The Speedskating Hall of Fame: An Interview with Tom Porter

The Speedskating Hall of Fame: An Interview with Tom Porter

Were you there in Turin when Shani, Chad and Joey won their speedskating Gold medals, or in Salt Lake when Derek, and Casey, Chris Witty and Apolo won theirs? Did you cheer on Bonnie and Dan in the 90’s, and cheer on your own kids today as they to follow in Bonnie and Dan’s footsteps? Let’s face it: whatever our involvement in speedskating, whether we coach, volunteer, skate, or cheer from the sidelines, we all have our favorite memories associated with the sport. As we get older and watch the rising stars of younger generations take the ice, we realize the importance of preserving these memories—of having a place to go where we can remember those who have made the sport of speed skating what it is today. This week, we take a look at the Speedskating Hall of Fame, which was created specifically for this purpose.    

How it All Got Started

The Speedskating Hall of Fame was first established at the Amateur Skating Union’s annual convention on May 15, 1959. The first facility to house the museum portion of the Hall of Fame opened in the early 1960’s in Newburgh, New York, and was maintained by the Newburgh Lions Club. Collecting nearly 500 speed skating artifacts over the years, the Hall of Fame was housed at various locations in Newburgh and Saratoga Springs, New York, before coming to its current location at the Petit Center. If you go to the second floor of the Petit Center, you’ll find the “Wall of Fame”: a wall containing pictures of everyone who has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. But the collection of artifacts is not currently on display. 

Getting Inducted

Tom Porter, who serves on the Hall of Fame Committee, says, “There are two functions, or two facets, of the Hall of Fame. There’s the museum function, and then there’s the Hall of Fame induction process.” People are inducted into the Hall of Fame under two categories: Athletes and Contributors. (The Athlete Category is further divided into the sub-categories of Classical Era and Modern Era.) The Contributor Category is for people who didn’t skate, but who made a contribution to the sport for at least 15 years, and who “made a significant impact on the sport at the National and/or International level”. Tom says one of the reasons for recognizing contributors on a national and international level is because “it’s very hard to convince someone from California that a guy in Saratoga did something great. You want have somebody [of whom] everyone can say, ‘Oh, I know Charlie. He did this and this for the ASU, and for US Speedskating, on a national and state level. And for several years, he served on this and this committee. And therefore, he should be recognized.’” (For more information on inducting speed skaters and contributors, click here.)

The Museum Portion

The Hall of Fame Committee hopes to find a long-term, permanent solution to housing and displaying the artifacts that belong to the Hall of Fame collection. Tom says, “There are quite a few things in the collection, and they are nice things….There was a person here who was a museum curator at the National Racing Museum. She went through a lot of our speed skating artifacts on a volunteer basis, and she told me, ‘You’ve got some really nice things.’ The collection includes old skates, uniforms, trophies…record books, photographs, and tapes of races. Every once in a while, I get an email from somebody that says they have something they’d like to [add] to the collection, but I tell them, ‘Please hold off until we have a [more] permanent place to put it,’ because I don’t want them to send something and have it just stored somewhere.”

He adds, “Museums are a hard thing to keep going. They don’t make any money. You’ve got to have a facility that’s supported by something other than a museum. Even a place like…the National Racing Museum here in Saratoga struggles to keep the doors open. They do have money from fundraising, but [money] doesn’t flow in that easily.”

Donating

So what do you do if you want to donate money to the Hall of Fame? There is a link on the Hall of Fame’s website that you can visit if you want to contribute. But Tom says that if you do donate now, the money “will be held until we can actually use it in a worthwhile capacity. If a special project comes up, like getting new frames for the Wall of Fame, or hiring somebody to come in and redo something, then the money will be used for that. When we have a facility where we can actually put the artifacts in and show them, we’re going to need display cases, and things like that. But right now, donations are being held, because we don’t want to squander it on anything. We want to wait until something more concrete comes around that we can put money towards.”

Why The Speedskating Hall of Fame is Important

So why is the Speedskating Hall of Fame so important? It is “the only institution dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of [speed skating]”. Tom says it’s important for the younger generation to see that “there are other people who have been involved in speedskating over the years besides them—that it isn’t something that just happened yesterday.” He adds, “You want to be able to recognize people who have done well in the sport [and] people that have given a lot to make the sport what it is. I think that’s why you want to have a Hall of Fame….There has to be someplace that people can go to find those things out so [that information] doesn’t get lost.” For more information, go to www.nationalspeedskatingmuseum.org.

Sources

Gorrell, Mike. “Will the Olympic Oval Become the Heart of Kearns?” The Salt Lake Tribune. August 4, 2015. http://www.sltrib.com/news/2762342-155/will-the-oval-become-the-heart Accessed 8/11/15.

Nationalspeedskating.org. Accessed 8/11/15

*Thanks to Jerry Search for photos.

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