Dawson and Bossy honoured at annual sports breakfast
Montreal sports fans got a real treat last Sunday morning (March 26), as two hall of famers – former Expos outfielder Andre “Hawk” Dawson, along with Laval native and former New York Islanders left winger Mike Bossy — returned to the city to receive special tributes at the 13th annual Sports Celebrity Breakfast, which was held by the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors (CJCS) Foundation in front of a sold-out audience at the Gelber Conference Centre in Cote des Neiges.
A record $325,000 was raised at this year’s breakfast, which directly benefits the CJCS’ “Seniors in Crisis” program, which brings about essential needs to seniors in Montreal, so that they can sustain a comfortable quality of life. Since the Sports Celebrity Breakfast began in 2004, the CJCS Foundation has raised over $2 million for this much-needed program.
Dawson, who played with the Expos from 1976 to 1986 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, received the Expos Baseball Legends Award for his many contributions not only to the team in particular, but to the overall Montreal community in general.
“Montreal is the greatest city. I had a wonderful time here and a lot of special memories while I was a member of the Expos,” he said. “And the Expos gave me the opportunity to play with a very fine group of ballplayers, although originally I was the third outfielder on the team’s depth chart … and many people originally thought I was French!”
Dawson credited his success on and off the field to his grandmother. “She was my chief motivator, who told me education was the key,” he said. “And I wasn’t going to disappoint her by not getting an education.”
And he felt saddened and disturbed when the Expos folded in 2004 and moved to Washington to become the Nationals. “Canada needed two teams, especially in Montreal, where major league baseball in Canada started,” he added.
Mike Bossy, who led the New York Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships between 1980 and 1983 – as well as having nine seasons where he scored 50 goals or more per season – was honoured with the Sports Personality of the Year award. He attributed his success with the Islanders to his coach Al Arbour. “I was drafted 15th, and I was told that I couldn’t skate fast enough, that I wasn’t big enough, and that I wasn’t tough enough,” he said. “And then Al Arbour told me when I began my career with the Islanders that ‘we drafted you to score goals’.”
Bossy, who now divides his time as a sports broadcaster for 91.9 Sports Radio and as a Vice President of the New York-based First Nationwide Title Agency, admitted that one of his most cherished memories with the NHL was the moment when he held aloft the Stanley Cup after the Islanders won it for the first time in 1980. “When I was younger, I always watched Jean Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer and Bob Gainey hold up the Cup after the Canadiens won a championship. And when I lifted up the Cup and realized I was doing what Beliveau, Cournoyer and Gainey did, I thought to myself ‘I finally done it!’,” he said.
Joel Leonoff, a Laval native who is President and CEO of the Paysafe Group Plc, was recognized as this year’s Guest of Honour. An accountant by trade who possesses an entrepreneurial spirit, Leonoff grew up in Laval (in fact on the same street where Mike Bossy grew up) with a passion for sports when he was younger, playing in amateur hockey teams and major junior league baseball in Laval. “Athletes are true heroes because they bring awareness to how one should volunteer their time, and how special it can be,” he said.
Known for being low key and modest in nature, Leonoff was hailed for his incredible giving and caring nature. And in that spirit, a fund to aid vulnerable seniors is being established by the CJCS in Leonoff’s name.
Other celebrities from the Montreal sports and media scene who were also present at the breakfast included former Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo; current Alouettes player Kyries Hebert; Brendan Gallgher of the Montreal Canadiens (fresh from an important Habs victory over the Ottawa Senators the night before); Adam Braz from the Montreal Impact; Habs alumni Chris Nilan and Mathieu Darche; Montreal sports rapper Annakin Slayd; Rodger Brulotte from le Journal de Montreal; Stu Cowan and Herb Zurkowsky from the Montreal Gazette; Francois Gagnon from RDS; Mitch Melnick, Tony Marinaro, Matthew Ross and Amanda Stein from TSN 690; and a quartet of Montreal Alouettes cheerleaders.