Think the 23 athletes in the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame don't quite cover the gamut of sporting accomplishment in the 49th state? For the next couple of weeks, you get a say-so.
Hall of Fame Executive Director Harlow Robinson is soliciting public nominations before the board convenes next month to finalize the Hall's class of 2013. Easy voting is available online at the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame website. Forty-three Alaska athletes are listed there as suggested nominees, covering a gamut of sporting pursuits from swimming to snowmachine racing and riflery. Not to worry, though, the familiar Alaska sports of skiing, mushing, hockey and basketball are covered, too. Or write-in your choice.
"The public plays a huge role in the selection process," Robinson said. "People have the power to influence the selection panel with an effective public campaign. And on several occasions, the public vote has determined who ultimately gets inducted."
New names on this year's ballot include NHL defenseman Matt Carle, who won the Hobey Baker award as the best collegiate hockey player in America before ascending to the pro ranks, and long jumper Jenay Deloach, the Eielson High graduate who won an Olympic bronze medal in this year's London Summer Games.
The Alaska Hall of Fame public vote turnout has climbed steadily from 634 votes in the inaugural year of 2007 to 2,152 in 2010. And Robinson knows how much impact the public can have.
"Southeast basketball legend Wally Leask, who was an icon in his day and became the first professional basketball player from Alaska -- decades before Trajan Langdon -- was not on the initial Alaska Sports Hall of Fame ballot. But thanks to a concerted public campaign, Leask received enough write-in votes to appear on the next year's ballot and then the following year he received enough votes from the public and the selection panel to be inducted into the Class of 2009.
"Numerous letters were submitted to the selection panel with compelling endorsements and a box complete with dozens of newspaper clippings and photos was mailed to each selection panel member for review. In the end, the selection panel realized that the public was right. His legacy had faded over the decades and the sheer geography of Alaska meant that some of the panel members from other parts of the state had never heard of him."
The total public vote is equal to the vote of each selection panel member, and the public results are reviewed by the panel before they complete their own ballots.
Robinson reported "strong write-in efforts" already this year for elite mountain runner Nancy Pease, hockey star Steve MacSwain, and Mario Chalmers, the former Bartlett High basketball player who helped the Miami Heat win an NBA championship in June.
The Hall's eight-member selection panel of sports writers, coaches and administrators will meet Dec. 2 to make choices in three categories: People, Moments and Events.
"Selection panel members have to review the public results and assorted feedback that comes in before they cast their own ballots," said Robinson. "I really think this process helps explain why the public and panel vote are so well aligned most years."
Following an induction ceremony next February, the Class of 2013 portraits and video biographies will be displayed with previous classes at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Contact Mike Campbell at mike(at)alaskadispatch.com