By Joe Barkovich
WELLAND – Thinking about submitting a nomination for the H. L. Cudney Award? Now’s the time to get it done.
The award committee has issued a call for nominations for the Cudney, which recognizes outstanding achievement in or contribution to sports in Welland. In its inaugural year, 1962, the recipient was local resident and CFL star Ed Learn. In 2018, it was Michele O’Keefe, Niagara College’s associate director, Athletics and Recreation, who was honored for contributions to basketball in Canada.
“The committee hopes the community will respond to the request for nominations,” said chair Ron Lemon. “There certainly are many deserving candidates in the Welland community. The challenge is to get their names brought forward to our attention.”
Attracting nominations years ago wasn’t the hard sell it seems to be nowadays.
Wayne Redshaw, the former long-time sports editor at The Tribune and a member of the committee for more than 40 years recalls the selection committee being “swamped” with nominations some years.
In a telephone interview, Redshaw, recipient of the award in 2001 for sports journalism, said the end-of-year announcement of the Cudney recipient was always looked forward to by the local sports community. He said the announcement usually was made between Christmas and New Year.
“There was never a shortage of nominations,” he recalled. “Publicity announcements appeared in the Tribune and on CHOW Radio. I saw years when we were flooded with nominations. One year I recall we had close to 20 nominations, and other years 10 to 12. A lean year was three to five.”
Redshaw was on the committee from 1963 to 2007. He said the experience left him with many fond memories of the camaraderie that existed in the Welland sports community.
Most years, the announcement was through a story in the newspaper and over radio, but for some years special presentation formats were chosen.
“There were memorable presentations. In 1964 when Notre Dame College School principal John Belcastro was the recipient, it was like a live version of the TV show ‘This Is Your Life’. It was done before a full assembly in the gym,” said Redshaw.
Another “unforgettable” presentation took place in 1972. The recipient was Aurel Gervais, a city councillor who was honored for sports contributions through Club Champlain.
“He was caught completely off guard. He thought he was going to a Club Champlain Christmas party with the media at East Main Street’s Temple Club that afternoon. Instead, CHOW Radio sports director Dave Scott and I teamed up to make it a complete surprise for Gervais by announcing the winner jointly at the party.”
Scott delayed his noon sportscast and made the announcement at the party and Redshaw brought along copies of the announcement “hot off the press in that day’s newspaper as the Tribune, back then, was an afternoon newspaper.”
Redshaw reminisced about one other presentation, the 30th anniversary of the Cudney Award in 1991.
“Former recipients were invited to attend the dinner along with three finalists that year at the Polish Legion hall on Ontario Road. The gala evening with an overflow crowd was capped off when the master of ceremonies asked for the envelope and then announced that golfer John Benko was the winner.”
Redshaw said he noticed decline in nominations started in the late 1990s, but isn’t sure why it happened. One possibility could be lack of promotional coverage, he said.
The Cudney was long considered “the elite sports award” in Welland and it deserves that stature considering its longevity and the diverse group of recipients, Redshaw said. It’s “too bad” it was not presented for three years (2015, 2016, 2017), he said.
In its revival, the award presentation is now coordinated by the Cudney Award Committee, a sub-committee of the Welland Sports Promotion Committee.
The Cudney trophy for outstanding contribution to Welland sports honors the late Harold Cudney, original owner of Cudney Funeral Home in Welland. Mr. Cudney was a long-time supporter of local sports along with former managing editor of the Tribune, T.N. Morrison. The award was started after Mr. Cudney’s death by his family.
For those interested, nomination forms are available at Welland Community Wellness Complex, 145 Lincoln St.
Nominations will be accepted until Friday, January 24, 2020.
The Cudney award for 2019 will be presented during the city’s 48th annual Sports Awards Night, Friday, April 3, 2020 at Casa Dante, Lincoln Street, Welland.
(See sidebar story: A Who’s Who)