Friday, Sport Yukon inducted Peter Milner to the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame.
Milner passed away last year.
He’d served as the Yukon’s sport and recreation director from 1988 to 2001, and spearheaded several programs that made sport accessible to disadvantaged people across the territory.
“Peter’s view was that there’s more than Whitehorse in the territory,” said Milner’s longtime friend Walter Brennan, who spoke about Milner’s achievements at the Sport Yukon Awards Night at the Westmark.
He knew “if you have young kids and youth involved in sport and recreation of some kind, it certainly reduces the drain on the health-care system and the justice system — and it’s just a better life.
“He was a big promoter of that concept rather than high level competition all the time — a broader view, if you will.”
The Youth Investment and Kids Recreation Fund, the Youth Leadership Program and the Aboriginal Sport Circle were all set up on Milner’s watch.
He also championed lifelong fitness with the Yukon Active Living Strategy.
“He lived what he preached,” added Brennan. “He was an avid canoeist and skier.”
Outside his professional duties, Milner seemed to have tireless energy to get things done.
“He was a driving force behind a lot of things — he lived out at Marsh Lake for a number of years, and he’s responsible for the Marsh Lake Loppet. That’s one ski race that everyone looks forward to, because there’s a place for everyone … there’s a place for those that compete hard, and a place for old farts like me,” laughed Brennan, adding that getting people involved was the most important thing.
“He was a true believer in the concept of participaction.”
Milner was also the founding director of the Great Northern Ski Society, which opened the Mt. Sima ski hill in Whitehorse.
Perhaps more than anything else, Milner’s legacy is the upcoming Canada Winter Games.
He was an athlete at the first Canada Games in 1967, competing in the Quebec rowing team, and he became the project manager of the Whitehorse Games when they bid for it in 2001, after spending many years convincing the decision-makers at the Canada Games.
“He wanted to get the Yukon on the map; he thought we were ready,” said Brennan.
“He’s an unbelievable man,” said Sport Yukon executive director Trevor Twardochleb. “He’s the reason we have the Canada Games here.”
Brennan summed up his friend’s outlook: “There was no mountain too high; if you didn’t go over it, you’d go through it or around it.”
“If you knew Peter at all, it was hard not to be friends with him — he was a guy that, when the chips were down, would always say, ‘Let’s have fun, Goddamn it.’”
Major award winners
The territory’s top athletes were honoured for achievements over the past year as well.
Jeane Lassen was named International Female Athlete of the Year.
The Whitehorse-raised weightlifter, who trains in Montreal, has climbed the ranks of international competition.
She posted her best finish in October at the World Weightlifting Championships in the Dominican Republic. She won a bronze in the total score competition and silver in the clean and jerk.
In March, she set a Commonwealth Games record in Melbourne, Australia, lifting 132-kilograms in the clean and jerk.
Lassen is a good bet to represent Canada at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
The International Male Athlete of the Year award went to cyclist Zach Bell.
After making the switch from wrestling a few years ago, Bell has been on a steady climb, enjoying his greatest success in track cycling.
Bell set a Canadian record in the 4,000-metre individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games, and won a gold and silver at the track nationals in New Brunswick in September.
Bell is currently racing in the track cycling world cup in Sydney, Australia.
At the national/territorial level, Sport Yukon named swimmer Alexandra Gabor the Female Athlete of the Year.
Gabor had an amazing season in the 12-and-under division with the Whitehorse Glacier Bears Swim Club.
She holds a Canadian record in the 400-metre freestyle, which she set at the Western Canadian championships this year in Winnipeg.
She also won silver while swimming in the 15-and under category.
Gabor cleaned up at the 2006 age group nationals in Calgary in July, winning five gold medals and two silvers.
She is currently swimming in the 13-14 category with the Glacier Bears, and also swims for Team BC at some events.
On the weekend she will travel to Toronto for the Bell Grand Prix, where she’ll face senior national competition, with Olympic-level swimmers.
David Greer was named the National/Territorial Male Athlete of the Year.
Greer competes in cross-country skiing and cycling, and had some success this year at the Arctic Winter Games in Kenai, Alaska.
He won silver in the five-kilometre classic and the 3×5-kilometre relay. He won bronze in the 10-kilometre freestyle.
Greer earned gold at home, during the Yukon championships, in the midget boys five-kilometre freestyle.
He is a likely candidate to ski for Yukon at the Canada Games next year.
Other award winners on Friday included Penny and Tom Elliot, who were named Coaches of the Year for their work in speed skating, and the Yukon Football Club United, which took Team of the Year honours.