Days after accepting the prestigious Rugby Canada Chairman's Award for his devotion to the game he loves, Malcolm MacAfee was recognized by the city he loves. He and his childhood friend Peter Pacey, who played and coached rugby in the city together for more than 40 years, will be inducted together onto the Fredericton Sports Wall of Fame at ceremonies at the Delta Fredericton on May 6.
"I'm not big on recognition for coaches and that type of thing...I'm big on it for players," said MacAfee. "They're both great awards. But to be looked upon in this room is good too."
The room included fellow inductees Josh Thomas, who had an awardwinning university football career at Acadia University; the Fredericton junior Vikings baseball teams of 196567; the Myer and Jack Budovitch Award winning athlete of the year for 2016; university and senior baseball star Corey Wood; and the William (Bill) MacGillivray volunteer of the year, longtime synchronized swimming athlete and coach Heather Zilbert.
All around athlete Tim Bliss, the fourth inductee on the Fredericton wall, was not represented, but will be on hand at the May 6 ceremonies.
Tickets, which sell for $75, are available from MacTavish for Sports or from any member of sponsoring Fredericton Sports Investment.
The commitment of the two men to rugby runs deep. "It's one of the foundations of our friendship," said Pacey. "We grew up together. And we're still growing up."
It was a friendship forged in high school. The rugby pitch was the crucible. "We played rugby together in high school under Bill Thorpe, who was the progenator of all things rugby in Fredericton."
You might say the two carried the ball forward. Together, they have trained more than 200 coaches and 1,000 kids in the game over the years.
"It wasn't for recognition," said Pacey. "It was because we saw a job that needed to be done." "It starts with fun, and everything else under that," said MacAfee. "It's just fun. Make it fit into the fun thing."
Fun was what it was all about for the junior Vikings on their way to a bronze medal at the Canadian junior baseball championship tournament in Winnipeg in 1965. They continued their dominance in 1966, winning the New Brunswick and Maritime championships, and again in 1967, where they represented the province at the Canadian championships in Saskatoon in 1967.
"When you spend five days on a train with 20 players...best the stories stay on the train," said Bob Deap, who played in that era. The team roster included 33 players over that span, three coaches and two managers.
Bliss was an elite level hockey, tennis player and curler. He received an Athletic distinction award from UNB for two years of hockey, two years of rugby and one year of tennis.
Thomas, the older brother of Winnipeg Blue Bombers lineman Jake Thomas, starred for the Fredericton High School Black Kats football dynasty, went on to star for the Acadia Axemen. Named the defensive player of the year at FHS in 1995, he went from there to become the rookie of the year in the Acadia football program and the outstanding first year male athlete for the university.
The following year, he was an AUS allstar and a firstteam allCanadian. He was a finalist for the J.P. Metras Trophy as the outstanding university lineman in the country in leading the Axemen to the AUS championship. In 1999, he was an AUS allstar and a second team allCanadian. In all, he starred for five seasons for the Axemen and was a team captain the last two years. But an accumulation of injuries prevented his ascension to a professional career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. His grandfather, the late Joey George, was ushered onto the wall in 1993. "To be able to go on the same wall with him is a real honour," he said. "I'll be thinking of him, and a lot of other people who have helped me through my athletic career. Everyone contributes. You don't do this on your own." Younger brother Jake will likely join them on the wall one day.
"Jake's done more with football than I ever will," said Josh.
Wood starred for the University of Arkansas at Monticello Weevils last season, slamming 26 home runs and driving in 90. He was named the Great American Conference player of the year and the winner of the Josh Willingham Award as NCAA Division 2 player of the year as well. He adds the Fredericton athlete of the year award to his collection. "How could you not be honoured when you see the names up there," he said. "Players I've looked up to my whole life, and other great athletes...it's a very humbling experience." Recognition from his home town makes him proud. "Wherever I played, I was very proud of where I was from," he said. "You can ask the guys I played with...I always talked about Freddy Beach. It's great to play here and it was great to grow up here."
He'll miss his mom at the May 6 ceremonies. Nadine Wood passed away in late December. "That's one of the hardest things," he said, wiping away a tear. "I would have loved to have her here, especially in May. The dinner is a day before her birthday. It'll be tough. But she had so much to do with it. I know she'll be proud."
Zilbert said she was "proud and honoured" to be named winner of the MacGillivary award for her longtime involvement as an athlete, coach and administrator with the Fredericton Synchronized Swimming Club. She retired from coaching last June, but she's not far away.
"He exemplified leadership and community involvement," said Zilbert. "I'm very honoured."