Four Former Greats Inducted Into Esteemed Sports Hall of Fame On September 28, the Thursday preceding Homecoming weekend, the 21st Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place to celebrate extraordinary athletic achievements within StFX. John ‘Bunny’ Griffin, James ‘Jim’ Shea (Football), Leanne MacDonald (Hockey) and a builder, Gail MacDougall were honored.
For John Griffin, his prowess on the football field was done back when there was minimal funding for the football team. With locker rooms in the literal underbelly of the Bauer Theatre, John was a beast on the defensive line from 1958 through to 1961, racking up two Atlantic Football Conference (AFC) linemen of the year award, along with leading the X-Men to four consecutive AFC conference championships. His leadership abilities were unmatched, having been the team MVP in his final season whilst starting every single game in his illustrious four-year career.
Jim Shea had a stellar three-year career, as he played not only the offensive tackle position, but also linebacker on defense. He was named top offensive lineman in back to back seasons with the team (1965-66) and was co-captain of the esteemed Vanier Cup winning 1966 squad. In each of his three years, he was able to lead the team to three straight Atlantic Bowl championships. Not only was he an exceptional athlete, Jim was a phenomenal student, capturing the Larkin Trophy in his final year as outstanding male-student athlete.
Leanne MacDonald is unique in her own right, as she became the first women’s hockey player ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. As the linchpin of the team’s defense from 1997-2001, she accumulated two All Canadian first team awards, four AUAA all-star titles, one CIAU all-star honour and was named conference MVP in 1999. On the team front, she was pivotal in establishing legitimacy for XWomen hockey and Canadian University hockey as a whole. She led the X-Women to four straight AUAA conference championships. Playing in a dilapidated rink in Antigonish, the mention of a water barrel being used to resurface the ice drew quite the laughs in the audience but it further empathized the lack of resources for women’s athletics in the infancy of the hockey program. Her unmitigated love of the game coupled with immense athletic ability entrenches her as the first women hockey player in the hall, but she stresses that it only blazes a trail for more women athletes to follow. In MacDonald’s own words, she said “I may be the first, but I won’t be the last.”
In the builder category, journalist Gail MacDougall was honored. She was the sports editor for nearly 40 years at the local Casket newspaper. Her consistent, thought provoking journalism racked up numerous awards, including: The Frank Baldwin award for contributions to basketball within the province, The WomenActive Trendsetter Award for media in 2017, Dorothy G. Walker award for distinguished service and the 2012 AUS media award, to name a few. Her photos and stories were picked up by other national news organizations, enabling a larger platform for StFX Athletics. She was also a women’s basketball coach for more then 38 years at the high school and provincial level, including a stint as an assistant coach for the X-Women team in the 1970s. She covered virtually every sporting event, be it hockey to “Pictures of award winning cows at the Antigonish Fall Fair” as no sport was too small. It was this succinct dedication and professionalism to sports journalism that enshrines her into the hall forever.
The StFX Sports Hall of Fame was founded in 1976 and exists to honor the individuals who have contributed immensely to StFX sports, be it as a team, individual athlete or builder. The inductees are required to have “exemplified the spirit and ideals of Xaverian athletics in their professional and community lives”. Congratulations goes out to these four exceptional award winners.