Head down to the Kin Centre to catch some lacrosse action on any given summer night and you will likely see Fred Doig. He will be there to coach or just to watch, but chances are he will be there.
Doig, who won Canadian Senior “A” Championships (Mann Cup) with the Victoria Shamrocks in 1955 and 1956, is one of the founding fathers of lacrosse in Prince George. For his tireless work as a builder and promoter of the game, he is a deserving inductee into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
In the mid 1960s, Doig helped to start the Prince George Lacrosse Association (PGLA). It started out as a two-team league but eventually grew to four teams. Doig, as well as helping to bring the league to life, was one of its most talented athletes. He was a member of the Columbus Macs as a player/coach and helped the team to a Canadian Senior “C” Championship in 1970. By the mid 1970s the PGLA was one of the most competitive leagues in the province. Doig was a catalyst for it all.
"He was a teacher and guide for so many young men,” says Ken McIntosh, a former member of the Macs. “He imbued in all his players an undying respect for the game and led them to accomplishments that they might not have thought possible.”
Doig, whose own career as a lacrosse player began in 1939 in Rossland, B.C., also helped to develop the Prince George Minor Lacrosse Association. In 1980, he received the first-ever Prince George Award of Merit for developing recreation in the city. Then, in 1993, he was presented with the Governor General’s Award for community service.
Today, Doig is still involved in lacrosse. He helps coach the Ironhorse Pub Bandits in the Prince George Senior Lacrosse Association, a team which his son, Brett, plays for. At the recent Alcan Cup Canadian Senior Invitational Lacrosse Championship in Prince George, Doig was chosen to perform the ceremonial opening face-off. Glen (Moose) Scott, an Alcan Cup organizer and a guy who used to play against Doig, says the coach and builder certainly belongs in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
Shirley Gratton is a fixture on the British Columbia baseball scene. As a young girl she first encountered the game living with her aunt in Edmonton. Her career as a player culminated in the Cariboo Championships in 1952 and 1953. After that, her love of the game saw her take up coaching Little League.
The lack of opportunity for young players who were too old for Little League was evident to Gratton. In 1972, along with others like Bill Perrin, Joe Martin and Alex Padalec, she formed Nechako Babe Ruth.
Initially, the league had plenty of problems, a lack of baseball diamonds being foremost. With sheer perseverance, Gratton and the others managed to build a strong league that has hosted three regional tournaments.
In 1994, the Nechako league merged with Prince George Youth Babe Ruth Baseball. Today, the league is one of the strongest and boasts numerous fields, plenty of coaches, players and volunteers. Gratton's dream is to bring a World Series to the local diamonds.
Gratton has received numerous accolades for her achievements: the Governor General’s Confederation medal and the City of Prince George Award of Merit for Recreation, to name only two. She was also inducted into the Babe Ruth Baseball Hall of Fame.
Throughout her time in baseball, Gratton has held many integral positions as a builder. She is currently the Northern Commissioner for Babe Ruth and Treasurer for Prince George Youth Babe Ruth.
Simply put, Doug Gudwer is one of the best cross-country skiers this country has ever produced.
You want details? How about 22 medals at Canadian championships, including 10 gold. He was a long-time member of the national team. He also won the 1973 U.S. junior title, as well as the Canadian juniors in 1974. He won the 1982 Nor-Am overall crown and was four-time national 3 x 10-kilometre relay champion. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gudwer was a force both nationally and internationally on the snow-covered trails.
Prince George can proudly call Gudwer one of its own because he was born and raised in Prince George and raced for the Hickory Wing Ski Club. After high school, he used his skills to earn a college scholarship at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, where he was a two-time All-American. His national and international success gave him a spot in the ‘Who’s Who in Canadian sport’ registry.
Gudwer, now 43, left Prince George to train the national team and now resides in Calgary.
Vern Martel has too many provincial championships to count. He also has 10 Canadian championships and three world titles. The local arm wrestler, who has overcome major injuries twice in his career, has a spot in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame. The man known as the One Armed Bandit sees his selection to the Hall as a tribute to his sport.
“It’s neat to have arm wrestling in there,” said the 38-year-old Martel, who won world championships in 1983, 1993 and 1998. “The sport has been good to me. It has been there in good times, tough times and even tragic times.”
Martel, who has been a member of Team Canada for 12 years, won his 1983 world title in San Jose, Costa Rica. A motorcycle accident shortly after that victory put him in a wheelchair for 18 months and paralyzed his left arm.
Martel did not compete for three years but always had it in his mind that he would return to the world stage one day. Through sheer determination, he re-trained himself to arm wrestle without using his left arm for leverage. In 1993, he once again advanced to the world championships, this time in Moscow. In that historic Russian city, he won his second world crown.
“It was a huge accomplishment and satisfied something within myself,” he said. Martel’s 1998 world championship came a little closer to home, in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Again he had to overcome adversity to win.
Prior to the 1998 worlds, he had been out of arm wrestling for more than two years because of a broken bone in his right hand. He made his comeback in a Williams Lake tournament, went on to place second at the B.C. finals and then found his way back onto Team Canada. In Thunder Bay, Martel scored two straight victories over Minnesota’s Wayne Springall to claim the world title in the 80-kilogram, right-hand class.
Martel, who also organizes arm wrestling tournaments and is a Level 2 referee, is not satisfied with three world championships. He plans to return to Russia for the worlds in the year 2000 and will not be happy with anything but gold.
“My goal still is to win as many world titles as I can,” he said. “I still have a lot of years left in this sport.”
Delores “Dee” Neukomm has a special gift. She has the ability to inspire her athletes to push themselves to their utmost potential. She has a positive effect on all those she meets and gives of herself unselfishly to the betterment of Prince George athletics.
As a rhythmic gymnastics coach, Dee has seen her athletes go all the way to compete and win at Special Olympic events. She has qualified athletes for three World Games in a row: 1991, 1995 and 1999. She recently returned from the World Games in Raleigh, North Carolina, where two of her athletes received multiple medals.
Dee started working on the executive of Prince George Special Olympics in 1986 and in 1989 she turned to coaching.
Her daughter, Lara, was named Canadian Special Olympic Athlete of the Year in 1990 and qualified for the World Games in 1991. After her daughter’s passing in 1991, Dee continued to give of herself. In 1998 she was recognized as the Special Olympic Provincial Coach of the Year. That same year she was honoured with the title of Canadian Female Coach of the Year.
Dee plans to continue coaching “until they do not want me anymore.” The arrival of the B.C. Special Olympic Summer Games in Prince George in 2001 will undoubtedly provide an opportunity for local athletes and coaches like Neukomm to continue to shine.
Matt Pearce was made to play football. Or was football made for Matt Pearce?
With a bruising six-foot-two, 205-pound frame, Pearce never met a head-on collision he didn’t like in his seven years in the Canadian Football League. In 144 games from 1989 to 1995 Pearce went all out for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as a fullback, tailback and special teams player. Wearing jersey No. 32 he played in three Grey Cup games, earning a championship ring in 1990.
Pearce first learned the game in the Prince George Minor Football system and graduated to college football with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, where he was named Canada West Rookie of the Year in 1985.
Things only got better the next year as Pearce and coach Frank Smith’s T-birds won the Vanier Cup, the top prize in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union. In 1987, Pearce was named outstanding player in the annual Shrum Bowl, a battle between UBC and Simon Fraser University.
The Bombers used the 32nd overall pick in the 1989 CFL draft to select Pearce.
Pearce retired after the 1995 season, returned to Prince George and is now involved in the local rugby scene. Heavy contact, no pads: that’s the kind of intensity which makes Pearce a perfect candidate for induction into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
The next time you tee up at the Prince George Golf and Curling Club, take a moment to thank Harold Pretty. Without him the club likely would not exist.
Pretty moved his family from Port Alberni to Prince George in 1957 so he could become golf professional and course manager of the P.G. Golf Club. At the time it was a nine-hole layout with sand greens, no clubhouse, no water and only 35 members. Volunteers comprised what little workforce there was.
In 1958, the membership gave Pretty a budget of $200 (not including seed) and permission to build three greens. Instead, he built nine greens. Irrigation was added later, a service which was integral to the adjacent curling club.
Pretty also started the first junior golf program in Prince George and taught the game through lessons and a column in The Prince George Citizen called Golf Notes and Tips.
In 1960, Pretty and Matt Briggs started work on making the course a full 18 holes. In addition to the new holes, a new clubhouse was in place by 1966, and membership grew to nearly 650. A land swap involving the Pine Centre Mall, spearheaded by Pretty, brought about changes to three holes.
Pretty stepped down as the PGGCC pro in 1974 and was given a lifetime membership at the course, where he played until his death.
Pretty did it all for the Prince George Golf and Curling Club, and the people of Prince George owe him a debt of gratitude.
Brad Suey has successfully bridged the gap between sport and entertainment through his exploits in the realm of freestyle and aerial skiing. The Prince George resident has traveled around the world from Canada to Austria to Japan through competition and demonstration in skiing.
Suey was involved in the incorporation of the Central Interior Freestyle Ski Club in which he has played an active role for the past 20 years. He competed for the club and became the top aerialist for Prince George and British Columbia. Suey was the youngest-ever recipient of the Prince George Award of Merit in Recreation and was a finalist for the city’s 1992 Male Athlete of the Year award.
Having moved on to national competition, Suey captured a silver medal at the Canadian national championships. Over the six years that he was with the Canadian National Freestyle Ski Team, he had numerous top-10 finishes. In 1995-1996 he acted as aerials coach for the National Development Team and the Alberta Freestyle Ski Team.
Suey was also an integral member of Canada’s World Cup team for numerous years and captured gold at the Europa Cup in Altenmarkt, Austria, in 1992.
Suey has performed for numerous shows, including the opening ceremonies at the 1996 world championships in Nagano, Japan. He has also been captured on film for such movies as “Ski School” and “Black Diamond Rush.” He was featured on documentaries like CBC’s Wide World of Sports. Currently, Suey is managing and touring with such companies as the Budweiser Aerial Assault and the Greatest Show on Earth Aerial Ski Acrobatics.
Back at home Suey has plans to build a water ramp training facility. He continues to coach and put on training camps for local youths. He believes there is untapped talent that should flourish under the proper conditions and hopes to be part of the further development of freestyle skiing in Prince George and Canada.
Harry Thacker was a true sporting pioneer in Prince George.
From the time he first called the young city home in 1920, Thacker was laying the foundation for the future when Prince George would be considered a winter paradise with a tremendous love of the game of hockey.
Born in Ontario in 1883, Thacker played hockey for Prince George and was noted for building character and sportsmanship with the young boys he coached. He operated many outdoor rinks in South Fort George and Prince George, and enforced his code of good behaviour with a firm hand. One friend remembers “Mr. Thacker,” as he was always called, as someone who influenced the correct development of more toddlers and teenagers in Prince George than the combined efforts of parents, teachers, doctors and policemen.
Thacker was the coach, manager and uniform provider of the 1936 Prince George team that defeated Quesnel and Williams Lake for the Cariboo Junior Championship, a tournament that was played in Quesnel.
When Thacker retired in 1952, he was presented with a Chevy pickup truck which he proudly drove around the ice surface of the Prince George Civic Arena to thank everyone.
Without a builder like Harry Thacker, the Prince George sports scene would not be what it is today.
Ron Thorsen is one of the finest basketball players to have played in British Columbia. Born in Hollister, California, Thorsen moved to Prince George in 1965. Playing high school basketball with Prince George Secondary School, Thorsen was twice named to the B.C. High School All-star Team. In 1966 he was selected as the most valuable player in B.C. high school basketball.
When Thorsen moved on to university athletics with the UBC Thunderbirds he continued to shine as a star. As a freshman he received the John Owen bursary. While playing for the varsity team, Thorsen was already considered to be one of the best guards in Canadian basketball.
In 1968-69 Thorsen played for the Thunderbirds and was noted for his brilliance on and off the court. The next year, 1969-70, saw the finest season ever in UBC basketball. Thorsen led the T-Birds to a perfect season, an undefeated 20-0. They swept both west and east divisions and captured the Canadian championship. Thorsen set records that year for the most points in a single game (48), points-per-game average (20.3), and points in one season (650).
The 1970-71 season was similar with Thorsen leading nearly every game in scoring. At the WCIAA finals, Thorsen was unanimously named to the Canadian All-star team by all the league’s ten teams.
1971-72 saw the Thunderbirds capture their second national championship in three years. Thorsen continued to set records with his play. His career points-per-game average (19.1) and his 2,059 career points would stand as records at UBC for 18 years. Thorsen was named the B.C. University Athlete of the Year and in 1972-73 Thorsen was selected to play on the Canadian National Team.
After graduating from UBC he continued to coach. He coached the women’s varsity basketball team to a 1973-74 Canadian championship. This was his third championship; two as a player and one as a coach.
As a player and captain for the Canadian National Team, Thorsen played at the Pan-Am Games, the World Championships and in pre-Olympic tournaments. He was selected to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and to the UBC Athletics Hall of Fame.
Thorsen is also credited with starting the CNC athletics program.