This year saw the beginning of a new Simon tradition ... the Hall of Fame! It was held at The North Sydney Yacht Club during the Saturday Evening social. Following is Aron's presentation in its entirety.
Good evening and welcome to the first ever Simon HOF Social! This event is celebrating 10 years of the Simon! I’m gonna drop some fun facts, some historical timelines and some culture on you so sit back and relax!
Before we honor tonight’s inductees, I want to take a few minutes to give you some context. The idea for the Simon was hatched out of an Alumni Boxing Day tourney that I participated in for the better part of 10-11 years in the late 90’s/early 2000’s in New Glasgow, Pictou County. It was a highlight of my Christmas vacation. There’s a few of you in this room that know exactly what I’m talking about. This Alumni boxing day tourney was an opportunity to get together with ol buddies and teammates and reminisce about the glory days. As competitive as we were, basketball was secondary. Yes we wanted to win but just as important as winning was planning for after the game. In my case Sam’s or Wranglers. Speaking of which, it’s great to see some more representation from Pictou County and other mainland teams, not to mention New Brunswick.
By the time I moved to Cape Breton, the Pictou County Alumni Boxing Day tourney no longer existed, so I had to fill a void. I recall hosting a meeting with a few people at my apartment on Station Street in North Sydney at my kitchen table. I’m pretty sure it was Ryan and Steven Cordy, Kenny MacQueen and Mike MacMillan. I pitched the idea about hosting an alumni tourney here in Cape Breton, they liked it and Kenny was the brainchild behind the name based on his knowledge of Simon. 2012 marked the first Simon tourney that included one division of 6 men’s teams and the start of an MHS dynasty winning the first three tournaments.
I would be remised if I didn’t mention the godfather of Pictou County basketball that was influential in me pursuing the community development side of basketball, Angus Anselm MacDonald aka Anse. Anse was the Simon Chiasson of Pictou County. Fun fact, Anse was born in Sydney and grew up playing hockey on the old Sydney Tar ponds, along with football, boxing and Varsity Basketball. Anse was pivotal in the Pictou County basketball scene and was responsible for the development of youth basketball programs, adult recreational basketball leagues and the New Glasgow High School basketball tournament that began in 1984 and ran to 2003 before the school closed.
Quick question for you, anyone know the last team to win the Boxing Day Alumni tourney in New Glasgow??
If you guessed East Pictou Rural High school, I’ll buy you a drink. And for those of you that don’t know, that was the school I went to.
As you can see, there’s a loop of photos that include pictures from the Simon, and other pictures that helped shape my passion for the sport. One of the experiences was a 3 v. 3 outdoor basketball league that was organized by my Dad, which was the first ever 3 v. 3 outdoor league in Canada that ran from 1994-1997. My Dad is currently working with Canada Basketball to create an event in Springville, Pictou County to celebrate this accomplishment and honour two of the members of the first ever basketball team under Dr. James Naismith. One of the players hailed from Sunny Bare (a few minutes down the road from my family home) and the other was from Merigomish, near my ol alma mater.
I personally didn’t know Simon, and only met him the once, which coincidentally enough was during the AUS tournament weekend in Cape Breton. There was a group of people that were taking in the festivities and celebrating a recent award that Simon received, which was the prestigious Frank Baldwin award. Affectionately known as “Mr. Basketball,” Frank Baldwin was the Executive Director of Basketball Nova Scotia from 1972 until 1986. Frank was inducted as a Builder into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979 and Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 1983.
This prestigious award is in recognition of an individual(s), who like Frank, has made a significant long-term contribution to the development of the sport of basketball in Nova Scotia. It’s worth noting that a recipient of the award in 2022 was none other than Ronnie Shaw. Ronnie dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the coaching and development of boys and girls programs at the high school and university levels in Cape Breton. His name has become synonymous with the sport of basketball at Riverview High School and Cape Breton University, leading to honours including the Hugh A. Noble Distinguished Service Award from the NSSAF.
Simon was inducted into the N.S. Heritage Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Cape Breton Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 as a member of Central High School basketball team, Canadian amateur champs, 1963; a member of Xavier Junior College basketball team N.S., Intermediate champs, 1965; as a member of Acadia Axemen basketball team, 1966-67; member of New Waterford Strands men's Basketball team, Maritime Senior Basketball champs, 1971.
Outside of playing, Simon excelled in community development of sport in Cape Breton. Simon organized the first ever basketball camp in Cape Breton in 1972 and began Cape Breton's first mini basketball program at around the same time. In 2000 he was honored as division chair of the 19th Coal Bowl basketball tournament. From 2003-05 he coached the Baddeck Broncos Division 4 girls to two consecutive provincial titles and runners-up in 2005.
It’s important to mention this because, these people have paved the way for others to follow and I was fortunate to have people like Anse, and my dad, and in Cape Breton there’s been people like Simon, and Ronnie. Other builders like Dave Young, Brian Purchase and Bobby Gardner have left their basketball footprint in the Northside Youth basketball Association via Jr. Marauders.
Fast forward to the Simon 10 year anniversary and look at we’ve done. Not only have we created one of the largest alumni tournaments in Canada, but there’s also been some spin-offs too. We hosted a couple golf tourneys, albeit small, out of Seaview. Another event that was created was the Merry Chiasson basketball tourney, which has taken place in December 2017 and 2019 in partnership with the Jr. Marauders. This is a co-ed tourney that was lots of fun and another excuse to hang out with some friends and play some ball.
I was very fortunate to meet Dave and Jon Chiasson (Simon’s sons) as a result of The Simon. We bonded over our love for golf and I was invited to a golf tourney that Dave and Jon created with a few Dal alumn known as the Black Jacket Master. I got to know Dave and Jon much better and subsequently, Simon through golf, go figure. I think this year will mark the 7th or 8th year for the Black Jacket, which will take place at the beautiful Highland Links. It’s been awesome to get to know Dave and Jon and I consider them my very close friends and we do our best to connect whenever they come to Cape Breton. Dave and Jon were also kind enough to donate their parents beautiful home in Big Harbour as a draw prize in Simon’s past, which my family refers to as the Simon cabin.
Bottom line, this is a great weekend that a lot of people look forward to but it wouldn’t be possible without the people behind the scenes and others that step into the weekend tasks.
Mike Vickers. Mike is always there to lend a hand in the community. Mike took over the role of President of the Simon in the thick of COVID, which was challenging at best. He got to experience the beast that was The Simon but Mike’s demeanor and attitude complimented the Simon and he worked hard manufacturing a great tourney during a time of chaos so Mike, thank you for this!
Sean MacDonald, Portside Law, helped out with the site volunteers this year. Sean’s volunteering energy is bar none. He jumps at any opportunity to be involved in a community event.
Luciann MacDonald and Cheryl Pittman-MacInnis, the dynamic duo, pretty much do anything and everything under the sun. Helping organize teams, coordinate minor officials, support site volunteers, and scheduling insight. As early as Thursday morning, we created a team to fill-in for a team that unfortunately had to withdraw from the tourney, which has been and is part of events like this one.
Dan Thistle, the consultant. Dan is extremely smart and loves to talk about finding solutions to problems.
Kristy MacLeod, has her fingers on the pulse with different businesses downtown when it comes to prospective sponsors.
Dave Young and Bobby Gardner have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to these kinds of event.
Matty Alderson has been a facilitator between one of The Simon’s longest partnerships, Protocase.
Joanie Cunningham, I’ll get into a little bit more about Joanie during the awards but Joanie is a very humble and modest person and we’re very lucky to have her support the Simon website!
Lisa Brown’s reach spans far and wide when it comes to basketball on the north side and is an asset when it comes to helping coordinate tournaments like this one based on years of experience at the Varsity High School level.
Steven and Ryan Cordy, the schedule guru’s. This is no easy feat and we’re very lucky to have their scheduling expertise. This gets more challenging every year as the tourney grows and there are so many moving parts, but their processes to tackle the scheduling has become very efficient and I’m so glad they’re able to take this task on every year! They’ve also stepped into other roles overseeing the tournament rules, and team coordination, communicating messages to all the captains.
Mike MacMillan has been around since the inception of the Simon and anything that you see on a poster, a banner, a shirt, etc it’s because of him. He’s one of the main reasons the Simon has been as successful as it has because of his artistic ability, raising the profile of the Simon as a brand that is known throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond. Mike and I often joke about how long the Simon’s been around based on the Simon shirts he finds while perusing through articles of clothing at Value Village.
Jack MacNeil. Jack stepped into the role of President this year and has transitioned into the role very well. Jack’s attitude, work ethic and personality align perfectly with the Simon tourney. He jumped into the role asking questions and getting down to business by prioritizing the big-ticket items. I look forward to seeing what Jack and the committee will do to continue to make the tourney successful! Thanks Jacko.
Another little fun fact, Jack’s going to help me coach the Memorial High School Girls Varsity basketball team this year.
And finally, Meghan “Mucky” Ashton, the most important person. She has patience for miles and is supportive of everything that I’ve done since the beginning of the Simon. She’s been through the thick of it with me and she says all the right things, good, bad, and in-different. She was no slouch on the court either, she’s 4th all-time in assist at MHS, 9th in scoring and played a year at X. And this is her second year actually playing in the Simon. Thank you my love!
I can’t speak for the other sites but I know that I need to shout out to Deb Gardner, Julie Brown, Meghan Ashton, Julia MacMillan, Holly MacMillan, Kristy MacLeod Jenna Coleman, Cheryl Podetz, Marylyn Sutherland, and Joanne MacNeil. All the minor officials, we’d love to pay you more but maybe next year. And the referees. This is not an easy task to try to find refs. For almost 80 games, so thanks to Sandy Kearney.
Thanks also to the Simon sponsors this year:
Breton Wealth Management, Island Sauce,
Best of Cape Breton gift shop,
Joanie (internet monster wrangler), and
Matticulous Cleaning Services (Matthew Smith), who, yes another fun fact, also happens to be the owner of not one but two Simon Chiasson tattoos.
When Protocase first started in 2001, the company’s co-founders Steve Lilley and Dr. Doug Milburn had a mission of helping engineers, researchers and scientists do their prototyping and product development much faster and more easily. Steve, Doug and the team set out to be a flexible and fast one-stop shop for custom metal enclosures, parts and panels manufactured in 2 to 3 days – and they haven’t looked back since. Today, more than 18,000 customers all over the world choose Protocase, including organizations like NASA, MIT, Boeing and more, to name a few.
At the heart of Protocase is its people – the company boasts more than 350 employees, working in various departments like production, engineering, Research & Development, sales, marketing and more.
For more than a decade, Doug and Steve have been committed to giving back to the Cape Breton community by focusing on the areas of arts, culture and sport, especially as it relates to youth.
The Simon Chiasson is a tournament Protocase has been proud to support for the past several years, as its mandate includes the support of both education and athletics in our public school system, and fits well within the company’s Community Giving Program. Building on this element, the Simon has been very fortunate to galvanize these connections through Protocase with staff playing in the in the Simon. Now this staff does not play in the Simon but I know that he frequents the golf course, on behalf of Simon HOF committee, Lloyd Brown can you come up and accept this HOF award for Protocase?
Joanie has an eclectic background: engineer, website designer, WeirdBeard founder, skiing and gymnastics instructor, swim coach, and an avid gardener. Joanie was born and raised in Sydney, lived in Halifax and Toronto, and is a graduate of Sydney Academy, Cape Breton University, and Dalhousie University.
Joanie has designed and managed the Simon website and related technologies from the inception of the tournament. As amazing as Joanie is at all the things that she talks about, which is modest, she is an even more amazing human being. Joanie has been nothing short of extraordinary throughout this process and has given her time and her expertise to help raise the profile of the Simon in ways that have helped get it to the point where it is today.
We are so grateful for Joanie’s skills and her community support, and we appreciate everything she’s been able to do for the Simon, which is why we’re going to honour her today under the Builder category. Joanie welcome to the Simon HOF!!
Hailing from Sydney NS, Mike Wall, the 6’6” forward graduated from Sydney Academy and went onto play at UCCB from 1991-97 receiving a second team all-star in the 1996-97 and then again with Dalhousie in the 1998-99 season. He played at a time when UCCB (CBU) represented and competed at the AUAA (AUS) level. Most notably was the 1993-94 team that won AUAA’s defeating UPEI 79-75 and placing third at CIAU’s (CIS) defeating Concordia 95-87 under the coaching of none other than Tim McGarrigle.
Mike says that he looks forward to the Simon every year. It’s such a great recognition of all the work Simon Chiasson put in for hoops in Cape Breton. Mike first met Simon at the UCCB basketball camps in the 80’s. Mike and his brother, Booker, would always head out to the college where there was a plethora of great coaches teaching the fundamentals of hoops along with Simon. These early camps introduced Mike and his brother to the game they had come to love. Later Booker and Mike were fortunate to play hoops against Jonathan, which lead to a lifelong friendship.
Mike says he is honored to play in the Simon, and he looks forward to his children playing in the near future.
Mike is being acknowledged this evening based on his success on the court at the Simon. Since Mike began playing in the Simon, he’s been bestowed with two tournament MVPs, a few All-stars, and he’s been part of three Championship teams. Ladies and gentleman, let’s give Mike Wall a hand and bring him up here.
Lee grew up in Sydney, and graduated from Sydney Academy in 2009, winning 2 Division 1 regional basketball championships, and playing for the Team Nova Scotia U17 team. After high
school Lee went on to play for 5 years at CBU, and was a part of 2 AUS championship teams.
Lee has traveled throughout North America, and as far as Beijing playing basketball, he has many experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
That being said, some of his favorite basketball memories are getting together with old friends and teammates, as well as renewing old rivalries every year in the Simon.
Over the years Lee has been a part of some great teams at the Simon, he has won 4 Simon championships as well as tournament MVP 2 times and multiple tournament all-star awards. Although injuries have slowed him down, he still hopes to continue to add to these totals in the future.
Born and raised in Groves Point, Toni played basketball since the age of 8. Memorial has always been a pivotal point in her career. From her first small ball camp she knew she needed to be a part of it. The culture and familial feel of the girls, coaches and volunteers pushed her to be the player she would eventually become. Toni is 5th all time in MHS scoring and was also integral in the MHS team sits top five all time, in 3pt Field Goal percentage, average points/game, and to date the best win/loss record, which was 32-6 in 2013.
Her experience with basketball from early on has allowed her to have a successful high school career entering the record books and went on to play at CBU for 3 years. Toni later had the privilege of coaching the MHS girls team for 2 years. She met the most important people in her life directly through basketball and specifically memorial high school.
Needless to say the Simon Chiasson Alumni Tournament has a very special place in her heart. It’s like a family reunion…but the kind you actually want to attend. The North Side basketball community has given her so much and truly had a huge impact on the person she is today. She wants to thank everyone so much for the recognition tonight and here’s to a great weekend!