Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Kalley Armstrong has so many reasons to be excited over her latest accolade.
Earlier this month Armstrong, the granddaughter of the late George Armstrong, a former captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, found out she was one of the 2023 inductees into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It’s such an honour,” said Armstrong, who was an elite athlete herself, playing four years for the Harvard University women’s hockey team from 2010 to 2015. “I definitely didn’t expect it.”
Armstrong’s grandfather, who played 21 seasons in the NHL, all of them with the Maple Leafs, was also inducted into the hall posthumously this year.
Armstrong had two other relatives inducted this year as well, her uncles Dale and Danny McCourt.
Dale McCourt, who appeared in 553 NHL matches, was inducted via both the Athlete and Coach categories. After his playing days were over he coached pro hockey teams in Italy for eight seasons.
Danny McCourt was inducted through the Officials category. He worked for 25 seasons as an NHL official, from 1979 to 2004.
Besides being thrilled she was inducted into the North American hall at the same time as three of her relatives, Kalley Armstrong was ecstatic to see one of her best friends, Kelly Babstock, also inducted.
Babstock, 30, is still playing pro hockey with the New Jersey-based Metropolitan Riveters in the Premier Hockey Federation.
While growing up, Armstrong and Babstock occasionally played on the same team and at times against each other.
“Getting in there with Babs is super special,” Armstrong said. “I look up to her a lot, just in terms of getting involved more with our Indigenous athletes.”
Both Armstrong and Babstock have worked at various clinics/camps together featuring young Indigenous female players.
Armstrong, who lives in London, Ont., started her own hockey school in 2019 called Armstrong Hockey.
“That was a big thing for me,” she said. “I did that in honour of my grandpa.”
George Armstrong, who was a member of four Stanley Cup championship squads with the Maple Leafs, including their last title in 1967, died in January 2021 at the age of 90.
Though he was nicknamed Chief when he started playing for the Maple Leafs, not much was known about Armstrong’s Indigenous heritage.
While researching her family’s history, Kalley Armstrong discovered her grandfather’s mother was an Algonquin woman, with family roots with Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec.
It is believed that she lost her status under the Indian Act when she married George’s father, who was Irish.
Besides running her own hockey school, Armstrong is also finishing up her PhD requirements at Western University in London. Her dissertation is on the experiences of girls who played hockey while at residential schools.
Former basketball star Michael Linklater, a member of Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan, was one of the male inductees this year into the North American hall.
Linklater, who is 40, has had his share of on-court accomplishments.
He served as the captain of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, which won the national men’s university title in 2010.
Linklater also had success in the pro ranks. He was a member of the Saskatchewan Rattlers, which won the Canadian Elite Basketball League championship in 2019.
And Linklater also travelled the world touring with various squads as he was one of the country’s top 3-on-3 basketball players.
Linklater was inducted into the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame this past November.
Linklater, who is currently living in Saskatoon, is thrilled to be inducted into the North American hall, which was launched last year.
“This one is specific to Indigenous athletes and highlights their successes,” he said. “Any time there’s an opportunity to get into a hall of fame, it’s special.”
For now, the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame is a digital one. It can be viewed here: www.naiahf.org
There were almost 80 inductees this year via six categories – Athlete, Coach, Builder, Official, Media and Teams.
Though Linklater retired from playing in 2019, he still attends his share of games. That’s because his 18-year-old son Amari has also become an elite player.
The younger Linklater, who has followed in his father’s footsteps and become a point guard, is playing in the Canadian Junior Basketball League, which includes teams from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.