Debra Fisher to be inducted into N.B. Sports Hall of Fame

The New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame's honour roll will grow by seven this year. The names of the 2006 honourees were announced today by Lauréat "Ty" Thériault of Edmundston, chairman of the Sports Hall of Fame's board of governors. The dinner and induction ceremony will be held at the Centre des Congrès in Edmundston on June 3.

The inductees are Debra Fisher, formerly of Fredericton, for whom coaching speed skating has been a lifelong passion; curler Russ Howard of Moncton, New Brunswick's first Olympic gold medalist; Mel Keeling of Fredericton, New Brunswick's most successful track and field and cross-country running coach; hockey athlete Andrew McKim of Saint John, a leading goal scorer wherever he played; Jean-Guy Poitras of Edmundston, one of the top badminton officials in the world; Derek Wisdom of Rothesay, who has overseen the growth and development of soccer in New Brunswick for the past 40 years; and Lloyd Stirling of Saint John, an outstanding baseball player during the 1920s and '30s. Stirling was elected in the veterans' category.

With the latest elections, membership in the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame stands at 189.

Following is background information on Debra (Graham) Fisher:

For Debbie Fisher, speed skating has been a lifelong passion, and her greatest satisfaction comes from helping young people develop an interest in the sport.

She grew up in Saint John, home of speed skating legends Charlie Gorman and Willie Logan, and was introduced to the sport by her father. In 1976, while attending the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton, she and her husband, Rod, established the Fredericton Amateur Speed Skating Club. The program attracted 22 skaters the first year, and today is the largest club in the province, with almost 200 skaters at all levels of development. Fisher served as the club's head coach until 1997, when she relocated to Calgary, Alta. to obtain her level 4 coaching certification. In 1998 she joined the full-time staff at the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary as a coach and development co-ordinator.

Fisher's leadership skills and enthusiasm raised the sport in New Brunswick to a high level during her 20 years in the province. She served as provincial coach for four years, and led New Brunswick teams to the Canada Winter Games in 1979, 1983 and 1999. Among the athletes she coached were Jeff Scholten, world 500-metre record holder; Olympians Mark Lackie and Stephen Gough; and national team members Andrea Searles Bower and Mike Murray. As well, Fisher organized and conducted coaching clinics around the province, and served as co-ordinator for the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) from 1976 to 1987.

Her contributions to the sport at the national level have been equally significant. She was director of coaching education for Speed Skating Canada, and chaired the Short Track High Performance Committee. Fisher has been involved in writing Speed Skating Canada's coaching manuals since 1977, and was recently selected to co-author the new NCCP Competency-Based Education and Training Program. Since 2005 she has travelled across the country delivering On the Edge, Speed Skating Canada's elementary-school program designed to teach children how to skate.

Since her move to Calgary, Fisher has remained committed to furthering development of the sport in New Brunswick. She returns to the province each summer to coach at the provincial speed skating camp, and volunteers to coach whenever she is visiting the province.

Fisher was New Brunswick's coach of the year in 1989, and was awarded the Petro-Canada Olympic scholarship for coaching in 1997. In 2005 she was named to Speed Skating Canada's Hall of Fame as a builder.

Fisher and her husband currently live in Calgary, but plan to return to New Brunswick when they retire.