St. Catharines Athlete and Sportsperson of the Year named

Alexa Vasko and Pat Sullivan honoured at City Hall. Photo Supplied

One is now part of women’s pro sports history, and the other has dozens of championships to his name.

Alexa Vasko, current member of the Professional Women’s Hockey League – Toronto franchise, was named St. Catharines Athlete of the Year, while Pat Sullivan, former head coach of the St. Francis High School team, was named St. Catharines Sportsperson of the Year this past Monday night at City Hall.

The 25-year old Vasko, a graduate of Governor Simcoe Secondary School in St. Catharines, still says it’s surreal to be a part of the PWHL’s inaugural season.

“When I was a little girl I always wanted to play in the NHL (National Hockey League)” Vasko told The Niagara Independent.

“Unfortunately being a girl that was not quite possible, so being able to live out that childhood dream and be professional, along with all the other girls in our league, and the girls that dream to become it, it’s quite a great opportunity.”

Vasko, who played a wide array of sports growing up in St. Catharines, in the midst of Toronto’s semi-final series against Minnesota had this message to young girls or boys and their families in regards to getting involved in hockey or sports in general.

“It’s a cliche, but no dream is ever too big,” said Vasko who’s parents Dennis and Dana and sister Olivia were at City Hall to officially accept the trophy, now bearing her name, Monday night.

“I never thought, really, that I would be where I am today, but that wouldn’t be without my family and the St. Catharines community behind me.

I’m so grateful to be named St. Catharines Athlete of the Year.”

Vasko is also the great niece of former St. Catharines Teepee and Chicago Blackhawk Elmer ‘Moose’ Vasko.

As for Sullivan, how about this for a resume?

– 19 Zone Championships

– 17 Southern Ontario Secondary School Association (SOSSA) Championships

– 10 Ontario Federation of Secondary School Associations (OFSAA) medals

All part of a 30-year coaching career before he retired from the Niagara Catholic District School Board in 2023.

Despite all of that success, Sullivan feels adversity and resilience are the keys to getting to the top – not winning.

“Coaches today think all they have to do is win, and everything will be fine. You have to go through losing, so trying to avoid it doesn’t make sense to me. That’s been my mindset since the beginning. You have to go through adversity and resiliency to win, and you have to find that for the athletes you coach.”

Sullivan, who was joined by his wife Denise, son Michael and daughter Rachel while accepting the Sportsperson of the Year trophy Monday, got quite emotional when thanking his wife.

“My wife, I married an angel,” Sullivan said. “She’s a saint. She should have a trophy case 10 times the size of mine for the things that she does in sort of silence.

“She’s my inspiration, she’s my rock, she’s my everything, she’s my greatest win.

And I love my kids so much – to have them there – words can’t describe how important they are to me.”

Both trophies are on display at the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame located inside Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

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