Niagara Sports Wall of Fame inducts seven
Vic Pietrangelo presents Julianne Miszk with a boxing glove-shaped drinking cup Sunday at the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame induction ceremony at the Gale Centre. Photos by BERNIE PUCHALSKI.
Competing at the 2016 Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association cross country championships in Port Hope, Julianne Miszk ran into trouble.
Despite being weakened by chemotherapy treatments, the then-18-year-old Niagara Falls native had decided to compete in the race in hopes of winning another provincial para-athlete championship to go with the seven she had already won. But halfway through the race loomed a seemingly impossible hill for her to climb.
As she began to climb the hill, the Saint Michael student turned to her guide runner, Saint Michael teacher Vic Pietrangelo, and told him that she couldn’t run any farther.
Pietrangelo encouraged her to keep going and she did for a short while before telling him again that she needed to stop. Then she began to vomit.
“I remember grabbing hold of her, hugging her and telling her it was going to be OK,” he said. “After a few seconds, I asked her if she was OK to walk.”
The pair started walking up the hill and when they got to the top, Pietrangelo asked Julianne if she wanted to finish the race. She said she did and Pietrangelo urged her to start running again and she did.
“There was about a kilometre and a half left in the race and she started to run at that point and she actually — I don’t know how — started to pick up her pace and we passed so many people on the way to the finish line.”
Julianne ended up winning a silver medal in the race.
“I didn’t want to tell this story for shock value or for you to feel sorry for Julianne but I told it so you could understand a little bit about her character,” Pietrangelo told Sunday’s induction ceremony for the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame. “Julianne has never been defined by her disability. She has also never let them act as a barrier to her success.”
When Pietrangelo was finished with his introduction of Julianne, he presented her with boxing glove-shaped drinking cup with ‘To Julianne, the biggest fighter we know’ written on it.
Julianne received a standing ovation before she received her wall of fame plaque.
“I feel proud and I have been working hard,” she said. “I would like to thank my coaches, Sue Bartol and Wayne Rae, for training me and for everyone for encouraging me and helping me.”
Julianne also achieved running success outside of high school, In 2015, she competed at the Para-Athlete national championships in Edmonton and won a silver medal 800-metre race. That same year, she was named the Niagara Sports Commission’s Para-Athlete of the Year. She also competed at OFSAA in swimming.
The Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame celebrated its 29th anniversary Sunday at the Gale Centre by adding Miszk and six other new members to the wall.
Miszk, Michelle Edgar, John Arbour and John Hall were inducted as athletes while Grace Sunstrum and Phil Mazzone were inducted as builders. Angler Charlie Wray was inducted as both a builder and an athlete.
Sponsor Awards were presented to Dominion Auto Body, Don Cherry’s Sports Grill and My Studio Photography. These awards are presented for a minimum of five years of significant contributions to sport in Niagara Falls.
Below are the rest of this year’s inductees into the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame.
MICHELLE EDGAR (Athlete)
Michelle Edgar played hockey with the Niagara Rapids and soccer with the Niagara Falls Soccer Club. She ended up playing both sports at Brock University. In soccer, she was team captain, team MVP and an Ontario University Athletics’ all-star. At the rink, she won the A.G. Lowenberger Award, Hockey Leadership Award and Coaches Award. She ended up playing pro hockey for three seasons in Slovenia and semi-pro soccer with the Hamilton Lady Avalanche, a team she captained.
Edgar added a third sporting achievement to her impressive resume when she made the national women’s ball hockey team. In 2009, she was part of a Canadian team that won a gold medal at the world championships in the Czech Republic.
“When faced with such a tremendous award it feels as though a chapter is ending,” Edgar said. “As an athlete — and many of you might agree with me — we don’t dwell too long on MVPs or championships.”
“We often look to the future for the next great challenge or next big thing.”
Edgar expressed heartfelt gratitude for the award and made a promise.
“I pledge to make my friends, family and city proud and continue what I have been doing,” she said. “I also would like to be a good example to those wishing to follow in my footsteps.”
JOHN ARBOUR (Athlete)
Arbour got start his start in hockey with Stamford Minor Hockey and his minor hockey career included an All-Ontario championship in 1961-62 with the Fallsview Firemen major midget A team.
Following his midget career, he played four season of major junior hockey with the Niagara Falls Flyers, playing in two Memorial Cups, including a Canadian championship in 1964-65. In his last season in Niagara Falls, Arbour had 13 goals, 44 points and 196 penalty minutes in 47 games.
Arbour graduated to the pro ranks and played 106 games in the NHL with Boston, Pittsburgh, Vancouver and St. Louis. His best season in the NHL was with St. Louis in the 1970-71 season when he played in 53 games and recorded seven points.
He also played 335 games in the World Hockey Association with Calgary and Minnesota, chalking up 30 goals and 194 points. His best season in the WHA came with the Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1974-75. That season, he recorded 12 goals and 55 points in 70 games.
His professional career also included stints in the American Hockey League, Central Hockey League and Western Hockey League.
JACK (JOHN) HALL (Athlete)
Hall was a multi-sport athlete at Notre Dame in Welland and, while a junior, was often called up to play at the senior level. In 1975, he was named the school’s athlete of the year for his accomplishments in basketball, soccer and volleyball.
Hall went on to have an outstanding post-secondary career at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B. He was a two-time soccer MVP, basketball MVP and athlete of the year. In 2011, Hall was inducted into the St. Thomas University Sports Wall of Fame.
“I would like to thank all my sports coaches and teammates over the years who helped train me, guide me and teach me the true meaning of sportsmanship,” Hall said.
He reminisced about growing up in Niagara Falls.
“If I wasn’t playing hockey or basketball in the driveway at home, I was playing baseball or football at Diamond Jubilee school, with my brother’s sisters, friends and neighbours’ kids.”
The backyard of the family home had no grass because of sports being played on it.
“My dad would often come home to a broken window with no kids in sight, as we scattered and played innocent,” he said. “This happened so frequently that he decided it would be easier to just board up the windows in the line of fire.”
The highlight of his basketball career was playing a senior basketball game at Notre Dame versus Eastdale on the same team as his three brothers. One brother was on the senior team, two brothers were brought up from the junior team and the final brother was called up from the midget team.
“We decided early on in the game that all four of us had to score so we worked the ball around to let my brother Dan score a basket.”
Sports was an integral part of his life.
“I believe sports, whether they are played for fun or game or for any other reason, create strong and long-lasting bond between people,” he said.
CHARLIE WRAY (Athlete/Builder)
Wray started fishing with his father at a young age and his experiments with equipment, knots, baits and lures helped him become an expert fisherman.
Wray had winning entries in the 1986 through 1989 Molson’s Big Fish Contest and won the In-Fisherman Catch and Release Championship in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989. In 1986, he was named the Ontario Angler of the Year.
Wray owns and hosts the Fishful Thinking television show and many episodes are shot in Niagara.
Wray was ill and unable to attend Sunday’s induction ceremony.
GRACE SUNSTRUM (Builder)
In 1961, Grace Sunstrum founded the Ladies Auxiliary of the Greater Niagara Baseball Association, an organization whose primary role was to raise funds for the GNBA and allow it to meet the leagues’ financial obligation and enable the association to maintain a high standard of baseball.
She served as president of the auxiliary for three years and contributed tirelessly for more than 30 years.
“What an honour for my family to be here today celebrating my mom’s induction into the sports wall of fame,” son Ron Sunstrum said. “Today is the culmination of a long love of baseball by the Sunstrum family.”
Sunstrum’s father was president of the GNBA in 1961 when Houck Park was built on the old city dump on Valley Way.
“My mom decided that selling Popsicles, chocolate bars, ice cream and hot dogs could help the GNBA with its finances and enable it to provide trophies and have year-end parties for the players,” he said. “Once she put her ideas into action, the GNBA ladies auxiliary was born.”
The auxiliary moved from the north clubhouse to the south clubhouse and eventually to Oakes Park.
“For a long time, they operated booths at Houck Park and Oakes Park and you can imagine the manpower required to man both for six or seven days a week,” Ron said. “Fortunately, my mom called upon neighbours, friends and parents who were most willing to help.”
The GBNA auxiliary still maintains a booth at Oakes Park.
PHIL MAZZONE (Builder)
Phil Mazzone, a teacher at Niagara Falls Collegiate and Vocational Institute and A.N. Myer Secondary School, was instrumental in helping more than 150 students garner athletic scholarships.
When his teaching career ended, Mazzone’s consulting business worked with the Professional Hockey Players Association and designed and implemented a career enhancement program for pro hockey players. He helped prepare and assist more than 820 hockey players as they transitioned into careers away from the ice. For his efforts, he received the PHPA’s Curt Leitchner Distinguished Member Award, given to someone who has made a significant contribution of minor pro hockey and its players.
In 2012, he was the first builder inducted into the A.N. Myer Athletes Wall of Distinction and in 2016, the Phil Mazzone Sports Complex at Myer was named in his honour.
“I want you to know that this tribute, this recognition means a lot to me and my family,” Mazzone said. “I am truly overwhelmed and honoured and at the same time deeply humbled.
“I am also grateful and appreciative at this special occasion.”
Mazzone spoke to the crowd Sunday about giving back.
“I was influenced by my parents, teachers, my coaches and friends,” he said. “They made a difference to my life and direction
“In so doing, I made it my goal and my challenge to devote as much time and effort to help students and athletes by providing advice, direction and sometimes a firm push, insisting they make commitments and sacrifices in order to give and achieve a successful life.”
To Mazzone, it was just giving back.