Sport Newfoundland and Labrador (SportNL) is happy to announce six new members into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame for 2023. Selected by the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame Board of Governors the six individuals will be celebrated at an Induction Ceremony set to take place in October 2023.
“We are proud to welcome the newest elected inductees to join the previous 240 members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame,” says Ed Murphy, Chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame Board of Governors. “The class of 2023 inductees are an elite group comprised of a diverse selection of sports athletes, administrators, and volunteers who have had an impact in furthering sport here in our province.”
The 2023 inductees are:
- Charlie Babstock in the “Athlete” category (Hockey, Soccer)
- Eric Easton in the “Athlete/Builder” category (Racquetball)
- Donald Howse in the “Athlete” category (Hockey)
- Mary Oakley in the “Veteran/Athlete” category (Softball, Rowing, Soccer)
- Jean (Lake) Thompson in the “Builder” category (Soccer)
- Suraj P. Wadhawan in the “Athlete” category (Badminton)
Biographies for each of the inductees can be found below.
This year the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame will celebrate 50 years of honouring individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the sporting community here in the province. Details will be forthcoming about the fall 2023 celebration honouring the 50th anniversary inductees.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame will clear an accumulation of elected members to be inducted due to delaying honouring members in-person due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2022 class, which has had to wait a year for their induction, will be inducted during a Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony scheduled for Saturday, April 22, 2023, at the Delta Hotel St. John’s Conference Centre in St. John’s, NL. The Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame will honour Inductees for the year 2022, along with a 2020 and a 2021 inductee and will include three “Athletes”, one “Builder”, and three “Athlete/Builders”.
Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies for 2023
Charlie Babstock “Athlete”
Charlie Babstock’s specialty in hockey was scoring goals. He had all of the qualities of a successful goal scorer; an innate instinct for the net, shooting accuracy, a touch of nastiness and an exceptionally hard shot. While playing in the Newfoundland Amateur Hockey Association (NAHA) with the St. John’s Capitals he established himself as one of the best scorers. In his rookie year with the Capitals, he led the team in goal scoring during the regular season and again in the play-offs.
His talent earned him an offer to play professional hockey in 1974 with the Nürnberg Ice Tigers in the German Elite League where he led in goal scoring. Leaving after one season, he returned home to help St. John’s to a Herder Championship in 1975 and would go on to win three Provincial Herder Senior Men’s Hockey Championships. He also played in three National Allan Cup Senior Hockey Championships and for his exceptional scoring exploits Charlie was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.
In addition to his scoring talents in hockey, Charlie played soccer with the Guards Athletic Association, Memorial University and represented the province at the 1973 Canada Summer Games in British Columbia. He showed that he could defend and score goals which earned him starting positions on all the teams he played with. Named Guards Athletic Association’s Athlete of the Year and MVP for 1979, he played Masters hockey between 1985 and 2014 in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland Labrador.
Prior to leaving the game, Charlie was involved in a number of recreational leagues in St. John’s. And, since retiring from the RCMP, he has spent the last eight years as a member of the St. John’s Soccer Club’s Hosting Committee to help make sure that numerous National and Provincial Championship tournaments were successful.
Eric Easton “Athlete/Builder”
Eric Easton has been an outstanding racquetball player for over 40 years, beginning his racquetball career in 1972. His success at the provincial and national level is unmatched in the sport and matched only by a few in other sports. A decorated player, he has won more than 10 provincial singles and doubles titles and has won 11 Canadian National Championships. In 1997, Eric was ranked as one of the top 50 men’s singles players in all of Canada.
Outside of competitive play, Eric has been an extremely dedicated member of the racquetball community. Over the past 40 plus years, he has given back to the sport sharing his time, expertise, and passion with the entire Newfoundland racquetball community as an exemplary executive, committed coach, and dedicated referee. He has served on the Newfoundland Racquetball Association board in various roles for 25 years, including 11 years as their president where in 2001 he launched and ran a competitive junior racquetball program to develop more young talent to compete at provincial and national levels. He coached the St. John’s team for the Newfoundland Winter Games in 1978, was the racquetball team coach for the Canada Winter Games in 1983, and the NL Provincial Junior team which competed at national events. Serving as a referee at national and provincial tournaments, he has maintained his Level 3 referee certification since the mid-1980s and in 2011 he was selected to serve as Chief Referee for the Racquetball Canada Singles Selection Event.
Eric has been an instrumental force in keeping racquetball alive in the province. Within the past 15 years he has continued to build upon his legacy of growing the sport in Newfoundland and Labrador. He has operated numerous refereeing clinics throughout the province, helping to train new referees to officiate at local and provincial tournaments. His dedication and tireless efforts are unsurpassed in the country and only matched by a few. Held in the highest regard by the Canadian Racquetball Association, he was bestowed their highest honour, the Ivan Velan Award in 2004 in the builder category for his long-time service to racquetball in the province.
Donald Howse “Athlete”
Don Howse enjoyed a remarkable hockey career, both provincially and nationally. Playing minor hockey with the Grand Falls Cataracts, he won four provincial titles which included two bantam and two midget in his last four years. During his last year in midget he joined the Junior B team and went on to win the Atlantic Junior B Championship. For two years he played with the Ottawa 67s in the Ontario Junior A Hockey Association. Returning home to play with his hometown Grand Falls Cataracts in 1971, he was selected as the League’s Rookie of the Year and won his first Herder Memorial Trophy Championship. He would win four Herder trophies during his provincial career.
In 1972, he played in the Eastern Hockey League with the Greensboro Generals where he was a top scorer for the team. Catching the interest of the Montreal Canadians organization he played with their top farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in the American Hockey League (AHL) from 1973-1979. As a very valuable member of the Voyageurs, Howse played the second most games in franchise history playing in 340 games and is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 251 points while winning the AHL’s ultimate prize, the Calder Cup twice. Other achievements include setting the AHL all-time record for most short-handed goals in a season for a total of eight, and in his 1977-78 season moving from center to defense for the playoffs, he won the Team MVP. He eventually moved on to the Angeles Kings organization and he was called up midway through the 1979-80 season to the National Hockey League where he played 33 games for the Kings as a checking centerman to check the payers such as Wayne Gretzky, Brian Trottier, Darryl Sitter, and Guy LaFleur.
Retiring from his NHL professional hockey career in 1980 and after competing in the AHL and the Central League for the 1980-81 season, Don decided to move back to Newfoundland and Labrador, taking his talents to the West Coast of the province to sign on as the playing-coach with the Stephenville Jets for seven seasons. He played one season in 1988–89 with the Port aux Basques Mariners winning the National Hardy Cup Title, and one season with the St. John’s Capitals. He finished his Newfoundland Senior Hockey career as the 25th all-time leading scorer in league history, and completed his career by taking the position of Bench Coach with the Mount Pearl Blades of the St. John’s Junior A Hockey League from 1989-1991.
Mary Oakley “Veteran/Athlete”
Mary Oakley was an outstanding Newfoundland and Labrador athlete for over 30 years. Her softball career spanned from 1967 to 1998 as part of the St. John’s Senior Ladies Softball League. In 1970, she won the League MVP for most doubles, most home runs, and most strikeouts. At the provincial senior level Mary played on eleven Senior “A” Championship Teams between 1967-1989 and during those years she won the 1974 Batting Title, the 1981 and 1989 MVP Award, and the 1975 and 1992 Sportsmanship and Ability Award. At the national level Mary represented Newfoundland and Labrador at ten Senior Ladies Fast-pitch Nationals and two Senior Ladies Slo-Pitch Nationals.
While her main strength was softball, she also excelled at a competitive level in a variety of other sports, including soccer and rowing. She played in the St. John’s Soccer Ladies League for 6 years, and in 1977 won MVP for the season and won the Ladies Provincial Championship. Beginning her rowing career in 1964, she rowed in several positions, never lost a race in every St. John’s Regatta she participated in, tied the old course record of 5:12 in 1973 at the St. John’s Regatta, and was stroke for the last four years that she rowed.
Throughout her career she has demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship to treat others in a congenial way in any circumstance. Mary Oakley has been acknowledged for her contributions to sport many times, including being picked as Oars Person of the Year for the St. John’s Regatta in 1973, being inducted into the Softball Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Royal St. John’s Regatta Hall of Fame in 2015.
Jean (Lake) Thompson “Builder”
Jean (Lake) Thompson has been passionately committed to the sport of soccer for over 35 years, making her mark as a leader to grow the game in the province. She was instrumental in helping to establish a women’s soccer league in St. John’s in 1976 and served as board president for two years from 1982 to 1984. To work towards advancing women’s soccer in the province, Jean served on the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association executive in the Secretary position for eight years and then spent 10 years on the Canadian Soccer Association Referees Committee.
Without a doubt, Jean’s biggest impact on the game was through her involvement with officiating at all levels of provincial and national competition. As the first certified female official in Atlantic Canada to receive her Class 3 Referee’s badge in 1981 and her Class 1 Referee’s badge in 1990, she officiated ten National Age Group Championships, three National Senior Women’s (Jubilee Trophy) Championships, and three National Senior Men’s (Challenge Cup) Championships. Her accomplishments in officiating have encouraged other female officials to follow in her footsteps.
Stepping away from being a field official, she sought to become an assessor, receiving her Provincial Assessor’s Licence from the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) in 1990, and went on to become the first woman in Canada to receive her National Assessors Licence in 1996. This led her to earn an invitation to join an elite group of officials from across Canada to attend CSA’s Referee/Assessor/Instructor Symposium in 2004 and again in 2006. At the national level, she was appointed by the CSA as the Supervisor of Officials (SOO) for nine National Competitions including two Canada Games Female Soccer Competitions and three Inter-University Sports (CIS) National Women’s Championships.
Jean’s many appointments to provincial, national, and international tournaments, is evidence of her abilities. For her efforts she has been recognized over the years with numerous awards including being made an Honorary Life Member of The Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association, inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame and the St. John’s Soccer Hall of Fame. She has also been recognized for her contributions to St. John’s and provincial soccer with the Eleanor Bennett Award, the Andy Joy Award, and the Ross Arlett Award.
Suraj P. Wadhawan “Athlete”
Suraj P. Wadhawan is an accomplished badminton player, having a unique and unparalleled skill set that set him apart from his competitors over five decades of competitive game play. His journey in sports began in India, where he dominated the local badminton scene. Early in his career, he won the Provincial Championship in Doubles of Uttar Pradesh and won a combined total of 40 Gold and Silver medals from 1965-1970 at local, university, and district competition which included winning the District Champion (Saharanpur) in Singles in 1967. From 1966-67, he would be awarded Best Sportsman (Badminton) Trophy from Roorkee University.
Emigrating from India in 1970 to Nova Scotia to pursue his professional master’s degree in engineering, he joined the Nova Scotia Badminton Association. As an unranked player, he quickly demonstrated his talent by winning numerous competitions, earning nine Gold and 2 Silver medals from 1971-73. As a result of his accomplishments, he was ranked number one in Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles, and sixth in Singles competition. Suraj continued to perform in the sport as a ranked player in Nova Scotia until moving to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1973 where he joined the Avalon Badminton Club and continued his dominance as a player. From 1974 onwards he would win 25 Gold, 13 Silver, and 2 Bronze medals, which earned him a spot to represent NL at the 1975 Canada Winter Games in Lethbridge Alberta, and at the District Open Championship in Halifax.
In addition to these accomplishments, Suraj earned the title of Maritime and Atlantic Champion in Canada and participated in National competition in India and Canada to represent Uttar Pradesh, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Described as one of the best badminton players from Newfoundland in terms of technique, style, grace, humility, and dedication to the game as an athlete and sportsman, Suraj has been the recipient of more than 90 medals, trophies, and distinctions, including being inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Badminton Hall of Fame in 1992. Suraj continues to play badminton at a social level and mentor junior players to help them improve their game to train for competitions.