Abbotsford Sports Hall of Famers reflect on past successes

On April 30, an illustrious four-member class of athletes and builders will be inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame. They shared some of their favourite memories with The News.

During his nine-year Canadian Football League career

During his nine-year Canadian Football League career

On April 30, an illustrious four-member class of athletes and builders will be inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame. They shared some of their favourite memories with The News.

LOCHBAUM LOVES GIVING BACK

These days, a significant amount of Kelly Lochbaum’s time is poured into serving as a volunteer coach with the junior varsity football team at Robert Bateman Secondary.

Ask the former B.C. Lions linebacker why he thinks it a worthwhile investment, and he’ll point back to a dark period in his life when he thought his football career was over.

In July 1992, just after his graduation from W.J. Mouat Secondary, Lochbaum was involved in a seven-car pileup on Highway 1. He suffered serious nerve damage in his back, and was in near-constant pain whether standing or sitting.

Medical treatments seemed ineffective, and the promising prospect lost his football scholarship to Simon Fraser University.

After a year away from the game, Lochbaum recovered sufficiently to return to the gridiron with the Abbotsford Air Force junior program, but he still wasn’t sure he had a future in the game.

That’s when Dave Johnson got involved. The head coach at Abbotsford Senior Secondary got on the phone on Lochbaum’s behalf and found him a roster spot at Butte Junior College in Chico, Calif. After two seasons there, Lochbaum landed a full scholarship to Northern Arizona University.

Lochbaum went on to play nine seasons in the CFL – eight of which were spent with the B.C. Lions. He was a linebacker and key special teams contributor on a pair of Grey Cup championship teams – the 2000 Lions, and the 2001 Calgary Stampeders.

But without those phone calls from Johnson, now the head coach at SFU, Lochbaum doesn’t think his pro career would have happened.

“I thought my football career was over,” he said. “I had no idea what I was going to do.

“What Dave did for me is what motivates me now as a coach. As much as you want to win, it’s more important to see the kids, when they’re done the program, be better people.”

His impending induction into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame has afforded Lochbaum an opportunity to reflect with gratitude on the coaches who impacted him — the likes of Johnson and Denis Kelly, his high school bench boss at Mouat.

“Your parents raise you, but you definitely take a piece of each coach you had who kind of gave you some guidance,” said the 38-year-old, who works as a realtor in Abbotsford. “I get to pass that on to the kids.

“It’s really important to me, especially with the way things are going with teenagers, and all the different problems. The same kids that join gangs are the same ones who join football teams, because it’s an aggressive sport.

“I can help kids out and help motivate them, too.”

YATES HELPED BUILD ABBOTSFORD

Ken Yates is being inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame as a community sport builder, and the description couldn’t be more fitting.

There’s a plethora of recreation facilities in Abbotsford which bear Yates’s fingerprints, a product of his 23 years as the city’s director of parks and recreation (1977-2000).

Consider, fKen Yatesor instance, the very Hall of Fame which Yates is about to enter. The local sports shrine is housed within the Legacy Building at Exhibition Park – both the building and the park were developed under Yates’s guidance.

On top of all of that, he was a founding director of the Hall of Fame itself.

“I’m excited to have this recognition, and I’m very humbled,” said Yates, 70. “I always thought that my job as parks and recreation director was to try to develop facilities and programs that would assist sporting groups and enhance their abilities.

“I never looked at it as a thing where I’d get a reward at the end. My reward was seeing those people get out on the playing pitch and succeed.”

Yates’s local career began with the joint Abbotsford/Matsqui rec commission, and he continued with the department after the two towns amalgamated in 1995.

Facilities that were developed during his tenure included the Matsqui and Abbotsford recreation centres, the Twisters Gym, the Air Cadet building, and the Abbotsford Judo Club.

The highlight, though, was the creation of Exhibition Park, a 75-acre spread on a former landfill site which features Rotary Stadium, sports fields, and multi-use agricultural buildings.

“That project was really a joint effort by everybody in the community who had an interest in sports or agriculture,” said Yates, who led a 16-member steering committee. “It was very gratifying.”

Yates was also instrumental in the successful hosting of the 1995 Western Canada Summer Games, and was a renowned rugby volunteer at the local, provincial and national levels.

CANNON CHERISHED REPRESENTING CANADA

As a teen growing up in Abbotsford, John Cannon played both rugby and soccer at a high level.

He ended up casting his lot with rugby, and it’s hard to quibble with the decision – Cannon went on to represent Canada at the Rugby World Cup, and he played seven professional seasons in England.

Looking back, Cannon can pinpoint the moment when he knew that rugby, not soccer, was the athletic path he should take.

John Cannon“I remember this one soccer game where I slid into a tackle really quite hard,” he recalled with a chuckle. “It was a clean tackle, but this kid just went down like he’d been shot. I remember that as a distinctive moment where I said, ‘Maybe this has made up my mind for me.’

“I just really enjoyed tackling, and I enjoyed the physical nature of rugby.”

Cannon’s sparkling rugby resumé will be honoured next week, when he’s inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame.

The Abbotsford Senior Secondary grad represented Canada at every age level, beginning at under-17 and progressing to U19, U23 and ultimately the senior national team.

Cannon, an inside centre, wore the maple leaf at international events in both sevens and 15’s, and the 2003 World Cup in Australia was his crowning achievement. A particularly special memory was being in the starting lineup for a game against the legendary All Blacks of New Zealand.

“That was an amazing experience,” he said. “I hold in high regard playing for my country.”

Professionally, Cannon played for a trio of teams – Rotherham, Coventry and Doncaster – in England’s National Division One.

His career came to an abrupt end in 2007. While attending a soccer game in England, he was the victim of an unprovoked mugging by a soccer hooligan. During the attack, he hit his head on a concrete curb, and was advised by brain specialists not to play rugby again.

“It was an unfortunate situation,” he said. “From a rugby perspective, you always want to go out on your own terms.”

Cannon, who now works as a financial planner in Penticton, prefers to focus on the positive. He looks back with particular fondness on the travel opportunities afforded him by rugby. During his national team tenure, he had his passport stamped in Malaysia, Japan, Dubai, New Zealand, France, Hong Kong . . . and the list goes on.

“It definitely gives you a good perspective on the world outside of our little nutshell of North America,” he said.

LESSONS LEARNED ON JUDO MAT BENEFITTED TSANG

Attempting to convey what the sport of judo has meant in her life, Stephanie Tsang recalls a funny story.

In 2003, as she prepared to move from Abbotsford to Philadelphia to begin dental school at Temple University, Tsang’s first order of business was to go online and search out a judo club to train at.

Stephanie Tsang“My mom was horrified by that,” Tsang related with a chuckle. “She was like, ‘Have you found a place to live yet?’ And I said, ‘No, but I’ve found a judo club.'”

Tsang was a medal magnet during her competitive judo career – she climbed the podium eight times at Canadian national age-class championship events, including a pair of senior national titles in 1997 and 1998.

The latter victory was particularly special, as the national tournament was held at Abbotsford’s Ag-Rec Building that year, affording Tsang the opportunity to win gold in front of her friends and family.

But according to Tsang, the true benefits of the sport in her life go far beyond the medals she’s won.

“It’s a really good sport for young people to get into,” she asserted. “It’s a martial art, and there’s discipline. You learn to work, and I think that carries through everything else – schooling, your career. It teaches you.”

Tsang’s competitive career came to a premature end, as she underwent a pair of surgeries on her left shoulder following her national title in 1998.

Dentistry is the Tsang family business, and 29-year-old Stephanie plies her trade in Abbotsford alongside her father Gratio and brothers Daniel and Jonathan. The family is a big booster of community sports, sponsoring events like the Abbotsford Judo Club’s annual provincial championship and the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament.

Use Promo Code 3JAN

Try Our All Access Premium - Digital Subscription For $1.00 A Month For The First Three Months

1.24¢/wk

Premium

What you'll enjoy!

  • Unlimited Digital Stories
  • Crosswords And Puzzles
  • One Bonus Subscription
  • News Alerts