This Special Olympian now has an arena named after him in Lewisporte

Mike Austin, pictured here in-between his parents, never misses a hockey game at the local arena in Lewisporte. The community decided to honour his contributions to the town by renaming the arena the Mike Austin Arena. (Submitted by Bobby Noble)

The Lewisporte Stadium is a second home to Mike Austin — and the next time he steps into the building, it will bear his name.

The town renamed the arena in his honour, and surprised the Special Olympian with a ceremony earlier this week when he found out his name would hang above the entrance. 

“We just stood there with tears in our eyes and our mouths open. It was almost like we were dreaming,” said his father, Norm Austin. “I’m very, very proud.”

Though the mayor, his father, and residents of the community knew about the honour ahead of time, they kept it a secret from Mike. He went to the arena on Monday thinking he would be part of a ceremonial puck-drop.

He was blown away to see hundreds of people there for the naming ceremony — a move Mayor Krista Freake says is a reflection of Austin’s status as the town’s No. 1 fan and a community hero.

WATCH | See the moment Mike Austin learns the Lewisporte Stadium has been renamed in his honour:

N.L. hockey stadium renamed in honour of Special Olympian

Watch the moment Special Olympian Mike Austin learns the Lewisporte Stadium will be renamed in his honour.

“Mike teaches us lessons about, you know, sometimes you win sometimes you lose,” she said. “That you cheer on everybody. And you know, inclusivity, belonging, feeling safe in your community, everyone looking out for each other.”

Austin, 44, was born with chromosomal translocation, a condition that affects his balance, fine motor skills and speech. 

For more than two decades, he has competed as a Special Olympian, winning provincial and national medals in track and field and snowshoeing.

But locally, he may be best known for never missing an event at the arena, making sure he’s at every hockey game or figure skating event to cheer young athletes on.

A man wearing a hockey jersey for the Lewisporte Seahawks stands in a group of people.
Austin thought he was dropping the ceremonial puck at a hockey game, unaware hundreds of residents came to support him and christen the new arena. (Submitted by Bobby Noble)

“As a family we have to put things on hold, especially during the hockey season. Mike is not going anywhere if that stadium is open,” Austin’s father, Norm, told CBC Radio with a laugh Tuesday.

Freake says the community has wanted to honour Mike in some way for years. When the recommendation to rename the local arena came up, the town quickly sprung into action.

The community rallied to create a special room for Mike to watch hockey in with his nephews following open heart surgery near Christmas last year, and have a policy at the canteen emphasized by a sign — Mike Austin Eats Free

The Austin family says they’re overwhelmed by the love and support from the community toward Mike, as well as the lengths they’ll go to make sure he enjoys his hockey-watching experience.

Freake said the community learns something every day from Mike, and is proud the arena bears his name.

“There are so many lessons around life to be learned from Mike, which is why his name will appear on that stadium for many years,” said Freake.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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