For many in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, athletics is a means to greater service - The Buffalo News

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For many in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, athletics is a means to greater service

It couldn't have been a better confluence of events for Stacey Schroeder-Watt. On Wednesday the Grand Island native was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame for her All-American career in high school and college in the discus and shot put.

In two weeks, she will be part of the move of Women & Children's Hospital to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and its new incarnation as the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital.

And while on the surface, they seem like different lives, Schroeder-Watt's career as a pediatric anesthesiologist was built on her career as an athlete.

"It was the foundation. Athletics, especially for women, is a foundation to build upon," Schroeder-Watt said Wednesday night at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. "It is just such an integral part of who you become and who you are. You base almost all of your accomplishments upon that huge brick and mortar. So all the skills you learn about leadership and team building, about how to train and be the best person you can be, all is a foundation you build upon. I'm so proud to say I'm a female athlete and it's enabled me to reach beyond the athletic fields into the operating rooms and be able to serve my community in a greater way."

Service is a major component of the athletic lives of a number of the Class of 2017 which was formally enshrined into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Wednesday night.

For Michael Peca, it was about giving back the game of hockey. Best known for his leadership on the ice with the Buffalo Sabres, Peca made Western New York his home and dedicated the second half of his hockey career to creating a strong youth hockey program with the Buffalo Junior Sabres.

"Buffalo became my home," Peca said. "I had a vested interest in the community. When I retired I had several opportunities to get right back into it as an assistant coach with some organizations, but after I saw the youth hockey in this area, I really wanted to try and do what I could to try and help it succeed a little bit more than it was when I got involved with my son. With the help of a lot of different people, we seemed to turn the tide a little bit.

"I always said hockey has given me everything I've got in my life and it only makes sense that I reciprocate it by giving my life back to hockey a little bit."

Then there's Willie "Hutch" Jones. He was a standout at Bishop Turner High School then starred at Vanderbilt. Drafted by the L.A. Lakers in 1982, he had short stints with the San Diego Clippers then played in the CBA and Europe before retiring in 1989.

"It's a humbling night. And I think about the awards I got and the reason for getting those awards," Jones said. "I'm a little bit different. A lot of people who have been inducted into this organization that played 10 or 15 years in this sport or that sport, I didn't really. I played a couple of years, off and on, but I have over 30 years of serving the community and that's a whole different category."

And that's just fine by Jones. Many people don't know his career basketball numbers, but know him for the Willie "Hutch" Jones Educational and Sports Program. That's become his claim to fame.

"As you get to a certain age a lot of people forget, or don't even know, about what you did initially," Jones said. "But now they see you sitting at the table. They just see you sitting at the table, not understanding the trials and tribulations that you went through to get to that room.

"I want them to truthfully understand that they can do it, too. I'm not unique. I'm what you can do and duplicate if you stay consistent with what you do, whether it's getting there on time or having background courses, whatever. They can do it. I'm like a beacon in the community. It can be done. I tell them, I'm real. I'm normal. I'm not some person over there that you can't talk to. I'm right there. I work every day in a high school. I see the kids every day and it drives me. I have such a passion that it's not like I go to work, I'm just going to spend some time. I'm happy about that."

Along with Schroeder-Watt, Peca and Jones, this year's inductee class included: Charles Daniels (Olympic swimming gold medalist), Danny Ozark (Major League Baseball manager), Vaughn Parker (football), Danny DiLiberto (billiards), Tom Terhaar (rowing coach), Charlie O'Brien (high school volleyball), Sandy Hollander (SUNY Buffalo State softball coach), E.J. McGuire (NHL administrator) and Mike Keiser (golf course developer).

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