MISSISSAUGA SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Born: February 14, 1921
Port Daniel, Que.
The two great passions in Hazel McCallion's public life - politics and hockey - both require deft footwork and an ability to stickhandle. And the Mississauga mayor is pretty good at both of these, something she has proven time and time again. During a long and colourful reign in the mayor's chair of Canada's "boom town" she had earned the respect of voters, grudging admiration of her political allies and opponents, and along the way picked up a most fitting nickname that sticks like glue.
"Hurricane Hazel" created a legacy in more ways than one. Her political life, live in a glass house, is quite visible and there for all to see. But what is not so transparent is the role Hazel McCallion had played in elevating women's hockey to world class status then dipping into her political savvy to help clear the ice for it to become an Olympic sport. When I met her in person, I knew they had named her right…Hurricane Hazel," commented Canadian television hockey personality Don Cherry.
McCallion has had bouquets tossed at her feet for her part in making Mississauga what it is today, but her political life had nothing to do with her election to the Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame at the 2001 Sports Dinner - that was strictly in recognition of her considerable contribution to the welfare of women's hockey in Canada and beyond, in the international arena. She belongs to the world of women's hockey and the City of Mississauga has to share her with the world," said Fran Rider, Executive Director of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association.
Hazel has served on the Ontario Women's Hockey Association Board of Regents for more than two decades and was honourary chairperson of the ice-breaking 1987 Women's World Hockey Tournament and also for the 1997 and 2000 Women's World Championships. Mississauga served as host city for the 2000 World Championships with Canada retaining the crown at the Hershey Centre, a classy venue that can thank "Hurricane Hazel" and her political clout for its existence.
Her friends, foes and many political pundits are convinced that Hazel doesn't need ice, she could skate on warm water if such a miracle was ever necessary. What Hazel wants, Hazel usually gets - and elevating women's hockey to Olympic sport level was a much desired object on her wish list. It is well-known in the hierarchy of female hockey that Hazel McCallion - along with long-time Mississauga friend Fran Rider, another queen-pin on the Canadian female hockey arena - was the leader in the lobby for the inclusion of women's hockey into the winter Olympic program. This dream was realized in 1998 Nagano when, for the first time, its was on the Olympic program as a demonstration sport, then in Salt Lake City, when four years later Canada became the first female hockey champions as the sport became a full medal event.
"I am a great believer in the benefits of sports and recreation," McCallion reaffirmed as was obvious from her track record. "Sport, particularly hockey, has played an important role in my life and I have always been committed to making sports events accessible to the people of Mississauga."
As mayor, Hazel McCallion had been instrumental in the birth of the Mississauga Sports Council and also played a key role in making the Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame a reality.
Into her 80s, Hazel remains a devoted hockey participant and player. Born the youngest of five children in the small fishing village of Port Daniel on the Gaspe coast, the love for hockey came naturally to her and while, as a young woman, working in Montreal, she even had a brief professional career in 1940, getting paid $5 a game. In her golden years, she had always skated out to centre ice - with a hockey stick in hand, naturally - when she accepted invitations to participate in opening ceremonies.
During the 2000 Women's World Championships she had often been seen skating laps around the ice before a start of a game at the Hershey Centre and even challenged the president of the Canadian Hockey Association to a game.
No surprise there - as a politician of a women's hockey booster, Hurricane Hazel McCallion never shied away from a challenge.