Special Night at the 50th Sport PEI Awards
The 2023 Sport PEI Awards were the 50th occurrence of the annual event, headlined by Amy Burk winning the Lieutenant Governor’s (PEI’s top athlete) and the Stewart McKelvey Senior Female athlete of the year, while Mark Arendz received the award for Stewart McKelvey Senior Male of the year. This is Burk’s first year winning Senior Female and Arendz’s 6th time winning the Senior Male award, breaking a tie with Brett Gallant (curling) and Jared Connaughton (athletics) for most times won.
Burk was named MVP of the World Goalball Championships last December (2023 award consideration began December 2022) leading the competition in scoring and helping the team to an undefeated round robin before finishing and won a gold medal at the Parapan Am Games in November with Team Canada. Arendz won 3 gold and 1 silver medal at the 2023 Para Nordic Skiing World Championships and won the Crystal Globe for finishing first overall in the Para Nordic World Cup season, collecting four gold and four silver medals in the process.
The Ladner’s Source for Sports Junior Athlete of the Year awards were taken home by 2023 Canada Games silver medal judoka Lucas MacDonald and wrestler Vanessa Keefe, who was the co-winner of the 2022 Junior Female Athlete of the Year award. Keefe, who was also a finalist for Intercollegiate Female Athlete of the Year, won silver at Under-21 National Championships, gold at Senior Open Nationals, and gold in Under-23 National Championships. She also made her debut representing Canada internationally, making it to the bronze medal match of the Under-23 World Championships. MacDonald won silver at the Canada Games in the +81kg weight class, bronze at Under-21 Eastern Canadian Championships, bronze at the Under-21 Ontario Open, and finished fifth at Under-21 Nationals.
Maggie Mullins (University of Toronto) and Zach Wilson (UPEI) were the recipients of the Synergy Fitness and Nutrition Intercollegiate Female and Male athlete of the year awards. In her freshman season, Mullins helped the U of T field hockey team to maintaining the top place in national rankings, win an OUA championship, and silver at U Sports National Championships. Mullins, a defender, chipped in one assist on the season and started every game as U of T allowed just 7 goals in 10 games on the season. Senior sprinter Wilson, an Academic All-Canadian, was voted UPEI track and field team’s top athlete, winning silver in the 60-m sprint and bronze as part of the 4 x 200 relay at the AUS Championships.
The 2023 CBC PEI Team of the Year award went to the Canada Games Ringette Team, who achieved their best-ever finish on home soil. The team captured the hearts and excitement of island fans, many of whom had never seen ringette before this year, by putting on a great team performance that went all the way to overtime of the bronze medal game. The team’s leading scorer, Natalie Caron, led the whole tournament in goals (11), individually scoring more than the entire PEI team from four years earlier and was a finalist for Junior Female athlete of the Year. The team’s dedication to the True Sport principles helped them achieve their goals on the ice and build an impeccable reputation off the ice.
Team of the Year was not the only award ringette had to celebrate as the team’s head coach Francois Caron was a co-winner of the PEI Mutual Insurance Coach of the Year award for his effort with Canada Games. Caron, who didn’t know how to skate before coaching his daughters in ringette, had his team focused just as much on what they do and who they are off ice as on it, leading the group to a variety of opportunities strengthening their communities. Mark Quinn was also a co-winner of the Coach of the Year award after leading Canada’s Under-18 Men’s softball team to bronze-medal finishes at the WBSC Americans Pan Am Championships and the U18 World Cup.
Nicholas Desroche was named the 2023 PEI Mutual Insurance Official of the Year after officiating at three sets of national flag football championships. Part of the officiating crews for the Canadian Collegiate Flag Football Championships and Senior Flag National Championships, Desroche served as referee-in-chief at the Under-16 National Championships and is pursuing an appointment to flag football’s Olympic debut at the 2023 Los Angeles Games.
The 2023 SCORE! Event of the Year award went to the 2023 Canada Winter Games, which has anecdotally dubbed the best run set of Games in decades. The province’s third opportunity to host Canada Games saw 3,200 athletes, coaches, and staff from all 13 provinces and territories travel to the Island, where there were over 4,000 volunteers ready to help. Twenty-five events took place over two weeks at 19 different venues with over 78,000 spectators attending competitions all across the Island with Karate, Mixed Doubles Curling, and Women’s Boxing making their Canada Games debuts.
The 2023 ADL Volunteer Administrator of the Year award went to Duncan Crawford, who founded the PEI Archery Association in 2012. Crawford has led his sport to formidable growth, helping athletes to top performances on the national stage, building a certified archery facility that is the only one of its kind in Canada, and aiding to organize national and international events. Winning the Sport PEI Coach of the Year Award in 2021, Crawford has balanced administrative duties while coaching at multiple international events, most recently attending the Pan Am Games in October with Team Canada. While serving as the Volunteer Sport Lead, Technical Lead, and representing Archery Canada at the Canada Winter Games, Crawford proudly witnessed a bronze medal for Team PEI. It was PEI’s second archery medal in as many sets of Canada Games.
Jeremy Wall won the 2023 ADL Masters Athlete of the Year. The 38-year-old Summerside resident won gold in the 1500-metre event as well as a bronze in 800 metres and another bronze in the 4 x 100-metre relay race, placing on the podium in all three events he competed in at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin.
The True Sport Award is a new award introduced this year recognizing a member of the sports community who best exemplified the True Sport principles. Sarah MacEachern is the inaugural winner following a year of ups and downs as she recovered from a severe concussion suffered during her freshman season of hockey at Cornell University. MacEachern had her daily routine uprooted but still managed to make the Dean’s List and All-Academic team at her Ivy League school and play for the national development team this summer. The 19-year-old sophomore has used her platform to give back, speaking to Sport PEI’s Future Elites program in June and appearing on CBC during Concussion Awareness Week to discuss her experiences.
Approaching their 50-year anniversary, ParaSport & Recreation PEI won the Premier’s Award, given to the sport organization of the year. Established in 1974, the organization has grown in programs and services formidably over the years, now offering 13 separate programs across PEI for individuals with a physical disability for ages 5 and up. Two new Paralympic sports were added to the PEI ParaSport and Recreation portfolio this year, becoming the official provincial partner for Boccia and Wheelchair Rugby. 2023 saw PEI parasport athletes and coaches compete at wheelchair rugby nationals, sledge hockey nationals, and wheelchair basketball at Canada Games, finishing fifth while partnering with their counterpart organization in New Brunswick to create opportunities to compete. Competitors like this year’s senior athlete of the year finalists Amy Burk and Mark Arendz, as well as former finalist Billy Bridges, have been among PEI’s most successful sports personalities in recent years, continuing a legacy set by former winners Contessa Scott, Scott Morrison, and Pat Griffin.
The President’s Awards were awarded to Rickey Burns and Shirley Lank. The President’s awards are presented to an individual who has given long-time service to their sport. It is a lifetime achievement award, recognizing only the most outstanding volunteers.
Burns has run the Charlottetown Youth Bowling Council since 1981, serving as organizer and coach. He has guided several athletes to success on the national stage, including PEI’s first Canadian 5 Pin Bowlers’ Association Hall of Fame inductee John Walsh, who went into the Hall this year with Burns in attendance. Burns has also volunteered with Special Olympics PEI for over 20 years in various capacities and has been honored with the Governor General’s Souvenirs Medal for Volunteers, City of Charlottetown Natal Day award, and the inaugural Forbes Kennedy Volunteer of Year award from the City of Charlottetown. He will also be inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 2024.
Lank began with the PEI Ladies Curling Association in 1981 and was instrumental in amalgamating with the Men’s association to form the PEI Curling Association, now commonly known as Curl PEI. She served in many roles for the provincial organization – including technical director, marketing coordinator, and president – as well as on the board of Curl Atlantic and with the Cornwall Curling Club. Among many contributions, she motioned for the creation of PEI Curling Hall of Fame and Museum, which she was inducted into in 2014.
Sport PEI would like to thank all who attended the event and all who have supported the sports community of Prince Edward Island over the past 50 years. We look forward to continue navigating the next 50 years together.
For more information, contact:
Sport Coordinator, Sport PEI
True Sport Lead/Communications, Sport PEI