First Name: Joel
Last Name: Jacobson
Sport: Sport Media
Inductee Type: Builder
Year Inducted: 2023
Home Town: Halifax
County: Halifax

Joel Jacobson didn’t generally run sports events, he simply made them better. And no one did it as well and for as long.

Maybe nothing says more about that than the last months of his life. Jacobson died in the summer of 2022 at the age of 81, not long after staffing the media room at the U Sports men’s hockey championship in Wolfville.

He is part of the 2023 class for the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in the builder category. It is fitting since his volunteer work with the Hall of Fame, often doing exactly this sort of thing, made the Hall of Fame a better and more viable institution.

Bill Robinson, the CEO of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for 34 years, described Jacobson as the “ultimate volunteer” who was instrumental in establishing the Hall “as one of the most successful organizations in Canada.”

He said Jacobson spent more than 40 years co-ordinating and producing the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and brought “professionalism, humour, and most of all, passion to the night,” making sure the “light shone brightly on the inductees.”

That was only part of it. He was a major contributor to other Hall of Fame events, most notably as the chief media liaison for countless university men’s basketball tournaments in Halifax. He was involved with the AUS men’s basketball tournaments and the occasional NCAA basketball event. He was a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee for a decade.

“It is very rare to have someone spend 40 years as a significant contributor in so many ways,” Robinson said, noting Jacobson embodied excellence and was “a true builder of sport in Nova Scotia.” Robinson, a former varsity and pro quarterback, enters the Hall of Fame this year in the athlete category.

Carl (Bucky) Buchanan, a longtime athletic director at Cape Breton University and a member of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, said Jacobson’s volunteerism created a historic legacy.

He said Jacobson was “well-known for his media contributions, which have resulted in exceptional record-keeping with amazing detail and accuracy.”

Buchanan said Jacobson “provided us with a history of sport in this province and this country that will provide a permanent record of sporting activities for years to come.”

It was always Jacobson’s wry sense of humour, indefatigable spirit and boundless child-like energy that strengthened everything he touched. All of that was true even during a bout with cancer more than 20 years ago.

Many will recognize his name from his years of writing the Bright Spot column in the Halifax Chronicle Herald. But long before that, he was the American Hockey League’s print journalist of the year.

He held executive roles in more than a dozen organizations, and they were hardly limited to sport. Some notables include the Kingsmeadow Sports Celebrity Dinner and the Nova Scotia Special Olympics. He was the communications chair for the Pan American Wheelchair Games in 1982.

Away from the arena, he spent many years assisting national and local ostomy associations.

Awards? Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame volunteer of the year twice (1990, 2004), Nova Scotia Special Olympics volunteer of the year (1991), Easter Seals March of Dimes national award (1997), Peter Gzowski Literacy Award of Merit (2002), and Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2003). He wrote a biography of Pat Connolly, the noted Nova Scotia sports personality and Hall of Famer, that was published in 2013. The Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame’s volunteer of the year award is now named in Jacobson’s memory.

Atlantic University Sport executive director Phil Currie worked alongside Jacobson at numerous events over more than two decades. He called him a “kind, engaged human being” who cared deeply about sport “but took an even greater interest in the people and personalities surrounding it.”

He said Jacobson dedicated a lifetime both professionally and personally “to shining a light on, but also enhancing, the Nova Scotia sport community.”

Few knew Jacobson better than longtime columnist Hugh Townsend, who was a close friend and professional colleague. Townsend is also in the Hall of Fame as a builder. Jacobson was passionate about baseball and was a diehard New York Yankees fan. The two old friends had plenty to discuss over fantasy baseball. Both shared a passion for food, lively conversation, and a few well-placed barbs.

Townsend said he was honoured to know Jacobson in various capacities—as a reporter and columnist, communications director with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, the Canadian Progress Club, AUS and U Sports events, Sport Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.

Townsend said there were “many other ways in which [Joel] assisted and served various sports groups in the metro area and across the province. And to top it off, he was a close and beloved friend for 40 years.”

*Article by Monty Mosher*

*Featured image courtesy of The Chronicle Herald*


Volunteer, promoter, writer, producer, and emcee
Produced the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame Induction Night for more than 40 years
Chief Media Liaison for the CIAU Final 8 Basketball Championship for decades
Primary leader for the Canadian Progress Club
Host of the annual Bill Stanish and Friends Special Olympics NS Luncheon
Volunteer of the Year (1990 and 2004, NSSHF; 1991, NS Special Olympics; 2001, CIAU Basketball Championship)