John DaSilva is often referred to as the founder or father of youth soccer in Prince George. DaSilva has contributed more than 35 years to both youth and senior soccer in this city.
DaSilva was born in Portugal and played from a very early age. He came to Prince George in the 1950s and was quickly convinced soccer could flourish in Prince George and area. It was in April 1966 after personally promoting soccer at the secondary level that his efforts brought the formation of two youth teams. In 1969 the league started with six teams and dwindled to only two by the end of the season. DaSilva decided as a last resort to take a team of Prince George soccer players to a major tournament for exposure in competitive soccer. Those were frustrating days for DaSilva and other people in the efforts of promoting youth soccer in the city but that trip to Kitimat with Woodwards as a new sponsor and new uniforms imported from Portugal was the start of smoothing out that rocky road to soccer success.
During the 1970s soccer moved forward in Prince George, largely due to the leadership of DaSilva. The year 1974 was an historic one for the Prince George Minor Soccer Association. After numerous meetings and many convincing discussions Prince George was finally invited to join the “big leagues” and became a member of the British Columbia Youth Soccer Association. This was a huge step forward and resulted in the first major youth tournament hosted by Prince George, which really put this city on the soccer map.
The next 20 years saw DaSilva serving on the youth board, coaching a number of teams and he received the B.C. Youth Association Award of Merit. He was instrumental in the formation of the Prince George Senior Soccer League where he coached for eight years as well as played for the Deutch Flyers and Eagle Lake Sawmill teams. To his credit he also formed the Prince George Soccer Referee Association where he served as president for more than 15 years.
Through dedication, enthusiasm and honesty DaSilva has made soccer the number one sport in Prince George. Today Prince George Youth Soccer boasts more than 2,500 youngsters playing the sport and the numbers continue to increase. DaSilva believed in the philosophy “Children are our hope.”
Today as you pass Prince George Rotary Soccer Fields and look across the fenced fields, clubhouse and grandstands, we stand together with John DaSilva and agree that “Dreams can come true.”
Bruce Hawkenson was born to race. Early memories of racing for Hawkenson go back to his soap box days when he won the Prince George Soap Box Derby in 1956. That victory sent him off to the Provincial Soap Box Derby Championships that year, and he came back home with the first-place trophy.
Hawkenson went from soap box derbies to canoe where his list of achievements is lengthy. At the local level, Hawkenson won such events as the Northern Hardware Canoe Races in the years spanning 1973 to 1976. In 1976 he entered the Hyack Canoe Race from 70 Mile to Hope and New Westminster. There were many more races in the area during the 70s and 80s. Races from Burns Lake, Smithers and the Peace River to Horsefly, Kamloops, Vernon and Chilliwack.
There was more to Hawkenson than just canoe racing. He was the Sports Director at Ness Lake Bible Camp for the summer of 1965. It was that summer that he created the original jungle water swing which is still used every summer. Hawkenson moved on and founded Camp Trapping Boys Camp. In 1972 and 1973 he coached eight young men in canoe racing and they won every event they entered from the Northern Hardware Race to the Klondike Days Canoe Race in Edmonton.
In the years from 1974 to 1982 Hawkenson was active at the national level, participating in the Professional Canoe Racing Tour across Canada. Canoe racing took him to Swan River, Saskatoon, Athabasca, throughout Alberta and into Quebec.
International achievements include fourth place in the North American, Mount Laurier Championships at Quebec in 1977, a fourth-place finish in 1977 at the World Championships at Shawnigan and the following year a second-place finish at the North American Canoe Race, once again held in Quebec. In the 1970s and 1980s Hawkenson's successes were many, from a number of victories at Oregon State races in 1977 to a third-place finish at the Waikiki Outrigger Canoe Race in 1981 and a gold medal at the first-ever Senior World Championships at Toronto in 1985.
In 1991 Hawkenson retired from canoe racing after winning gold in masters doubles at the Canadian Championships held here at home in Prince George. Retirement hasn’t slowed his sporting activities. He continues to play basketball with men years his junior and shares his knowledge about sports and physical activities with his numerous young sports fans.
John and Geraldine Huntley were involved in the Prince George Judo Club program from the time they arrived in Prince George in 1964 until moving to Kamloops in 1986. Their judo involvement was not only at the local level, they have been involved at the provincial, national and international levels as well.
In the years spanning 1964 to 1986 Geri Huntley instructed the junior classes at Prince George while John took charge of instruction for the senior classes. They were the editors and publishers of Judo B.C. Digest for several years.
At the national level, John Huntley not only held coaching certificates at various levels, but took part as a competitor and referee. Geri Huntley was active at the national level too, holding a national coaching certificate and she established the Committee on Women’s Judo in Canada.
The Huntleys' accomplishments are no less impressive at the international level. Geri Huntley was one of the first female black belts in Canada and currently holds a third-degree black belt in judo. The International Judo Federation ranks John as a “B” referee, the second-highest world referee level. John has refereed for Canada in the USA, Mexico and Italy and currently holds a sixth-degree black belt.
Judo has meant travel for the Huntleys over the years. In 1975 John took 14 members of the Prince George Judo Club to tournaments in Seattle, San Jose and San Francisco. Traveling throughout British Columbia and Canada giving advice and improving the sport of judo started for John and Geri during those 22 years in Prince George and continues to this day.
To their credit, and to the gratitude of many participants in the local judo organization, John and Geri Huntley can take pride in producing more than 30 black belts during their time in Prince George
It seems judo has always been part of Bruce Kamstra’s life.
He has dedicated much of the last 20 years to the sport.
No doubt judo will continue to be part of his life for many years to come.
Kamstra was an accomplished competitor when he was nine years old. He had shown that hard work does pay and if you stay focused you can win. In 1984 he became a team member of Judo B.C. and in 1993 he became a provincial Team Leader, a position he holds in the organization to this day. Kamstra has put a lot into his sport at the provincial level and once again hard work has paid off. He was Judo B.C. Male Athlete of the Year in 1995, 1996 and 1998. At the provincial level he received the Premiers Athletic Award for judo in 1995 and 1996.
Competition at the national level produced a series of medals and awards dating back to a silver medal at the Canadian High School Championships in 1989. In 1990 and 1991 Kamstra won bronze medals at the Canadian Junior National Championships. He became a member of the national team in 1993 and won a bronze medal at the Canadian National Championships that same year. After training in Montreal from 1993 to 1995 Kamstra's medals included another bronze at the Canadian Nationals in 1995, a silver medal at the Canadian Olympic trials in 1996 and a gold medal at the Canadian National Championships in 1998.
There have been many highlights for Kamstra at the international level of judo participation and many countries to which he has traveled with his sport, starting as a world high school championship alternate in 1989. During the 1990s there were competitions and time spent training in Japan. More competitions followed -- the U.S. Open a couple of times, tournaments in Bulgaria and Korea. The international highlights culminated with the Pan American Championships in Puerto Rico in 1996, being named as an Olympic Games alternate in 1996 and participation at the British Open in 1997.
Kamstra may have retired from competition, but he certainly has not retired from judo in Prince George. As a volunteer he has put his Level 1 National Coaching Certification program to work assisting as a B.C. Winter Games coach, doing demonstrations at UNBC for Japanese Cultural Days and conducting demonstrations in Prince George and area elementary and secondary schools. His focus has changed from that of a competitive judo athlete to that of a competitive coach of young athletes. It still takes hard work and focus. It does pay off and Kamstra will be instrumental in the achievements of many young judo athletes in the years to come.
In the 1970s the Spruce Capital Boxing Club was the home of a Prince George Olympian and Sid McKnight was known as a champion in the ring. The story is told by somewhat faded newspaper clippings and certificates now tucked away for safe keeping, but memories do not fade away.
The first time McKnight stepped into a boxing ring was in 1970. He was fifteen years old and joined the Spruce Capital Boxing Club to learn how to fight. Three weeks later he was competing at the B.C. Bronze Gloves and lost that bout by a decision. He did not lose many more after that. That first loss was the motivation to excel at boxing and provided the drive McKnight needed to spend those long, hard hours training to be a boxer.
At the provincial level, McKnight dominated his weight class, winning the B.C. Golden Gloves every year from 1974 to 1979 inclusive. During that time there was an Alberta Golden Gloves award in 1978 and two Canadian Championships, one in 1975 and another in 1976. There were also three Tacoma Golden Gloves Championships. The Tacoma competitions were very prestigious. Many world-champion boxers have been there before -- the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard and Leo Randolph. Throughout his career McKnight won numerous Silver and Emerald Glove Championships but never had another opportunity to fight in a Bronze Glove competition.
If you were to ask McKnight the greatest thrill of his career, he would answer the 1976 Olympics where he represented our country as a light flyweight. By all accounts boxing was his life in the 1970s. Training at least 20 hours a week, it all paid off with a bronze medal in 1975 at the pre-Olympic tournament and from there it was off to the Olympics in Montreal for the Summer Games in 1976. The people of Prince George rallied around their boxer, a member of Team Canada in 1976. There was a massive “Good Luck” telegram with hundreds of well-wishers' signatures and gifts.
McKnight retired from boxing in 1979 following competition at the Canadian Championships, held in his hometown at Vanier Hall. He was 24 years old and decided it was time to hang up the gloves. If there is maybe a twinge of regret it would be that he never pursued those offers in the 1970s to turn pro. It was never the money for Sid, but a half dozen fights in the professional ranks -- just to say he had done it -- would have added that much more to the scrap book and memories.
Kevin Smale is known around the curling rink these days as “Duke.” When his career was just budding almost 50 years ago, he was known as a “rink rat,” hanging around helping out with the ice in the rink that had just moved indoors to the basement of the Civic Centre.
Competitive curling for Smale began when he was a 12-year-old playing in the local high school league. That year was the first of many successes, as he won the high school championship and took home the McArthur Cup. There were more achievements at the high school level. In 1955 Smale went to the provincial high school championships at Nelson. A return trip to the high school provincials in 1958 rewarded the Smale rink with a victory and a berth in the Canadian Championships in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. In the late 1950s there was no such thing as a junior league for young curlers so when Smale left high school it was a huge jump to the men’s division.
The pattern of success started in high school continued in the big leagues. Smale participated in 38 consecutive British Columbia Interior curling championships, missing his first one this past season when he retired from the game.
In 48 years of curling there was more than a lot of enjoyment, there were many memorable career accomplishments. Smale is proud of the 12 provincial championships he played in and the two Canadian National Championships. His proudest curling accomplishment, no doubt, came in 1969 when he and his rink placed second at the MacDonald’s Brier in Oshawa, Ontario. Up against some of the big names in curling that year like Ron Northcott, the Prince George rink of Smale, third Pete Sherba, second Pat Carr and lead Bob MacDonald came home with a record of nine wins and a loss -- one win away from that Canadian title that eluded Smale throughout his curling career.
In 1969 after the Brier, the Smale rink was invited to play in CBC’s Cross Canada Curling competition televised to the nation. Also that year, and right here at home, the Smale rink took the Kelly Cup home, a feat Smale was able to accomplish two more times in his career.
Retirement this season has not kept Smale from frequenting the curling rink. This season he can be found there, helping out the juniors. With almost 50 years of experience Smale will have endless advice and tips for the curlers of the future for many years to come.
It seems that the love of archery is in Glen Johnson’s blood. His father and uncle were both members of the Silvertip Archery Club in Prince George in the early days. As a young boy, Johnson remembers that the archery club shot in the basement of the old Civic Centre.
Archery became an important part of Johnson's life after he checked out a new archery facility in town with son, Kurt. Kurt and Johnson's daughter Kristy quickly joined the club's Junior Olympic Program. This program teaches young archers, up to the age of 20, the safety and etiquette of archery. As an archer progresses, they receive a certificate and badge for each level of scored points they achieve. Under the guidance of a knowledgeable coach (Phil Sample) both Kurt and Kristy excelled in the sport. Impressed by the progress of his kids and his own desire to develop better skills, Johnson agreed to take a coaching course.
Over the next few years, Johnson's family became very dedicated to the sport. Many hours were spent practicing, coaching, fixing equipment and traveling to competitions. In the beginning, indoor shooting and 3-D (outdoor using foam animals) was their main focus. It was not long before outdoor types of shooting caught their attention and sparked an interest to try them. The family was introduced to shooting outdoor Fita’s (different distances up to 90 metres) at the Silvertip Archery Club outdoor range and they were hooked again. Shooting outdoors and having to deal with the elements of nature made this type of shooting far more challenging than the indoor shoots. As they improved outdoors, Glen, Kurt and Kristy found themselves competing at the provincial and national levels. This required even more hours practicing and a lot more traveling to out-of-town competitions. All three of them have done very well competing at these levels and have brought home many gold and silver medals as a result.
Johnson received his Level 2 in coaching when it became apparent that more coaches were needed to help develop the skills of the many talented archers in the club. Over the years, he has had the pleasure of working and shooting with many elite archers. Now that Kurt and Kristy have both become adults, Johnson misses the time they spent together at the archery range. He still finds pleasure in coaching others – Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings in addition to shooting league on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Recently Johnson became president of the Silvertip Archery Club. The club will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2003. Silvertip has a membership of 77 adults and 138 juniors in the Junior Olympic Program. The club’s indoor range is located in the basement of the Yellowhead Inn and the outdoor is located on Highway 16 East just past the city limits.
Over the past 12 years some of Johnson's most memorable moments were placing at the B.C. Summer Games, B.C. provincials and the nationals. He also finds great pleasure in watching the archers he has helped coach, achieve their personal goals. Besides archery, fishing and hunting are Glen’s passions, in addition to spending as much time as possible at the family cabin on Stuart Lake.
Jack Meda was known to chop down opponents in the same fashion he did the tall trees of Northern British Columbia.
As a longtime logger in the forested regions of Canada’s western-most provinces, Meda, notoriously known for his fisticuff battles as a bouncer in a Prince George tavern, acted on a dare from a group of amateur boxers and competed in his first-ever boxing championship tournament in Vancouver. He placed second.
It was there that the six-foot, 220-pound giant had his eyes opened to the sport. While in Vancouver, Meda spoke with legendary Canadian boxing coach Harold Mann, who convinced a young Meda to give some serious thought to boxing fulltime. The rest, as they say, is history.
Meda, a member of Prince George’s Spruce Capital Boxing Club, was crowned heavyweight champion in the B.C. Golden Gloves for three consecutive years, 1969, 1970 and 1971. His first taste of Golden Gloves competition came in 1967, the Centennial year. Meda, representing Prince George, won a gold medal in the 1969 B.C. Winter Games.
Born in New Westminster in 1945, Meda was also well known nationally for his iron fists and boxing toughness. He captured Western Canadian and Canadian amateur titles as a heavyweight in 1969-1970 and 1970-1971. As a member of Team B.C. in 1970, Meda won a gold medal at the Canadian Winter Games in Saskatoon. It was also in 1970 that Meda competed in the IX British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. He took home a bronze medal from the heavyweight class as a souvenir.
Meda, who now calls Willow River home, toured with the Canadian Boxing Team in 1970 to invitational meets in New York, Montréal, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Holland.
One year later, Meda qualified and attended the Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia in South America. He also boxed in the North American championships in Albany, New York.
In 1971-1972 Meda went undefeated and retired from the sport.
Little did Rae-Ann Mitchell know where volleyball would take her when she first stepped foot on the court as a member of the Lakewood Elementary junior team.
Her impressive career got started when she hoisted provincial championship trophies with the D.P. Todd Trojans senior team from 1990 to 1992. To cap off a stellar high school stint, which saw her collect numerous other medals, Mitchell was crowned Athlete of the Year in 1992 for her leadership on the Trojans provincial juggernaut.
But that was just the beginning for the Victoria-born Rae-Ann. She was forced to find some more room in her trophy case for yet another graduating athlete-of-the-year award as she starred with the University of Winnipeg Wesmen women’s volleyball team in 1996. She was named an All-Canadian for three consecutive years (1994, 1995, 1996).
Arguably one of the high points during Rae-Ann’s university volleyball career was when she competed at the University Games in Japan in 1995.
Upon graduation, Rae-Ann turned pro and joined a professional volleyball team in Temse, Belgium. She played one year of pro ball (1998-1999) before she returned to Canada in April of 1999.
It was at that time Rae-Ann returned to the Canadian National Team. She was a survivor of the tryout camps and was a member of the team the year of qualifying for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia – the pinnacle of her Hall of Fame volleyball career that started in Prince George.
Rae-Ann has since returned to Prince George to assist in numerous summer volleyball camps. She also has coached volleyball to children from Temse, Belgium. All that and she still is actively involved with the Canadian National volleyball team.
Rae-Ann now resides in Vancouver as a motivational speaker, addressing mainly youth athletes. She would also like to upgrade some courses with hopes of returning to university.
Gale Russell has never played a game of soccer. For more than 20 years, however, his boundless energy and dedication has helped the sport grow and prosper in Prince George.
Russell, current chairman of the Prince George Youth Soccer Association, first became involved in soccer when he was president of the Quinson Community Association. He helped kick-start an indoor soccer program for kids, many of whom went on to play at the college or university level in future years.
Russell joined the fledgling PGYSA in the early 1980s as a coach in the house division. With no practical experience as a player, he began taking all the coaching clinics he could find. Russell moved on to coach at the all-star level and, in that capacity, led two boys teams and one girls team to provincial titles. In total, Russell’s coaching involvement stretched from 1980 to 1998.
During those years, Russell was not just on the sidelines, he was on the field as a referee and in the PGYSA office as a member of the board of directors. He was first elected to the board in 1986 and served for the next 11 years. As a vice-chairman and then chairman, Russell laid the groundwork for the PGYSA’s mini program, which brought the game to the youngest players in the city. He also coordinated the all-star program, which is now among the strongest in the province, and helped get a girls program up and running.
Russell has also served on numerous soccer committees, both youth and adult.
On the youth side, he used his vision to help make Rotary Fields, the current home of the PGYSA, a reality. Russell was also a force in bringing the Rocky Mountain Cup provincial tournament to Prince George, as well as the Girls Under-15 and Under-17 All-star Nationals in 2001.
On the adult side of the game, Russell has been a director for the B.C. Indoor Soccer League, as well as a committee member for the annual Blackburn Cup women’s tournament and the Prince George Invitational men’s tournament. With outdoor soccer, he served as a liaison between the City of Prince George and the two local adult leagues – the Prince George Women’s Soccer Association and the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League.
Russell, re-elected PGYSA chairman in 1997, has also been a strong voice of youth soccer for the northern part of the province and has helped several of the city’s young players realize scholarship opportunities in the United States. For his efforts Russell has received numerous awards, some of which include the PGYSA President’s Cup, the City of Prince George Volunteer Award of Merit and the B.C. Soccer Award of Merit.
Russell, a local resident since 1967, is simply passionate about soccer. A conversation with him about the game and its potential in Prince George is never a short one. For his leadership, enthusiasm and relentless pursuit of soccer excellence, Russell is a deserving inductee as a coach and builder into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.