Petition seeks to get BodyBreak in hall of fame

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A few years ago, in the wee hours of the morning, Virgin Radio’s Ace Burpee and Chrissy Troy were getting ready for their morning show.

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Opinion

A few years ago, in the wee hours of the morning, Virgin Radio’s Ace Burpee and Chrissy Troy were getting ready for their morning show.

“It was the end of 2019, maybe early 2020,” Troy said in a phone call. “Ace and I were in the studio before the show started and he just said to me ‘do you think Hal and Joanne are in the sports hall of fame?’”

Burpee was referring to Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, the iconic BodyBreak duo that has been delivering their “keep fit and have fun” message on Canadian television sets since the 1980s.

Scouring the Canadian sports hall of fame website, Troy found no sign of Johnson and McLeod. She and Burpee figured the pair’s induction was a no-brainer. However, the morning show, which they host alongside Lloyd (Kevin Frobisher) and Amber Saleem, was about to start and they dropped the pre-show conversation. Nothing else really came of it — until earlier this year.

“We both started kind of catching up on them and getting their back story — seeing that they were accomplished athletes on their own and how BodyBreak came to be,” Troy explained. “I looked online at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and was like ‘how do you fill out an application to induct someone?’”

Figuring out the application process didn’t take long. What was harder was deciding what to say on the application.

“How do you put it into words what Hal and Joanne mean? I just started thinking that everyone probably has the same kind of thoughts that we had,” Troy said. “They were doing things 25 years ago that only now people are catching on to. It’s actually pretty unbelievable when you think of how ahead of their time they were.’”

BodyBreak first aired on April 28, 1989. Johnson and McLeod each pitched in $2,000 (which, at the time was basically all the money either had) to finance pilot episodes and buy merchandise. The two-minute segments stuck to a theme where the duo would identify a fitness problem and solve it with exercise, nutrition or a health tip.

BodyBreak quickly gained traction. Over the years, it has become a piece of Canadiana so iconic that the segments have become a fixture of youth. They inspired people to get up, get active and have fun while doing it.

The crew at Virgin Radio quickly got to work bringing attention to their nomination. The movement garnered support from many community members, including Olympian Cindy Klassen who appeared on the morning show and expressed her support for the duo’s induction. An online petition spread like wildfire. Many folks were surprised that Johnson and McLeod weren’t already inductees.

“Just the fact that they are such a part of this country’s fabric, and they should be acknowledged. They touched generations,” Troy said. “The fact that they haven’t been acknowledged is so shocking. It just seems like a no-brainer.”

For Johnson, the efforts are humbling. He found out about the nomination through the hosts of a Sirius XM show that he does a segment on every Thursday.

“I told Joanne that these people (from Virgin Radio) are trying to nominate us for a Canadian sports hall of fame award and she was really honoured. She said ‘Oh wow,’ and the enthusiasm was very much there,” Johnson said in a phone interview from his home in Muskoka, Ont. “I think it’s because of her athletic background. She’s been an athlete her entire life, that it means a lot. It would certainly mean a lot (to be inducted), but it’s very, very humbling.”

The pair are just as busy as ever, keeping fit and having fun. One of their newest ventures is a partnership with Good For Sunday Clothing to launch a retro line of BodyBreak clothing that will be available for sale on their website in a few weeks.

“When they came to us and asked if they could use our brand to do this, it was all about the retro — the fact of people feeling this nostalgia for when things were simpler; for when you didn’t have a mortgage payment; for when you didn’t have to worry about things,” Johnson said. “When you came home and you had your snack and then you sat down and watched YTV and you didn’t think of anything else and BodyBreak would come on. It reminds people of a simpler time.”

Johnson says whenever they meet people the reaction is the same. In fact, he shared a story of a time that he and McLeod were in here in the city.

“We love Winnipeg. We were walking downtown at Portage and Main and a fire truck went by and the firemen noticed us. Joanne and I were just walking down the street about 15 or 20 years ago and they yell out ‘Hey BodyBreak, keep fit and have fun,’” Johnson said with a chuckle.

The link for the petition to have Johnson and McLeod inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame can be found on Virgin Radio Winnipeg’s Instagram or website. On Thursday, this year’s hall of fame inductees will be announced.

“We’re very flattered and honoured that we have a small place in the hearts of Canadians of that generation,” Johnson said. “Joanne and I have always thought that if we help one person think about being healthier, then we’ve succeeded.”

shelley.cook@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @ShelleyACook

Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud Indigenous woman with family ties to Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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