History of Wheelchair Basketball in British Columbia
In British Columbia, wheelchair basketball began in the 1950s with the formation of the Dueck Powerglides and the Ferguson K.W.s.
The Dueck Powerglides of Vancouver, came into existence in 1950 when Doug Mowat, Stan Stronge, Jim Mackie and Walter Schmidt decided there was a need for a sport people with disabilities could play. With the addition of three more players and coaches Norm Watt and Al Noble, the club was born. The first few years the team played most of their games against University Fraternal Organizations. The highlight of the 1951-1952 season was their first wheelchair basketball exhibition game played and witnessed by a crowd of 2700 fans at the new UBC gym. Over the next four years the Powerglides played 75 games against able-bodied teams amassing a remarkable 74 and 1 record with a game high of 102 points. The 1954 season was the most extensive season for the team. The team began to look to the future and the chance to establish an east west final against the Wheelchair Wonders of Montreal, the only other Canadian wheelchair basketball team of that era. The Dueck Powerglides believed that they should show the public the capabilities and skills of people with disabilities and were prepared to journey throughout BC to hold exhibition games and promote the game of wheelchair basketball. The Dueck Powerglides played the game when it was unknown and helped create the success we have now. Wheelchair basketball on the west coast owes its success to the Dueck Powerglides and its founding members who had the foresight to recognize the future of this great game.
The Ferguson K.W.s formed as a basketball team in 1953. Vancouver at that time had only one team and as so many desired to play wheelchair basketball, a second club was formed. This club was built around such veterans as Walt Schmidt, Morris Wally, Jack Boreham, Don Manuel and others who were among the originators of the game. They competed in exhibition and league games with the Dueck Powerglides and played regularly against local able bodied basketball teams.
In 1959, the Dueck Powerglides joined the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA), Northwestern Conference. The Vancouver team played against teams south of the border including Seattle and Tacoma. BC had a team in the NWBA for the next 35 years, where they ranked amongst the top ten teams in the league many times.
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Wheelchair basketball continued to grow during the early 60s and in 1967 the BC Wheelchair Sports and Recreation Association was formed. It all started in the basement of Harry Beardsell's home. Harry was an amateur radio enthusiast. One day in January he was contacted over the radio by the Canadian Paraplegic Association in Winnipeg. They discussed the possibility of organizing and training BC wheelchair athletes, with the hope of bringing the best ones to the coming Paraplegic Pan-Am Games in that city. Highly enthused over this goal, Beardsell immediately contacted the BC Division of CPA in Vancouver. With the help of CPA officials Doug Mowat, Doug Wilson and Stan Stronge, along with Merv Ovesen of Vancouver Parks Board and Vic Cue, Beardsell started the training and tryouts of the BC athletes.
At the beginning of the 1970-1971 season the Dueck Powerglides became known as the Vancouver Cable Cars as the team was sponsored by 'Rogers Cablevision'. The team participated for many years in the NWBA in the US and also become a powerhouse at the national level having won the national championship title for BC in 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973-1976, 1978- 1983. Over the course of this time the team included players such as Peter Colistro, George Boshko, Eugene Reimer, Rick Hansen, and Terry Fox. Rick Hansen was a part of the BC team which won 6 straight national championship titles and was a member of the Canadian National Wheelchair Basketball Team from 1977-1983. The Man in Motion World Tour from 1985-1987 forever remains a phenomenal athletic accomplishment having traveled over 40,000 kilometers. Terry Fox was a member of the Canadian champion Vancouver Cablecars basketball teams of 1978, 1979 and 1980 and later his Marathon of Hope brought our nation together in support of Cancer Research.
On May 19th, 1983 the Greater Vancouver Wheelchair Basketball Society was incorporated under the Society Act of BC. The society later changed its name to the Maple Leaf Wheelchair Basketball Society and lastly to the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society in 1997. This represented an important step in the development of wheelchair basketball in BC as the society embraced a provincial focus to its program delivery and leadership. The first directors and founders of the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society were Stanley Noble Stronge, William Lynes, Wayne Moser, Rick Hansen, Norah Fladgate and Peter Colistro. These directors had great vision and insight for the development of wheelchair basketball in BC. Previous to the existence of BCWBS, wheelchair basketball was managed by the BC Wheelchair Sports Association, of which BCWBS is still a member sport.
The 80's saw an increase in regional development throughout the province with greater efforts being made to ensure programming went beyond the lower mainland. The development of new clubs and programs in Prince George, Kitimat, Victoria, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Terrace and Kamloops combined with events such as the BC Games for the Disabled, the Caribou Cup and the Pius McGuinness Tournament in Kamloops brought players together from around BC in the spirit of competition and camaraderie. The Prince George Titans hosted the Caribou Cup which began to include able bodied participants. In 1988, the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League expanded to BC, where club teams participated for the national title. As well, the Society focused its attention on junior development with more services for youngsters being put into place including junior clinics and the first ever provincial junior basketball tournament at the BC Games in Penticton. Since this event numerous BC junior have participated in the BC Games and enjoyed the experience of participating in a multi-sport event focused on fun and competition.
In 1986 BC had two players, Murray Brown and Peter Colistro, who were members of the Canadian team which attended the World Basketball Championships' Gold Cup in Australia. Murray was selected to the International All Star Team. Other BC Players on national team in the 80's included John Lundie, Rick Hansen, and Chris Samis.
In the 1990s the continued growth of wheelchair basketball throughout the province provided competitive opportunities at all levels, increased athlete and coach development initiatives, as well as organizational development.
In special memory of one of our founders, the Stan Stronge Wheelchair Basketball Foundation was created through the support of BCWBS, the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Vancouver Foundation in 1991. In an effort to support this Fund, our annual community fundraising event Hoopfest began in 1993 and continues on today.
Program opportunities greatly expanded during this time as the provincial league or BC-CWBL was formalized, the BC Breakers women's program was introduced, Vancouver re-entered the NWBA with the Vancouver Grizzlies Team and wheelchair basketball entered the Canada Games for the 1st time in 1995 - the start of a great history of BC performances at these Games. BC hosted the Nationals Championships in 1990, 1991 and 1997 and we saw the BC Men's team win the gold medal at the '97 Championships - the first time since 1983. The Douglas College Royals were also crowned national club champions in 1996 and 1997. Wheelchair basketball became a partner sport in the PacificSport National Sport Centre Greater Vancouver, BCWBS continued our participation in the BC Winter Games for junior participants, the Mid-Island Wheelchair Basketball Club and Quesnel Lakers programs were created and the 1st Annual Junior Wheelchair Basketball Challenge took place with participation from junior players from across BC.
The success of our Canadian National Teams was remarkable in the 1990s. BC athlete Marni Abbott and Coaches Tim Frick & Joe Higgins were part of the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics gold medal performance with the women's national teams - the first of a dominating era for the women. Seven BC athletes attended the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, while six BC athletes went to the 1998 Gold Cup in Sydney, Australia where the women won the Gold, the men's team brought home the Bronze, and Jaimie Borisoff was selected to the International All Star Team. Jaime Borisoff and Marni Abbott were named Sport BC's Disabled Athlete of the Year while Tim Frick was named International Wheelchair Sports Coach of the Year and Sport BC's Coach of the Year in the 90s.
2000's and Beyond
Wheelchair Basketball was graced with a new decade of growth and success in BC. The organization expanded opportunities for participation, recreation, competition, and excellence in the sport of wheelchair basketball in British Columbia.
This expansion of programming included the support of a Junior Provincial Team program, increased coach and official's education, expansion of the wheelchair loan program, the creation of the recreational City League for new and developing athletes, and regional program development in the communities of Nanaimo, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, North Vancouver, Surrey, and a resurgence in the Okanagan. The Prince George Titans and Kitimat Walk n' Rollers celebrated 25 years of programming. BCWBS also expanded its role with as a National Training Centre with PacificSport through the Integrated Performance System in BC.
A winning tradition on the basketball court continued as the BC Men's Team won the National Championships in 2000, 2001, 2007 and 2008 and were the 1st Canadian team ever crowned Division 1 NWBA Champs; the Women won their 1st National Championship in 2008; the Douglas College Royals were crowned CWBL Champs in 2006 and 2008, and numerous BC athletes and coaches contributed to the continued success of our National Team programs at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Paralympics and the 2002 and 2006 World Championships. These individuals included athletes Richard Peter, Jaimie Borisoff, Bo Hedges, Patrick Anderson, James Treuer, Kenny Hall, Ross MacDonald, Marni Abbott, Jennifer Krempien, MJ Boudreault, Misty Thomas, Arley McNeney, Shira Golden, Janet McLachlan in addition to coaches Tim Frick, Bruce Enns and Trish Nicholson.
BCWBS believes in valuing our members by acknowledging their efforts and celebrating their achievements. In the year 2000 this custom was expanded through the creation of our annual awards recognizing the top male, female and junior athletes, coach, official, volunteer, and community support award. During this period Richard Peter was awarded the Tom Longboat Award as the outstanding aboriginal male athlete in Canada in 2001 and 2004; in 2007 Marni Abbott-Peter and Rick Hansen were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame; and in 2009 the Vancouver Dueck Powerglides were also inducted in this prestigious Hall of Fame in the Pioneer category as the 1st wheelchair basketball team in BC.
As we look back at our history we would like to acknowledge the wheelchair basketball community and all the athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and administrators that have contributed to the growth and success or our sport in BC. The journey continues and we hope you will join us for the years ahead as we continue to enjoy the great game of wheelchair basketball!