A Canadian Perspective
Humble Beginnings of wheelchair basketball in Canada
Organized wheelchair basketball has been played in Canada since the 1940s. In the early years, there were two teams in Canada, the Montreal Wheelchair Wonders and the Vancouver Dueck Powerglides. Since there were limited opportunities for competitive play, the teams often participated in community demos, inviting able-bodied people to participate using the extra wheelchairs that the teams brought along. To compete against other established wheelchair basketball teams, the two teams had to travel to the USA to participate in the National Wheelchair Basketball League or to England to participate in the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games (ISMWG).
In June of 1947, the Deer Lodge Hospital in Manitoba organized an event on the front lawn of their facility. The basketball throw accompanied events like the ring toss, milk bottle pitching, archery, croquet and golf putting. Luci Delucca was one of the organizers of that event and noted that participants included George Dyck, Joe Smithson, and Tony Mann. The events had a rehabilitative flair and were very recreational.
There were a number of municipal or provincial groups involved in wheelchair basketball in Canada from the early 1940's through 1967. Bill Hepburn of the Montreal Wheelchair Wonders and Stan Stronge of the Vancouver Dueck Power Glides were among the most notable. The Montreal team represented Canada in the Stoke Games in 1953, marking our nations`start in world competition, and also represented Canada at the sixth National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in 1954 in New York, N.Y.
Domestic Competition in Canada Evolves
In 1963, Al Simpson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, recalled an event organized in Saskatoon which he claims may have been the first interprovincial wheelchair basketball competition. A team from Winnipeg and Edmonton met in Saskatoon to play in a weekend of wheelchair basketball.
Smithson, Knightingale, Coates, Bagnatto, Wendel, Fertile, Warrior and Marshall were familiar names of the time. Al became the managing director of the Pan American Games held in Winnipeg in August of 1967. He recalled that the operating budget for that event was $17,148.10 and that there were a total of 128 athletes from 5 nations. The national team was selected using ham radio, and direct results of the number of members and employees of that association participating in various activities. Organizational discussions took place during this event, and finally on September 09, 1967, the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association (CWSA) was born and Dr. Robert W. Jackson was elected the Chairman. At that time the CWSA was responsible for all sports for wheelchair athletes.
Introduction of National Championships
The National Championships were held in conjunction with all other wheelchair sport championship events from 1968 through 1978. In 1979, wheelchair basketball was organized as an event separate from the rest of wheelchair sports, and the provincial teams competed for the Maxine K. Cooper memorial trophy. That award was retired in 1986, and the teams now compete for the Robert W. Jackson trophy.
Introduction of Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League (CWBL)
The Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League was founded in 1986. Club teams compete for the national title using FIBA/IWBF rules, 15 point classification system with able bodied athletes classified as 4.5 and quadriplegics as 0.5.
Today, we have over 2000 athletes competing in various city leagues, the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball League (men, women, junior, and Mini), and the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (175 teams for men, women, junior, and collegiate players in North America).
Read about wheelchair basketball [programs and leagues played domestically] in Canada.