The Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition has announced its Class of 2023.
John Axford, Barry Boughner, Roy Cowan and Paul Smithson will join more than 90 athletes, coaches, builders and sports ambassadors already inducted to the Sports Hall.
Axford, who grew up in Port Dover, played major league baseball for 10 years. A pitcher, Axford, known as “Ax Man,” suited up for a number of teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers, and St. Louis Cardinals. He also played seven seasons with the minor leagues and was named to Team Canada’s baseball team in 2013 and 2023.
In 2011, Axford was the National League’s saves leader. That year he received the National League’s Rolaids Relief Man Award, and was named co-winner of the Tip O’Neill Award, issued by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Axford played minor ball in Port Dover and was a member of several provincial champion teams.
Barry Boughner, originally from Delhi, was a standout baseball and hockey player, as well as a coach and organizer in the Inter-County Baseball League.
Boughner’s on-ice career included six years of professional hockey in the IHL, CHL, AHL, and NHL. He suited up for the California Golden Seals, Des Moines Oak Leafs, New Haven Nighthawks, and Alburquerque Six-Guns, among others.
Boughner played junior hockey with the London Nationals, helping them to a Junior B championship in 1964-65. He was named to the OHA West All-Star team in 1967-68, along with Darryl Sittler.
Boughner also played baseball for London’s Junior A and Senior A Intercounty Baseball League teams, winning multiple championship titles. During his career with London, Boughner played all nine positions, including catcher and pitcher. His versatility is demonstrated by making the IBL first all-star team in 1974 as a second baseman, in 1975 as a third baseman, and in 1980 as a designated hitter.
He was named to the Intercounty Baseball League’s Gold Bat Club in 2018 as one of the Top 100 IBL players since 1919.
Roy Cowan, a longtime Simcoe resident, is being inducted as a builder/ambassador.
Since the 1950s, Cowan played a variety of roles in minor baseball and hockey, including player, coach, referee, referee and organizer.
He served, at various times, as president of the Simcoe Commercial Hockey League, chairman of the Simcoe Minor Softball Association, president of the Simcoe Men’s Softball League, president of the Simcoe Minor Hockey Association, and in other executive positions on these and other areas organizations.
Cowan has also volunteered on several community boards and supported local events, such as the Friendship Festival, which he helped establish, and the Norfolk County Fair.
Many of the individuals who wrote letters of support for Cowan’s nomination noted his willingness to go “above and beyond” with his volunteer efforts.
Paul Smithson is being induced posthumously as an athlete/organizer.
As a curler, Smithson skipped his teams to two provincial championship titles and two berths in the provincial finals, and notched 15 Zone championships, curling for a total of 37 years.
A fellow curler recalls Smithson as “very competitive” but added it never distracted from his sense of fair play.
Smithson helped with Learn to Curl programs and is described as a “tireless” worker running bonspiels, promoting the game, and introducing new people to curling.
As a high school student, Smithson excelled in football and track and field, particularly pole vault. As a teacher, he organized youth track and field and cross-country events for elementary school students for 29 years.
The Class of 2023 inductees, along with Class of 2022 inductees Shane Bergman and Shirley Shaw, will be formally inducted into the Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition at the induction dinner on Saturday, July 13 at the Hungarian Hall in Delhi.
The Norfolk County Sports Hall of Recognition is located in the Simcoe Recreation Center at the pool viewing area level.
Displays of sports team photos and inductee plaques can be viewed during regular operating hours.