Niagara Falls Sports Wall to induct seven

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This news item was posted on 1/17/2019 8:58:00 AM and is an archived post

Hockey player Laura MacKenzie will be one of seven 2019 inductees into the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame. Submitted photo.

The Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Jan. 27 with the induction of seven new members.

Joining the hall at the induction ceremony being held at 2 p.m. at the Gale Centre are: Ernest (Ernie) Reinhart and Emil (Sonny) Badovinac, slo-pitch builders; Ron Gallen, boxing builder; Gary MacDonald, rugby builder; Chris MacKenzie, hockey builder; Laura MacKenzie, hockey athlete; and, the 2008 Saint Michael Catholic High School senior boys soccer team.

In addition: sponsor awards will be presented to Doc Magilligan’s Restaurant and Irish Pub and the Niagara Falls Review; and, 30th anniversary sponsor award will be handed out to Lococo’s Fruits and Vegetables, Portage Bakery and Tim Hortons.


Reinhart and Badovinac. Submitted photo.
In 1969, the pair hosted a meeting to introduce slo-pitch to Canada and registered Slo-Pitch Canada as a not-for-profit organization. They then formed a six-team men’s league in Niagara Falls which expanded to 12 teams in 1970 and 24 teams in 1971.

Reinhart and Badovinac also established an annual tournament in Niagara Falls which by 1980 attracted 226 teams, making it possibly the largest slo-pith tournament in the world.

The pair spread the gospel of slo-pitch across Canada, providing information on how to form slo-pitch leagues.


A member of Boxing Ontario since 1980, Gallen took over the operation of the Niagara Falls Boxing Club in 1986 and coached more than 150 competitive boxers. Among his fighters were Mike Strange, Chuck Moscato, Eddie Dawson and Scottie Paul. He coached several provincial champions, four national champions and two Ringside world champions.

Submitted photo. Ron Gallen
He was also active in the boardroom, serving 13 years as an executive member with Boxing Ontario and six years on Boxing Canada’s Board of Directors. In addition, he held the position of Chief Official and Director of Niagara Region Boxing.

Among his other accomplishments are: donating boxing equipment to Cuba; creating a Ladies Only Box Fit class in 2008; and, in 2016,  developing Rock Steady Boxing for people dealing with Parkinson’s disease.


Under mentor Fred Kovacs, MacDonald began coaching rugby at A.N. Myer in 1988. He went on to coach at Niagara University and University of Buffalo and those roles allowed him to recruit women to help start the Niagara Wasps women’s team in 1992.

With a goal of giving Niagara players a chance to compete against those from the GTA, he began coaching in the Niagara Rugby Union’s junior and senior women’s programs.

Submitted photo. Gary MacDonald
He played for the Barking Rugby Club in the English National Third Division and coached the London Wasps Women’s Rugby Team and the Scottish Women’s National A Team through the Five Nations Championships. That tournament included Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland and France.

MacDonald returned to Canada in 1999 where he taught and coached at Stamford Collegiate. He also became the St. Catharines Tigers Rugby Club’s head coach. In 2002 and 2003, MacDonald was a member of the coaching staff of the Ontario senior women’s team. That team was second in 2002 and national champions in 2003.

In 2004, MacDonald began to focus on men’s rugby and coached Stoney Creek in the Ontario Premier League, the Niagara Thunder senior men’s team and Niagara Lightning U21 Representative Rugby in the National Super-Leagues. He was also an assistant coach with the under-21 Ontario men’s team. In 2008, he led the Niagara Lightning to a national championship. In 2009, he won a third national championship with the Ontario under-21 team.

MacDonald has also been a long-time coach and director of the Niagara Rugby Club.


A former member of the Chippawa Merchants junior Cs, the Niagara Falls Canucks junior Bs, the NCAA Division 1 Niagara University Purple Eagles and JYP Jyvaskyla in the professional Finnish Elite Hockey League, MacKenzie focused on coaching when his playing career ended in 2001.

Submitted photo. Chris MacKenzie
In 2001, he started as an assistant coach at NCAA Division 1 UMass Lowell before becoming the head coach of the Niagara University women’s program in 2009. He became an assistant coach at Ohio State in 2012 before moving on to become the head coach at the University of Connecticut. He is a three-time finalist for the coach of the year award in NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey.

As a player, MacKenzie: won a Sutherland Cup with the Niagara Falls Canucks in 1996; NCAA Elite Eight, College Hockey America and Eastern College Athletic Conference titles with Niagara University; set the all-time scoring record for defencemen at Niagara; was the ECAC player of the year in 1998; and, an ECAC First All-Star in 1998 and 2000.


In addition to playing ringette, MacKenzie played on a boys hockey team in the Niagara Falls Minor Hockey League.

She started playing female hockey in Stoney Creek in 1990 before becoming captain of the Mississauga Chiefs AA/AAA and a member of the Mississauga Ice Bears in the National Women’s Hockey League. While attending A.N. Myer, she was a four-time MVP of the hockey team and the school’s female athlete of the year in 1996.

She won a bronze medal with Ontario Blue at the 1993 under-18 national championships and captured two national university titles with Concordia. She joined Wayne State University in Michigan in 2000, where she was team captain and defenceman of the year.

The following season, she competed with the Adelaide women’s team in Australia, winning silver at the nationals. She follows that up by playing for Rødovre in Denmark and added another national title to her resume.

She became assistant coach of Team Australia in 2003 and helped that team mine a gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation Division 3 World Championships. She then became the assistant coach and head coach for Denmark, guiding the team to silver medals at the IIHF World Championships in 2003 and 2008, and a gold medal in 2004.


The Saint Michael Mustangs soccer team’s run to an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association’s title started with a pre-season training program in February and a silver medal in April at the Can-Am tournament in West Virginia.

Submitted photo. Saint Michael boys soccer 2008
Practising four days a week, Saint Michael went 6-1 in Zone 3 league play before knocking off E.L. Crossley in the zone final. The Mustangs then advanced to OFSAA by defeating Hamilton Christian in penalty kicks in the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association final. Saint Michael then won its first-ever OFSAA crown.

Members of the team, coached by Pat Ricci, Sandro Seca, Dom Scozzafava and J.P. Verrucci, were Sergio Carles Martin, Lucas Folino, Dustin Maiolo, Justin Shugg, Tyler Tonet, Christopher Webb, James DeFilippis, Mitchel Gartner, Christopher Marchese, Kevin Smyth, Mario Trapasso, Daniel Zappitelli, Joseph DeFilippis, Robert Kearns, Anthony Perry, Joseph Taddeo and Giulian Tropea.

By Bernie Puchalski - January 17, 2019

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Posted on: 1/17/2019 8:58 AM - Category: In the News