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Windsor Ford V-8s represented Canada at the 1936 Olympic Games
Windsor Ford V-8s represented Canada at the 1936 Olympic Games
Windsor Ford V-8s represented Canada at the 1936 Olympic Games - Photo: Curtis J. Phillips

FIBA

Canadian basketball in the 1930s’

Canadian basketball in the 1930s, an era rich in tradition and history. In our exclusive series, Canadian basketball history Curtis J. Phillips discusses Canada’s first Olympic team, the Windsor Ford V-8s as well as the Edmonton Grads, one of Canada’s greatest teams.

Start your engines.

In 1923-24 the Canadian Amateur Basketball Association created a national championship for men’s basketball.

The powerhouse teams of that decade would be the Winnipeg Toilers (1925-27) and New Westminster Adanacs (1928-30), each claiming back-to-back titles.

West coast dominance was prominent in the 1930s’ with teams from Vancouver and Victoria dribbling to four and three championships respectively.

During this decade, teams from Windsor, Ontario would place second four times but in 1935-36 the Windsor Ford V-8s would sweep the Victoria Dominoes in a best-of-five series for the national crown.

“What made Windsor such a basketball power was its proximity to Detroit. A lot of the players played in American colleges, and the quality of play is better. That’s how Windsor became the best basketball city in Canada,” explained V-8s player Norm Dawson to this writer back in the 1980s’.

Windsor Ford V-8s represent Canada at 1936 Summer Olympic Games

As Canadian champions the V-8s would represent Canada at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games being held in Berlin, Germany.

With only one player on the original squad over six-feet tall, the V-8s added brothers Art and Chuck Chapman (both 6-foot-4) along with Doug Peden from Victoria.

At these Olympics, which were overshadowed in part by socio-political implications caused by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi racist claims of Aryan superiority, Canada had to play the gold medal game on an outdoor clay basketball court in the rain.

“It was very slippery,” recalled Dawson of the August 14, 1936 event, which was played in a tennis stadium. “We couldn’t execute any plays. When the ball hit the water it didn’t move, so we simply passed the ball around. Michael Jordan could have slid from foul line to foul line and scored a basket without taking steps. It was drastic.”

Teammate Gord Aitchison would state the same in a story with the Windsor Star: “On the opening play, an American player raced down the court, caught a pass as his feet went from under him and completed the last 15 or 20 feet to the basket sliding on the seat of his shorts, water spraying out from both sides.

“The ball, made in sections like a soccer ball, bounced reasonably well on some parts of the court but failed to come up when dribbled through one of the many puddles. A shot was only taken only after careful calculations to correct for the wind and the extra weight of a waterlogged sphere.”

The USA side would win 19-8.

“This is the greatest moment in my life. I have seen basketball played at its best,” said 75 year-old Dr. James Naismith, the games inventor, who was in attendance.

Windsor Ford V-8s inducted in Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame

The Windsor Ford V-8s basketball team was inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Team members: Gord Aitchison , Ian Allison, Art Chapman, Chuck Chapman, Ed Dawson, Norm Dawson, Alphonse Freer, Donald William Gray, Irving Meretsky, Stanley Nantais, Robert Osborne, Doug Peden, Thomas Pendlebury, James Stewart, Ernie Williams, Malcolm Wiseman along with assistant coach Julius Goldman and head coach Gordon Fuller.

As a footnote, Goldman’s suggestion to eliminate the basketball rule that called for a “jump ball” after every field goal was accepted and the change is credited as one of the major rules that popularized the sport. Also, one of the officials in the gold medal match was Canadian Ernest Cosmos Quigley. Officiating more than 1,500 collegiate game in a 40- year career, he would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1961.

Must Read:  One win short: Canada's Rio Olympic Dreams Squashed by France

Edmonton Grads The World’s Greatest Basketball Team

Edmonton grads world greatest basketball team
Edmonton Grads World’s greatest basketball team – Photo: Curtis J. Phillips

Edmonton Grads were Great

The Edmonton Grads are one of the greatest basketball teams…pro or amateur… of all-time.

No debate needed. No questions asked.

Let me say again.

The Edmonton Grads are one of the greatest basketball teams…pro or amateur… of all-time!

Formed in 1912, this amazing women’s team compiled a record of 502 wins and 20 losses.

Coached by Percy Page, they won the Underwood International Trophy (USA vs Canada) for 17 consecutive years and were undefeated in 24 exhibition matches held in conjunction with the 1924, 1928 and 1936 Summer Olympic Games.

Such was their dominance against international competition that they once beat the Équipe de Paris by a score of 109–20.

Some of the players from the 1930s’ teams were Doris Neale Chapman, Gladys Fry Douglas, Noella “Babe” Belanger MacLean, Noel MacDonald Robertson and Elsie Bennie Robson.

Canadians in the inaugural 1891 game at the International YMCA Training School

All in the Family

Gerald B. Archibald was taught the game of basketball by his father Lyman W. Archibald, (Pleasant Valley, Colchester County, Nova Scotia) who was taught the game by the games founder Dr. James Naismith.

Lyman was one of four Canadians in the original game played December 21, 1891 in Springfield Massachusetts.

Other Canucks taking part in the inaugural game at the International YMCA Training School were Finlay G. MacDonald (Sunny Brae, Nova Scotia.), Thomas Duncan Patton (Danville, Quebec, Canada.) and John George Thompson (New Glasgow, Nova Scotia).

Born August 22, 1907 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Gerald started playing independent and semi-pro hoops as a 17 year-old in 1925.

A multi-talented individual, Gerald had the rare distinction of being an owner/general manager/coach/player of a professional basketball team.

In 1937-38 his Warren Penns were charter members into the National Basketball League.

Staying south of the border, several Canadians were staring in university hoops with Windsor Ford V8s Gord Aitchison at Detroit Mercy and Ed Dawson at University of Detroit.

Vancouver’s Pete Newell inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Vancouver pete newell naismith memorial basketball hall of fame
Vancouver pete newell naismith memorial basketball hall of fame

Suiting up for the Loyola Marymount Lions (1935-39) Vancouver born Pete Newell was just starting what would a lengthy association with the sport.

He would embark on a coaching career worthy of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 1979.

One of his coaching highlights was guiding Team USA to a gold medal in men’s basketball at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy.

Future NBA legends on the team included Walt Bellamy, Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.

The 1930s’ was the arrival of Canada’s first pro basketball team the Windsor Cooper Buses and the fatal airplane crash involving the Winnipeg Toilers.

We will delve into these in greater depth in future features.

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