In the 1990’s, the North American economy took a nose dive, and corporations pulled back sponsorships of all kinds of museums and halls of fame, including the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. After several exciting annual celebrity filled black tie baseball dinners, beginning in 1983, “Willie, Mickey and the Duke”, and the last being with Joe DiMaggio in 1991, the CBHF like so many others went into a financial decline, and finally, and sadly, ended up in storage.
However, thanks to many individuals who financially bailed out the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, it now exists comfortably in St. Mary’s, Ontario, on land donated by the St. Mary’s Cement Company.
In 1993, following his 15 year tenure as founder and full time President of the CBHF, Bruce Prentice resigned his position and took a hiatus to regenerate.
Noticing a void in the Canadian Hall of Fame scene, Bruce realized that Ontario was the only province in Canada without its own sports Hall of Fame. Then gathering together a few sports/business people, the constitution/bylaws, selection criteria, and other documents, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame was registered as a not-for-profit company. Plans were then put in place to elect the first 12 inaugural Inductees in to the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. For the first 3 years only, it was decreed that 12 athletes/personalities would be elected, following which a maximum of 5 would be elected each year.
Initially, some of the Board of Directors who took on the role of developing the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, were Dr. Al Fruman; Marcia Vandenbosch; the late Mark Dailey of CITY TV; George McConnachie; Nao Seco; John Brossard; Ian Smith and others were added later. When Bruce Prentice moved to the Board of Advisors, he turned the OSHOF over to the guidance of Nao Seco, and the Board of Directors at the time, Les Sperinck was elected President, and two more Induction Events were then held at Toronto’s Second City revue, with Sandy Hawley and then Daryl Sittler being the Honourary Chairmen, following the ’95, ’96, and ’97 events.
As the Hall began to grow in prominence and stature, the inaugural Induction Event in 1995, was held in Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, with Paul Godfrey as Honourary Chairman; 1996 with Bruce Simmons as Honourary Chairman in the Pickering Recreation Centre; and 1997 saw the event return to the Convention Centre in Toronto, with Richard Peddie the Honourary Chairman.
In 2016, Bruce Prentice stepped down as President and Mark Gravett was elected to lead the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. One of Mark’s key initiatives was to diversify the makeup of the Board of Directors and to expand the awareness of the Hall across 62 recognized provincial sports organizations and across the greater populace of Ontario.
The annual induction ceremony and awards gala continued to evolve. Quickly outgrowing the smaller venues, the gala moved into full stage theatre to the delight of 800 plus attendees. The celebration of inductees and special award recipients has expanded to include athletic school groups, renown provincial and international artists and performers, and sophisticated audio visual production facilities and talent.
Under the stewardship of Mark Gravett and the volunteer Board of Directors, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame became a registered charity in 2020.
During the challenges of the two year pandemic the Hall postponed its’ annual induction celebration and focussed on launching a new interactive website, community engagement, strategic planning and growth. The Ontario Sports Hall of Fame induction gala has become a much anticipated celebration on the annual sports calendar in Ontario.
Registered charity status
The Ontario Sports Hall of Fame is proud to announce our newly accredited charitable organization status. As of March 19, 2020, we can issue receipts for your donations. CRA registration number: 867507188 RR 0001