Sawatzky-Koop gets call to hall Three-time national university volleyball champ, former Olympian leads Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame class of 2022
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/09/2022 (200 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For almost two decades, Michelle Sawatzky-Koop has been the master of ceremonies for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner.
In 2022, that routine will have to change and the Hall’s executive director Rick Brownlee will have to resort to Plan B.
Sawatzky-Koop, you see, is becoming a Hall of Famer in November rather than celebrating the exploits of others.
In fact, a solid case could be made that her induction is past due as the owner of one of the most impressive sporting resumes in provincial history.
The 52-year-old Steinbach radio host was a member of three CIAU volleyball championship teams and two national bronze medallists at the University of Manitoba, was named national player of the year twice and represented Canada at the Pan Am Games and Summer Olympics.
On Tuesday, Sawatzky-Koop joined ringette’s Andrea Ferguson, hockey’s Don Baizley, cerebral palsy tricycle athlete Halldor Bjarnason and basketball’s Patrick Jebbison in the class of ’22.
In addition, the Grey Cup-winning 1990 Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be inducted in the team category.
Sawatzky-Koop, a 5-6 setter, was a star player in a sport where tall players are celebrated and tend to dominate. The Hall of Fame honour is richly deserved.
“It’s just really special and maybe even more so because I’ve been at each and every banquet for so many years and I’ve had the great honour of reading the stories of the athletes that have been inducted and I’ve just been amazed by the individuals that we have here in Manitoba,” said Sawatzky-Koop.
“And you know, to even be considered in the same echelon as some of them is so humbling.”
While Sawatzky-Koop coached for many years in the club and high school ranks, she is starting her second year as the lead assistant coach on Ken Bentley’s staff for the women’s team at her alma mater.
Coaching the Bisons requires commuting from work in Steinbach to Winnipeg and back each day.
“Luckily, I do the morning show (on radio) so I’m up at 4 a.m. and on the air from six to 9:30 and then usually we practise in the afternoons and we don’t practise super late but it gives me enough time to get there,” she explained. “My work is done early on a Friday so most of the travel arrangements work or I take a couple of holidays to to be with the team at away games…
“I have learned the way I function best is by doing the things that I love even if that seems like a bit much sometimes. It’s the change of pace that just keeps me going. So yeah, I’m loving all of it.”
While Sawatzky-Koop’s sport is well represented in the Manitoba Sports Hall, Ferguson’s induction is a first for ringette. .
She, too, has a long list of accomplishments from her playing career. Ferguson helped Manitoba to a silver medal at the 1999 Canada Games and gold at the 2002 nationals. She also carried the province to National Ringette League bronze and silver medals in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
“It’s pretty incredible to see the people that I’m being inducted with,” said the 38-year-old Winnipegger. “It’s very humbling, but a great honour.”
Ferguson, who retired from elite level play following the 2013 world championship, has given back to the game by building an impressive coaching resume.
She was an assistant coach on the provincial team that captured gold at the 2015 Canada Games and bronze at the 2019 Canada Games. Currently, she’s the head coach of Manitoba entry in the National Ringette League and will serve as an assistant coach on Canada’s U22 team heading to the world championship in November, reprising a role she also held in 2015 and 2017.
”It was obviously a thrill competing at that level — it was so much fun to be immersed right into it,” said Ferguson. “Coaching is completely different, where you can give the athletes all the tools, systems and whatnot, but at the end of the day they have to go and perform.
“I feel like as a player… I could make a difference on the ice. In coaching, I can make a difference on the bench to help athletes achieve their goals.”
The Hall of Fame annual induction ceremony will take place on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. at Winnipeg’s Victoria Inn. Tickets are on sale now at MBSHOFClassof2022.eventbrite.ca.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
THE CLASS OF 2022
Don Baizley (hockey-builder): Highly respected hockey player agent who had a key role in the early influx of Europeans coming to play in North America. Died of lung cancer in 2013.
Halldor Bjarnason (cerebral palsy tricycling-athlete): Our first inductee from cerebral palsy sport. A trailblazer for people with disabilities to participate in sport. In 1985, he helped start the Manitoba Cerebral Palsy Association and won gold and silver at the World CP Games held in Belgium in his specialty events of 3,000-metre and 1,500-metre tricycling, respectively. He won gold in the 1,500 metres and set a world record and won silver in the 3,000 metre at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea.
Andrea Ferguson (ringette-athlete): The Hall’s first inductee from ringette, she helped Manitoba to silver at the 1999 Canada Games and gold at the 2002 nationals. From 2005-13, she competed in nationals in eight consecutive years as a player, coach or both, and was named an all-star twice. Won the Finnish Elite League championship in 2002-03 and was named player of the year. In 2010, she played for Canada at the worlds in Tampere, Finland, winning silver, and followed that up with silver at the 2013 worlds in North Bay, Ont., where she was the leading scorer at worlds.
Patrick Jebbison (basketball-athlete): Played for the Bobcats from 1984 to 1989. In 1987, he was a GPAC first team all-star, honorable mention all-Canadian and helped BU to its first national title. In his final two seasons of eligibility, he was named GPAC MVP, first team all-Canadian, won two more national titles and was winner of the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as the country’s top men’s university basketball player. He joins head coach Jerry Hemmings and former teammates Joey Vickery and John Carson, who were previously inducted.
Michelle Sawatzky-Koop (volleyball-athlete): Steinbach product led the University of Manitoba Bisons to three national volleyball championships and two bronze medals during her five-year career. Perennial all-star at setter was named national player of the year in both 1991 and 1992. Represented Canada at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
1990 Winnipeg Blue Bombers (football-team): Went 12-6 in the regular-season and earned an East Division title before hammering Edmonton 50-11 in the Grey Cup game at Vancouver’s BC Place. It would be the franchise’s last Grey Cup until 2019, when Winnipeg ended a 29-year championship drought.