For the first time since 2004, the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame will have two inductees in the same year.
Yukon table tennis legend Kevin Murphy and archery coach/administrator Les Johns will formally be inducted at the Sport Yukon Award Night this week, it was announced Friday.
“I was pleased that there is this recognition,” said Murphy. “Sometimes you feel like you toil in obscurity for a number of years and along comes something like this and puts a stamp of validation to all the hard work you put into your sport. It’s very gratifying to be recognized that way.”
“It was a surprise to me,” said Johns. “It’s an honour to be up there with all the other people who have been honoured in the sport Hall of Fame. I feel very humbled about it because I haven’t been doing it as long as some of the other ones.”
Murphy started playing table tennis in the early 1970s and captured his 20th men’s singles title at the Yukon Open Table Tennis Championships last April. He also pocketed countless men’s doubles, mixed doubles and team titles along the way.
However, his time as a coach goes back almost as far as his playing career.
Murphy has coached Yukon table tennis players at 11 Arctic Winter Games going back to 1974 and will attend his 12th next month in Greenland. He has also coached at seven Canada Winter Games spanning 40 years, beginning with the 1975 Games and his most recent last year.
Murphy has also attended 11 national table tennis championships as a player and/or coach. At the 1983 nationals in Montreal he returned with a record of six wins and six losses in team matches.
While he is being honoured for his time with Table Tennis Yukon, Murphy has also been a pillar in Yukon’s five-pin bowling community. Murphy has coached youth bowling teams at 13 national championships going back to 2001.
“Something I’ve always wanted to do is help people reach their potential in the two sports I’m involved in,” said Murphy. “It was gratifying to work with youth in both sports.”
Johns remembers when he was a kid, he couldn’t afford manufactured archery bows, so he and his friends would collect broken hockey sticks at the local arena and make bows out of them.
“They were all straight grained and hickory,” said Johns.
Decades later his love of archery will put him on the wall at Sport Yukon.
Johns has been coaching with the Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle since about 2002, he said.
“I got involved because of my grandkid,” said Johns. “My grandson wanted to compete in archery and his parents were kind of busy, so I’d take him to different shoots in the Yukon and slowly got involved. Pretty soon I picked up the bow again and started shooting.”
Johns, who is a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, has coached Yukon archers at six major Games.
He has coached at the last three Canada Winter Games and at three North American Indigenous Games since 2006.
In 2007 he received a coaching award from the national Aboriginal Sport Circle.
He also spent more than a decade as president of the Whitehorse Archery Club before stepping down last year.
“I took on the role of president because there was no one else,” said Johns. “If we didn’t have an executive, we wouldn’t be able to get insurance through Archery Canada. Nobody wanted to be president, so I became the president.”
The 40th annual Sport Yukon Award Night will take place this Thursday at the Yukon Convention Centre. There will be a reception at 6:30 followed by the ceremony at 7 p.m.
“I started playing in about 1971 when my dad brought a table home,” said Murphy following last year’s table tennis championships. “At the time I was in the Air Cadets, and 1972 rolls around and there were Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, and I’m in the colour guard for when the governor general of Canada opens up the table tennis event at Takhini school. And I see a young girl playing the governor general … and I know the girl and I think, ‘I’m better than her.’
“I quit Air Cadets and joined table tennis that fall, and I haven’t stopped.”
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