MONTREAL (May. 16)
The guest list at this year’s induction ceremony for the Montreal Jewish Sports Hall of Fame read like a who’s who of greats from the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens. Jean Beliveau, the team’s legendary former captain; Guy Lafleur, who brought fans around the NHL to their feet as he scored for the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams of the 1970s; and Elmer Lach, who teamed with the famed Maurice “Rocket” Richard in the 1950s, were on hand as recipients of the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player.
So was Rejean Houle, a onetime player who was the Canadiens’ general manager in the 1990s, and Ronald Corey, a former team president who was honorary chairman of the event.
They all turned out last week as the Montreal’s YM-YWHA inducted the late Cecil Hart, who coached the Canadiens in the early 1930s, into the Alex Dworkin Montreal Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition to Hart, whose name is on the MVP trophy, several others were inducted into the hall. They were Joe and Ben Weider, brothers who founded a bodybuilding dynasty; David Kaplan, who earned a national reputation as a goalkeeper with the Montreal Hakoah soccer team from 1948-1955; and the 1949-1950 Y Blues basketball team, which won a Canadian title.
The actual Hart Trophy was on display, loaned by the Toronto-based Hockey Hall of Fame for the evening and guarded by a Hall employee. A crowd was on hand to mingle with the celebrities, get autographs and take pictures.
Afterward, the celebrants moved to the auditorium for the induction ceremonies.
The Weider brothers were honored first, and it was noted that they started lifting weights as boys when they needed to bulk up to protect themselves from bullies in their poor Montreal neighborhood. A 10-minute clip was shown from the documentary “Men of Iron,” detailing the brothers’ meteoric rise as innovators in the bodybuilding field.
One surprise was the reading of a letter of congratulations from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Joe Weider spotted Schwarzenegger in Austria and, recognizing his potential as a bodybuilder, brought him to America. Schwarzenegger went on to become a world titleholder several times.
“As bodybuilding legends, you are well aware of the determination, courage and perseverance required to be successful in this competitive sport,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “This well-deserved recognition honors your world-renowned careers as distinguished athletes and supporters of physical fitness.”
Ben Weider, 83, turned up for the ceremony, but Joe, 85, who has lived in California for 50 years, was unable to travel due to a bad back.
Ben Weider, who has been involved with the Y for 70 years, still is president of the International Federation of Body Builders, which he founded. Both brothers still travel to promote fitness.
A fund-raising reception prior to the induction raised money for the Y’s Youth Fitness Program, which benefits needy youth and assists 20 percent of the institution’s 7,700 members.