Early years

Jay Miron pulls a BMX jump during his youth in Thunder Bay. Miron went on to enjoy a close to 20-year professional BMX career that saw him named one of the top five legends in the sport and have an action figure produced in his likeness.

Plenty has happened since I last put pen to paper for my Where Legends Live On column.

The Toronto Raptors made history with their amazing victory and Thunder Bay’s Robert Bortuzzo and his St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup. The iconic trophy makes its way back to the head of the lakes on July 16 for Bortuzzo’s day with the Cup. The visit will mark the eighth time its been here since 2005.

The first visit saw veterans of the league including the likes of Benny Woit, Steve Black, Dave Gatherum and John Adams have their day with the Cup.

The Cup returned six more times with current day players Eric Staal (2006), Jordan Staal (2009), Patrick Sharp (2010 and 2013) and Matt Murray (2016 and 2017). Sharp, who won the Cup three times, chose to spend his third day with Lord Stanley’s mug in his wife’s hometown in Connecticut in 2015.

In addition to the Stanley Cup coming to Thunder Bay this summer, there is also a great exhibit that just arrived and is being featured at the Thunder Bay Museum until July 20.

Called Beyond Human Limits it was produced by Science North with the generous support of FedNor and the NOHFC. The display allows visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the world of extreme sports as they are challenged to jump, fly, dive and climb while exploring some of the riskiest activities in the world.

Given the sport-themed nature of this exhibit, the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame is complimenting this initiative by featuring an exhibit entitled Taking it to the Extreme highlighting some of our Hall of Famers who have earned success in such sports as aerial, freestyle and downhill skiing, along with ski-jumpers and a parachutist.

A main feature of the exhibit is a bike used by BMX rider Jay Miron, along with his very own action figure.

If you were to describe the type of place that one of the most famous BMX riders and pioneers of all time would develop his skills, chances are it would not include a northern Canadian community with short summers and long winters.

Growing up like most kids did during the 1970s in Thunder Bay, Jay spent his time playing hockey and soccer and riding around on his bike. The difference, however, was that he was not just riding his bike, he was flying with it.

Whether it was jumping into the water at Boulevard Lake, competing in races on local dirt tracks, or honing his skills on homemade ramps, all of it helped set the wheels in motion for a legendary BMX career.

Upon graduation from high school in 1989, Jay packed up his bike and headed west to where there were more BMX opportunities and embarked upon a professional career, which would see him compete in all disciplines of the sport including Vertical, Dirt, Street, Flatland and Park.

By 1990, his talents quickly caught the attention of a number of bike companies and he was signed on to ride with such teams as Wilkerson Airlines, Bully, and GT before settling in with Hoffman Bikes in 1992. Joining the Schwinn team in 1995, and becoming known as The Canadian Beast, Jay helped create their freestyle program and in 2000 began his own company, MacNeil Bikes, named after the maternal side of his family.

Throughout his career, he proudly represented Canada at competitions around the world, claiming six world championship titles. In 1995, at the first-ever Extreme Games, now known as the X-Games, Jay won gold in the Dirt event. The Beast has nine X-Games medals to his credit betwen 1995 and 2005.

Miron, known as an innovator and trailblazer in the sport, is credited with inventing over 30 BMX tricks including the double backflip and the 540 tailwhip and is known for his innovative double barspins, boomerang airs, and double backwhips.

Aside from competing in BMX, Jay also contributed greatly to the sport as a builder. In addition to starting his own bike company, he also developed the distribution company called Ten Pack, Chase BMX Magazine and served as the promoter of Metro Jam events, introducing thousands of people to the sport of BMX.

In 2004, Ride BMX Magazine asked pro riders and members of the BMX industry to name the top five 'legends' in the sport. Not surprisingly, Jay Miron was included on that list, having been described as one of the most recognized and influential BMX riders of all time.

I can personally attest to the impact that this rider had on the youth of his generation. When I told my friend’s son who was into BMX at that time that I had been speaking with Jay and that I was going to get to meet The Canadian Beast when we inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 2010 my ‘cool’ factor rose about a 1,000 points in his eyes.

So after spending so many years living life to the extreme, where is this legend today? He now uses his creativity to design and build bespoke furniture from his woodworking studio in Vancouver under the name Jay Miron Furniture and is working towards an education in interior design. You never know where life will take you.

Be sure to drop by the Thunder Bay Museum to check out Beyond Human Limits and the Sports Hall of Fame to see some of the artifacts from our own local athletes who took it to the extreme.

Drop by the DaVinci Centre on July 16 to welcome home our newest hero Robert Bortuzzo and help share in his day with the Stanley Cup.

Until next time keep that sports history alive.

Diane Imrie is the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

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