By Charlie Senack
There was a strong sense of Barrhaven pride at the annual Nepean Sports Wall of Fame ceremony held at the Nepean Sportsplex on Oct. 26.
Over 100 people gathered to recognize 12 of Nepean’s best and brightest athletes and community builders.
Among those celebrated was Barrhaven’s Erika Hoffmann, an elite international race car driver, who has ranked up a successful following since starting the sport in 2019.
Hoffmann was the winner of the ‘22 Formula Woman International Driver Search Competition, where she ranked first out of 1,000 drivers from 35 countries. This won her a seat racing a McLaren 570s GT4 car in the UK’s GT Cup Championship for the 2022 season. Hoffmann was the only North American to make the GT4 team and the only Canadian racing in the GT Cup Championship.
In 2023, Hofmann was selected by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and Canada’s National Sporting Authority (ASN) to represent Canada at the International FIA Rallystar competition in Italy. There she placed third among all women finalists from North and South America.
“It’s hard to wrap my head around my success sometimes,” she told the Barrhaven Independent. “It’s such a privilege and such a blessing. It’s such a hard sport to get into because it’s so expensive. I’ve had a lot of strides and it’s been a pretty incredible journey for me.”
Hoffmann said she knew she had a love for speed since her childhood.
The Barrhaven native viewed Formula One racing growing up, with her uncle setting up a satellite dish to record the completions onto VHS. He’d later stick into his niece’s mailbox so she could watch
“We’d watch it a few weeks late, but we’d never have any spoilers because nobody cared enough to talk about it. and then we’d give it back to him to tape over for the next race,” Hoffmann said. “It created this fancy dream where I thought I’d be really good at this. I longed to do it and it was a skill set I was inclined towards. After I got my license, I just couldn’t stop there.”
When she’s not on the track herself, Hoffmann is working with TWOth Autosport based out of the Calabogie Motorsports Park. While she has a need for speed, the Barrhaven resident said you won’t see her street racing down Strandherd late at night.
“If you want to go fast, go to a track,” Hoffmann said. “It makes me a lot calmer driving on the road.”
Looking ahead to 2024, Hoffmann said she’s looking to race across North America and is looking to bring more equality to the fast driving sport. Only 1.5 racing licenses are held globally, according to The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.
Also recognized during the sports award ceremony under the media category was sportscaster Gord Wilson, best known for his colour commentary of Ottawa Senators Games. He joins Barrhaven resident “Stuntman” Stu Schwartz who is already on the wall.
Wilson, also a Barrhaven resident, has deep roots in Nepean. He was born in Montreal but moved to Ottawa when he was six and went to J.S. Woodsworth High School. Later, he attended Algonquin College’s radio broadcasting program.
The current TSN sports reporter was unable to be in attendance, but sent a video message from a hotel room in Long Island, New York, where Wilson was traveling with the Ottawa Senators hockey team. He reflected on his longtime ties with the community.
“I spent seven years of my youth working for Nepean parks and rec. I started out in the skate sharpening room. I worked my way through ice and building maintenance and then found myself in the cushy confines of the curling rink,” Wilson said. “It was at the Nepean Sportsplex that I developed a work ethic that has helped me through a broadcasting career that’s stretching into 40 years now — 32 of which have been as one of the voices of the Ottawa senators.”
Wilson’s award was accepted by his son, Jake Wilson, who attends St. Joseph High School.
“My father’s worked here [at the Nepean Sportsplex] since he was 16 years old; since he was my age, which was so, so long ago,” he joked. “I had no idea he was this cool to be inducted into the wall of fame. This means a lot to us.”
A total of 94 inductees are now part of the Nepean Sports Wall of Fame.
Other names to be recognized this year include: diving coach Fernando Henderson; Gavin Leishman, past owner and general manager of the CCHL’s Nepean Raiders and Pembroke Lumber Kings; Agnes Laing, founder of the Nepean Corona School of Gymnastics; builder Richard Fleming; Karen Butcher from the Nepean Skating Club; gymnast and special Olympics athlete Ada Chan; diver Henry McKay; ringette player Kaitlyn Youldon; curler and Olympian Lisa Weagle and members of the Nepean Knights Jr B Lacrosse team.
Over the last two years, the Nepean Sports Wall of Fame has undergone significant rebranding. A new video display replaces a wall that was full of individualized plaques.
The initiative is overseen by a volunteer board of directors with the mission to “honour, preserve and celebrate Nepean’s sporting excellence, while upholding the principles of excellence, community, diversity, equity and inclusion through sporting pursuits,” according to a press release.