A father-and-son duo are now part of an exclusive club after both being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Ross Powless and his son Gaylord Powless are from Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario.
While they may not be the first father-son duo inducted into the Hall, they are the latest and first to be inducted in the same sport.
Ross played professional lacrosse in the 1950s and ’60s, while Gaylord played in the ’60s and ’70s.
Already members of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, both are now Canadian sports royalty for being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Ross was inducted this year as a builder, joining Gaylord who was inducted in 2017 in the athlete category.
They make up the 13th and 14th Indigenous athletes to be inducted in the 65-year history of the Hall.
“Well, we’re just overjoyed – thrilled to hear it; I mean it’s a big honour and it’s a big award and, you know, we’re very, very happy,” said Richard Powless, son of Ross and brother to Gaylord.
Gaylord was the oldest of 14 children that Ross and his wife Wilma raised.
While they may not have played with each other, Ross did coach six of his sons – including Gaylord in a Nanaimo tournament where they won the championship. Both are household names in the lacrosse world and are arguably two of the best to ever pick up a lacrosse stick.
Richard recalls watching his brother and father growing up and seeing them play.
“In my 65 years, they were some of the best you know, and I mean I’ve said in past times my dad was compared to the Gordie Howe and the other was compared to the Wayne Gretzky of hockey,” he said.
“They simply excelled at the sport and I don’t know where it comes from. It’s part of our heritage, and it’s the Creator’s game, an Iroquois game, but from a very early age they both excelled at it and it just seemed to come natural.”
Cheryl Bernard, president and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, said along with sporting ability, athletes need to have excelled away from the sport to be inducted, something Ross and Gaylord strived to achieve by coaching and working back in Six Nations after their playing days.
“You’re being awarded the Order of Sport honour for what you’ve done beyond sport,” Bernard said.
“For how you’ve given back to your community, for how you’ve been a role model, a leader, how you’ve helped build your sport. It’s kind of these full stories of these hall of famers rather than just the sport piece. It’s the entire story of what they’ve done for their country and I think what that does is it makes individuals who are not even sports enthusiasts or who are not sports fans, it makes them value hall of famers even more because of what they provide and give back.”
Bernard added that eight Indigenous Hall of Famers have gotten together to create an Indigenous education summit this September. The goal of the summit is to create a framework for the education of Indigenous communities.
“The value of what that will give Indigenous youth is why participate in sport, what you can overcome by participating in sport. We want those messages to be heard.”
Gaylord passed away in 2001 from colon cancer, two years before his father Ross died in 2003.
The 2020 induction ceremony will be postponed until next year and celebrated along with the 2021 class.