.


”Rank is clearly a rare specimen. Smart, goal oriented, and with a broader perspective on life after overcoming testicular cancer that was discovered in 2011.


You may think he finally chose life as an NHL referee over chasing the PGA Tour, but in fact it was the other way around. “It was essentially, the NHL approached me before the PGA tour did. I couldn’t say no,” Rank said.


Walkom and his staff staked their claim with Rank first, and snapping up a hot prospect that Walkom knew was a keeper.


“He’s kind of the next generation of referees,” Walkom said. “We’re not worried if they’re going to be great skaters. We’ve had them to combines — we know they’re great skaters. They’re athletes, with a high hockey IQ. They’re in fabulous shape. Big, strong… They understand all those elements are real important if you want to get to the NHL and compete for the Cup one day.” (Sportsnet)


On the fairways, success in 2016 equaled his success on the ice. Garrett captured the Canadian Mens Mid Amateur crown for the 3rd straight year; tied for 9th position at the Canadian Men’s Amateur tournament; 2nd at the Sunnehana Amateur; tied for 41st at the USGA Amateur; 18th at the Porter Cup and 77th at the Canadian Open.


These results have moved his ranking up to 2nd Men’s amateur in Canada and 76th World Golf Rankings.


“It’s always special winning a national championship and to win it three times in a row is a huge honour,” said the Team Canada National Amateur Squad alumnus. “My goal for this week was to come here and win and get back into the [RBC] Canadian Open and I accomplished that. No matter the score, no matter what happened this week, I’m really pleased with how it went. I’m happy to be a national champion again and get the privilege of playing in the Open.” (Royal Canadian Golf Association)


Influential person on my career:

My older brother Kyle has had a major influence on my career thru sheer determination and constant hard work. He doesn’t know it and I’ve never told him, but growing up I wanted to be exactly like my cool older brother. He transformed himself from a walk on dual sport athlete to the captain of the hockey team, while receiving multiple awards and a full scholarship. Being 5 years older, he showed me the hard work and determination it took to reach higher levels and ultimately, I followed a very similar path.


To aspiring athletes:

Be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices. Eat well and train hard. Surround yourself with a positive support system that includes family and friends. Learn from your mistakes. Most importantly, make sure you’re still having FUN !!



Dhane Smith – Lacrosse


The National Lacrosse League honoured Buffalo Bandits forward Dhane Smith as the National Lacrosse League’s Most Valuable Player following a record-setting 2016 campaign. Smith was nominated for the honor alongside Shawn Evans of the New England Black Wolves and Mark Matthews of the Saskatchewan Rush.


The National Lacrosse League honoured Buffalo Bandits forward Dhane Smith as the National Lacrosse League’s Most Valuable Player following a record-setting 2016 campaign. Smith was nominated for the honor alongside Shawn Evans of the New England Black Wolves and Mark Matthews of the Saskatchewan Rush.Smith tallied 72 goals and 137 total points in 18 games, setting league records in both categories. He paced the league in game-winning goals (5), ranked second in power-play goals (16), fifth in assists (65), and corralled 111 loose balls, second-best among forwards. His penchant for scoring helped lead the Bandits to their first division title since 2009, as they won a franchise-best 13 games on the way to a 13-5 regular season record.


The Kitchener, Ontario native had 14 games with at least six points, had hat tricks in 16 games, and reached double-digit scoring three times. He was also named Player of the Month three times over the course of the season.


His surge in scoring vaulted him to fourth place in franchise history for goals (155), assists (192) and overall points (347) despite having suited up for just 69 games in his first four seasons. Smith was the fifth overall selection by the Bandits in the 2012 NLL Draft, and was named to the league’s all-rookie team in 2013.


Smith is the third Bandit to win the MVP Award, after John Tavares (1994, 2000, 2001) and Steve Dietrich (2006). (Buffalo Bandits)


The art of influencing events by occult control of nature or spirits; conjuring tricks.


Pro lacrosse’s version of Penn and Teller hope they have another series worth of sorcery left in them this season. Kitchener’s Ryan Benesch and Dhane Smith have cast spells and bewitched opposing National Lacrosse League defences since a blockbuster trade landed Benesch in Buffalo back in 2014.


How else to explain their success in leading their Buffalo Bandits to what could be that franchise’s first Champion’s Cup trophy in eight, long years? “It must be a weird Kitchener connection or something. It just clicks,” as his division-winning Bandits head into a best-of-three league championship series against the Saskatchewan Rush.


“I don’t even know what it is,” said a bewildered Smith. “But every time I look across the floor, (Benesch) is open. We just find each other.”With Benesch feeding him a steady diet of passes, the 24-year-old Smith set the NLL’s all-time single-season records for goals (72) and points (137) this regular season. Did we mention Smith piled up those totals in just 18 league games?


Smith had a hand in 80 per cent of his own 92 scoring points this season (good for 11th place in the league scoring derby), has thought about the once-in-a-career chemistry he and his teammate have conjured.

(Buffalo Bandits)

Kevin Sorley – Sledge Hockey


A freak accident that shattered his left knee cap as a teen, caused serious nerve damage resulting in permanent paralysis in the affected limb. Shortly after he suffered the injury, he hopped on a sled for the first time as a wide-eyes 17 year old blueliner with the K-W Sidewinder Sledge Hockey Club.


Five years later, and following a stint on the national development team, Kevin is a member of our National Sledge Hockey Team.


“Kevin is a great example of courage, determination and spirit. He is a fearless player who plays in the tough areas. He has worked very hard over the past 2 years on developing his skating and puck skills.


He is one of the most improved players and is trending to be a top player at the 2018 Paralympics. Currently he is a key player in our quest to win old at the upcoming World Championships in South Korea (April 2017).


He is a fine young man that is a great ambassador of our team.”   (Ken Babey – Hockey Canada)


Team Canada Sledge Hockey Team is very competitive and difficult to crack the Team roster.


In September 2016, twenty-nine players from across Canada convened at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.


This Selection Camp, which included on and off ice testing, practices and intrasquad games was the final opportunity for the nation’s top players to make an impression on National Team head coach, Ken Babey.


“There are no guaranteed spots on Team Canada, and we had a very intense week where we looked at each of these players to see who would rise to the occasion and demonstrate why they should be wearing the Maple Leaf this season.” (Ken Babey)


Kevin Sorley had a very successful camp and was named to Canada’s ­National Sledge Team!


Team Canada competed in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, held ­December 2016 in Charlottetown, PEI.


The United States struck for five goals in the second period to defeat Canada’s National Sledge Team 5-2 and win the gold medal at the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge. Canada settled for silver for the fourth time. (Wendy Graves)


To aspiring athletes:

Hard work always pays off.  When I was growing up, I was told that I wouldn’t be very successful in life and wouldn’t finish high school but I proved them wrong getting on the honor roll twice.  It’s the same in sports as long as you put in the work, get better and never give up, you will achieve your dreams.


The proudest athletic moment is when I put on the Team Canada jersey for the first time, realized my dream had come true and the smile on my mom’s face when she found out the her son made Team Canada.



Awards of Excellence 2017


Bruce Young, Waterloo


From 1991 – 2007 Bruce was a member of the Waterloo Minor Fastball Association as a coach,
executive member and President


His involvement included hosting provincial and national fastball tournaments in this region


He was instrumental in the merger of Kitchener and
Waterloo minor boys softball associations in 2007


In the region, Bruce has served as convenor, executive member and
since 2008 as President of the North Waterloo Rural Minor Softball Association


His involvement in the game exceeds two decades


He continues to provide leadership with the Ontario Amateur Softball Association

Waterloo Regional Boxing Academy, Kitchener


The Academy provides opportunities for the youth to excel and make positive changes in their lives


Their mission statement is “To promote positive and healthy lifestyles for the youth in our community”


WRBA has hosted an after school program, a senior’s fitness program and a high school credit recovery program


As well, WRBA runs recreational and competitive boxing programs


An alumnus, Lennox Lewis won an Olympic Gold Medal and is retired Heavy Weight Champion of the world


Other alumni include other Olympians and champions at various levels


Recently WRBA made a significant monetary donation to the Children’s Wish Foundation


His involvement included hosting provincial and national fastball tournaments in this region

Kitchener Panthers Bantam Tier I
Kitchener Minor Baseball Association, Kitchener


Under the leadership of Head Coach Chris Bishop, this team has spent a remarkable amount of time giving back to the community


The players and their families conducted several food drives collecting over 5,000 pounds of food and $1,600 in cash donations


The team developed “Baseball Day” – a fun event with fundamentals training, Rep and Select games and a BBQ – to promote the game locally


A collection of used equipment was sent to less fortunate countries