Minor hockey in Burlington laid the foundation for a local boy who would go on to become one of the most influential individuals on the Canadian sport landscape. That Burlington boy is Jim Lawson. A graduate of Aldershot High School Jim credits the outstanding structure and talent in Burlington minor hockey for ultimately defining his storied professional career.
His youth hockey exploits include scoring three goals and assisting on two others as a 15 year old - against a Finnish Junior All-Star team. His eye-popping play drew the attention of the OHL Ottawa 67’s who drafted the teen. The year was 1974. The following year Jim was named Golden Horseshoe MVP. He would go on to star for the Junior B Burlington Mohawks.
Being ineligible to play high school hockey - due to his membership in high level minor hockey - he took the reigns behind the bench of his high school team – the Aldershot Aces - and coached the Aces to the school’s first ever Halton Championship (1975- 76).
It was decision time for the talented young man – OHL or a scholarship to an Ivy League school. He chose the later enrolling at Brown University – the then number one ranked team in the NCAA. He would captain the Brown Bears while earning Ivy League All Star status (1979-80).
Jim’s decision to attend an Ivy League school was influenced by hockey chums Lance Nethery – who attended Cornell and Tim Bothwell – who like Jim - attended Brown. Both Lance and Tim are BSHOF inductees (2014 and 2017 respectively).
Jim was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and played two years for their AHL farm team – the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. Injuries, however shortened his professional career. He would enroll at Western where he secured his law degree.
Jim shifted his career from law and corporate leadership into the business of sport in 2010. With a family history rich in sports the transition was a natural fit. Jim’s dad, Mel Lawson is a member of the Canadian Horseracing Hall of Fame and still the youngest player at age 20 to win the Grey Cup (1943).
With the horse racing industry devastated in 2012 - by the cancellation of provincial government funding - Jim stepped up as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Woodbine. His leadership and influence on the government made interim funds available assuring the Canadian horse racing industry and thousands of jobs would survive; establishing stability; increasing gaming and indirectly saving the Queen’s Plate.
Jim currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Woodbine Entertainment.
The CFL recruited Jim to serve as the first independent Chair - Board of Directors in 2013. He twice served the CFL as interim commissioner. Jim helped stabilize the league and facilitate the sale of the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes. He also paved the way for an extended partnership with national sports broadcaster TSN. He was instrumental in shaping the future of the CFL Hall of Fame located at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field. Jim’s commitment to the CFL was recognized in 2019 when he was awarded the prestigious CFL Commissioner’s Award.
The Burlington Sports Hall of Fame is proud to welcome Jim Lawson – one of Canada’s most influential individuals in sport into the Hall - as an Athlete/Builder.