Born in Sarpsborg, Norway in 1946, Rolf Petterson came to Canada with his family in 1953, eventually settling in Prince George in 1958. With his Scandinavian heritage, it was perhaps natural that he would be a proficient cross-country skier, but his achievements were anything but ordinary.
Ten years later, he would represent Canada in cross-country skiing at the 1968 Olympic Games in Grenoble, France. It was a proud moment, to be sure, but not the pinnacle of Rolf’s competitive career. In 1972, Rolf won the Canadian senior men’s title for the second time, but was unable to compete in the Olympic trials due to a shoulder separation. Following the Olympics, he competed in the CanAm North American Cross-Country series, placing second in the Premier 30-kilometre race and, in the process, defeating every Olympic medal winner but one.
This was perhaps Rolf’s finest hour in competitive racing. As one of Canada’s top all-time cross-country skiers, Rolf earned several North American titles to go along with a total of nine Canadian championship titles. He also served as a coach with the Hickory Wing Ski Club of Prince George, and a vice-chairman and coaching coordinator with the Canadian Ski Association.
Rolf passed away June 28,1981 at the age of 35, on the same day as another Canadian hero who died too young, Terry Fox.
Rolf Petterson Drive is named in his honour, and you can see the Rolf Petterson Memorial Trophy on display at the Prince George Public Library.
In the 1970s, the Prince George Mohawks were a recognized dynasty in B.C. amateur hockey, winning the provincial senior A championship (the Coy Cup) four times in six seasons.
But they weren’t finished there. Following their fourth Coy Cup in 1977-1978, the Mohawks went on to win the national senior title, bringing home the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association’s Hardy Cup. With the Canadian championship under their belt, the Mohawks traveled to Japan, where they proudly represented their home country at an international tournament.
The pride and winning tradition of the Mohawks is still alive in Prince George. Several members of that championship team continue to reside in the city, making an active contribution in both the business and sporting communities, volunteering hundreds of hours to amateur sports as coaches, managers and association executives.
As Oldtimers, the Mohawks still compete in several hockey tournaments each year.
As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Mohawks' Canadian championship, it seems only natural that they be inducted as inaugural members of the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame, a fitting tribute to the players and the organization that made Prince George a national hockey champion.
What do you call a Canadian record holder, a Commonwealth Games medalist, a former Olympian and member of the board of directors of Swimming Canada?
In the case of Chris Bowie, you call him Hall of Famer.
A member of the Prince George Pisces swim club in 1975 and Prince George Barracudas swim club from 1975 to 1981, Bowie won several B.C. provincial championships between 1984 and 1988. He went to the Western Canada Games in 1983 and was also a five-time national champion in the 400-metre freestyle, 800m freestyle and 1500m freestyle. His Canadian record in the 800m freestyle (8:00:22) set in August 1990 still stands.
Bowie was also a four-time champion in the Canadian Inter-collegiate Athletic Union (CIAU). He spent eight years on the Canadian national team, making a big splash in pools all over the world. Ranked as high as sixth in the world in the 800m freestyle and 10th in the world in the 1500m free, Chris won bronze at the Pan Pacific meet in Tokyo in 1989, bronze at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland and two bronze medals at the World University Games in Sheffield, England, in 1991. He was also a member of Canada’s 4 x 2000m freestyle relay team that finished ninth at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He placed 15th in the 1500m freestyle at Barcelona.
Bowie reached the finals at several Pan Pacific meets through the late 1980s and early 1990s. He had a sixth and seventh in 1991 in Edmonton, two fourth-place showings (to go along with his bronze) in Tokyo in 1989, a fourth and ninth in Brisbane in 1988 and a fifth in Tokyo in 1985.
Bowie carried the Prince George name to swimming meets around the world, bringing fame to this city in the process. He is an excellent choice for induction to the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
This city’s sports community recognizes Russell Ko’s achievements with his induction into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame. That recognition is significant; the World judo community has also recognized his talents.
One of just 10 A-level judo referees in Canada, Ko has made nearly 15 international trips to meets such as the Jigoro Kano Cup in Tokyo in 1994, the Judo World Masters in 1991 and 1994, the French Open in 1997 and the U.S. Open in 1994. He also refereed at the Paralympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 and at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
But the best may be yet to come. Ko has been informed he is a candidate to referee at the world junior judo championships at Cali, Colombia, later this year.
“The ultimate goal is to referee a world senior championship,” notes Ko. “It’s the highest level you can get.”
A high-ranking B.C. competitor, Ko competed at the national championships in 1976. His growth to coach – he formed the College Heights Judo Club in 1984 – and referee was a natural progression, he says.
“As you mature in the sport, you end up doing different things,” he says. “Most of the time, twice or three times a week, you’re involved with coaching your athletes and once in a while you are going away to do the refereeing.”
In addition to working on his sixth-level black belt, Ko has been running the College Heights club since its inception 14 years ago. Some of his athletes have won medals at national championships.
“I think the biggest thing is the satisfaction of seeing the young people learning the sport and advancing in the sport,” he says.
Not only has Ko taken the name of the City of Prince George across Canada and around the world, so have his athletes. Because of this, he has rightly found a place in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
On one hand, you could say Laurie Mann was destined for greatness.
The son of Prince George boxing legend – and Prince George Sports Hall of Fame member – Harold Mann, Laurie was introduced to the sport almost as soon as he could walk. Benefiting from the natural ability that flowed from father to son, Laurie also grew under the watchful eyes of Harold and grandfather Irving Mann Sr.
On the other hand, you could say Laurie’s greatness was a product of his own making.
An eager learner, he practically lived in the gym, soaking up knowledge from older fighters.
"He had a warrior's heart,” former Citizen sports editor Doug Martin says, and he honed his skills over 26 years in close to 150 fights.
But whether it was fate, hard work or a combination of the two, Laurie Mann deserves to be called great.
With six Canadian titles and three times named the best boxer at the national championships, Laurie had an impressive amateur career. Circumstances halfway around the world kept him from the ultimate brass ring when Canada joined a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
“That probably robbed him of his best moment,” says Martin. “He had an Olympic style. Laurie Mann had a classic style and threw a lot of punches.”
Success continued in the pros. Laurie racked up a 31-4 overall record, including wins over thee men who at one time or another were ranked No. 1 in the world (Roland Williams, Bruce Finch and Jorge Morales). He beat fighters from around the globe, including Australian champion Terry Jones and South African title holder Brian Baronet.
“This was a kid who did everything right (and) who was technically just a beautiful fighter,” recalls Martin. “He just lived and loved the sport.”
Laurie went out like a champion, retiring after a 10 round unanimous decision over Al Harper in Prince George in 1992.
Over two and a half decades, Laurie Mann brought recognition to Prince George at fight venues around the world. He is a perfect addition to the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
Webster’s dictionary defines “selfless” as “dedicated to others' welfare.” It is a prefect description of the late Joe Martin.
Martin was a builder in the truest sense of the word. The first president of Nechako Babe Ruth Baseball, Martin was instrumental in building diamonds at Heather Road Park and also helped with the construction of diamonds at Carrie Jane Gray Park. That he pitched in with money and work to complete those projects is admirable. What was truly selfless was sponsoring a Little League team in Fort St. James, a team Joe never saw play.
“He was a sports person with the child in mind,” says Shirley Gratton, the Northern Interior Commissioner of B.C. Babe Ruth Baseball and a neighbour of Joe’s. “He was a very kind-hearted person.”
Martin’s contribution to this city’s sporting life is hard to categorize. He was involved in baseball, hockey, softball, soccer and bowling to name a few. He was known to have paid registration fees for children who would otherwise never have played sports.
“I think the main thing he liked was the kids,” says Gratton.”He always had candy in his pockets.”
Martin was a do-er. If his assistance was requested, his trademark reply was “No problem!” Need bleachers moved from Centennial Park to Heather Road Park? “No problem!” Joe hitched the bleachers to his pickup and dragged the bleachers down the street. Need a power line for the concession booth? “No problem!” Joe helped get that done, too.
Gratton says Martin was known for his creative solutions to problems. Her favourite recollection was how he addressed the city’s request that Nechako Babe Ruth replace trees cut down when that power line went in. “No problem!” was the immediate response. Martin went out into the bush, chopped down some trees and “planted” them.
“I bought him, as a thank you present, two green sprinkling cans” to take care of the trees, which seemed to be doing poorly,” Gratton reflects.
“The guys all knew. They just howled; they thought it was the funniest thing.” Eventually the city connected a storm sewer on that plot and those “trees” would be removed anyway.
Joe Martin passed away in 1996, leaving behind an indelible legacy on this city’s sports community. His contribution makes him an excellent addition to the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
Commitment and talent: they are the two words that sum up the Molson Oldstylers lacrosse team from 1973 and 1974.
The Oldstylers won back to back provincial titles those years and claimed the big prize, the President’s Cup – emblematic of the National Senior B Championship – in 1974.
For Dave “the Wall” Jenkins, the win was sort of like a family affair.
“Every weekend, the team would get together for a social function,” recalls Jenkins, a goalie with the team.
Nobody missed a practice, he said. The sport and the team were too important to each of the players. It was that commitment that carried the team through two unmatched years for Prince George senior lacrosse.
“It is like a cult, it is like a religion,” explains Jenkins about Canada’s national summer sport. “It is so addicting, nothing else mattered. Everybody treated the game far more seriously than they treated their work.”
The Oldstylers also had no shortage of talent.
“We had some terribly skilled ball players,” Jenkins says “We had Gordie Jakubec who had probably been the top defenceman in the Western Lacrosse Association in the late 60’s. Al Watt was the top player out of the Okanagan, Al Lawson, one of the top players out of Nanaimo, Larry Calder, who was a top player out of Vancouver, Earl Hughes, who was the best man on loose balls I ever saw. All told, we were sound all the way through the lineup.”
The Oldstylers' run began in 1973. They upset the New Westminster Blues in the provincial final at the Coliseum, scoring a 7-6 win in the deciding game of a best-of-three series. Their trip to the national championship in Halifax took them to the final, where they bowed out to the Windsor Warlocks.
“None of the players we had in 1973 quit and we added two or three excellent playes who had played a lot of lacrosse elsewhere,” reflects Jenkins.
There was no denying the Oldstylers in 1974. After beating Vernon and New Westminster to claim the provincial title, they went down to Queens Park Arena in New Westminster and won the whole shooting match. The President’s Cup title added to an impressive resume, which had already included a provincial C title in 1971. They were runners-up to the provincial B champions in 1972.
The Oldstylers showed their prowess internationally as well, beating the Australian national side 7-3 in the Coliseum in 1974.
In winning a national title, the Molson Oldstylers brought glory to Prince George and served as a reminder of what this city is capable of accomplishing. They are an ideal inductee into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
The Prince George Sports Hall of Fame Society should not close the file on Debbie Ward just yet.
Even as the society was announcing Ward as one of the 10 inductees for 1998, she was off adding to her already-impressive sports resume.
Ward teamed up with Josee Grandmaitre to win silver medals in the doubles and team competition at the world racquetball championships in Bolivia in late July of this year.
Fifteen years after she first picked up the sport, Ward has now made three trips to the biennial world championships, along with trips to the Tournament of the Americas and the 1995 Pan Am Games. She has won four national doubles championships and one national singles championship.
With a new partner and an eye on the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, it seems unlikely Ward’s sports resume is full.
“I started late. I started when I was 22 so to come as far as I have in the last 15 years is about right,” she says.
What is also right is Ward’s commitment to her sport and to sports in general. She has also played volleyball, softball and men’s league baseball in Prince George.
Sports, she says, have been good to her.
“It changes your life,” she says of her involvement in athletics. “It gives you a whole new perspective on life.
“All my life, I’ve been right into sports. I am bringing my kids up to be the same way. It is almost automatic that they just know it is there for them.”
Sports have been good for Ward and she has been good for sports in this town. An excellent role model and terrific athlete – with success most can only dream of – Debbie Ward is a perfect addition to the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
As a player, coach and administrator, Findlay Young has been involved in Prince George sports for parts of the last five decades. Winner of 53 golf competitions between 1957 and 1997, Young's playing career included 11 Prince George Golf and Curling Club championships between 1959 and 1970. He also won the Simon Fraser Open twice (1960 and 1962) and was low amateur in 1971. He was five-time B.C. Golf Association zone champion between 1959 and 1968 and brought home a Cariboo Open trophy four times, including a team championship in 1966. He was also the zone senior champion in 1993 and runner up in 1990.
Young's involvement in sport also extended into the boardroom. An honourary life director of the B.C. Golf Association and an honourary life governor of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, he earned those titles through decades of service to the provincial and national golf organizations. He was a director of the BCGA from 1961 to 1999 and a governor of the RCGA from 1979 to 1995. Young was RCGA president in 1993. His involvement with the RCGA also included being a captain with the Canadian team at the Pacific Rim and world amateur tournaments in 1992 and 1993.
Young was involved at the local level as well. He coached minor soccer in Prince George, was president of the Prince George Golf and Curling Club and held a directorship with the Prince George Mohawks senior hockey team from 1959 to 1969.
Active in sports for most of his life, Young has made a huge impression on sports in Prince George, British Columbia and Canada. He is a deserving inductee into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
If builders are remembered for the legacy they leave behind, Dick Zarek will never be forgotten. His legacy continues to bear fruit, not only in Prince George but around the world.
Founder of the Prince George Barracudas swim club in 1966, Zarek's athletes would go on to win enough medals and team championships over the next dozen years to fill a small book. Beginning with 25 swimmers that first year, the club had quadrupled in size in just three seasons and placed a very respectable sixth at the 1969 provincial championships.
In November of 1970, Zarek's building continued. The Four Seasons Pool was opened and he was one of the driving forces behind the new indoor facility. It was not, however, the 50-metre Olympic-sized pool he wanted – budget constraints prohibited a larger pool.
In the same year, Zarek founded a diving club and a synchronized swimming club and his Barracuda team finished second in the provincial meet in August.
Zarek’s athletes continued to shine right up to his 1978 retirement from the club he founded. Six swimmers went on to represent Canada abroad. His reach stretches far beyond this country’s borders.
One of Zarek's charges, Jim Fowlie, is now a senior swim coach with the Australian Institute of Sport and was inducted into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. Fowlie, some of whose athletes helped Australia win 199 medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, credits Zarek for his own success.
“He was a big, strong, impressive role model who always had a smile and a laugh for everyone,” recalls Fowlie. “He made us want to hang around the pool all day.”
Fowlie says Zarek’s work lives on.
“The best recommendation I can give is that after 25 years I still use Dick’s references, strategies, tactics, jokes and bad nicknames when working with swimmers.”
The new aquatic centre is the latest step in a journey that began with the formation of a swim club at the old outdoor pool on Watrous Street. It brings to fruition Zarek’s wish for a 50-metre pool.
This journey is ample reason to induct Zarek into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame. "If there was no coach, there never would have been a swim club or swimmers,” he said.