Elmer Speidel

Alberni Athletics ‘55 men’s team headed to hoops hall of fame

The Alberni Athletics men's team that won the 1955 Senior A National Championship is being inducted into the Basketball BC Hall of Fame.

A men’s team from an era in Port Alberni when basketball was king is being inducted into the Basketball BC Hall of Fame.

The Alberni Athletics team that won the 1955 Senior A National Championship is being inducted in May at a special Basketball BC ceremony in Langley.

“It’s an exciting feeling knowing we were chosen and will be inducted,” said Denny Grisdale, who played on the championship team.

“But it’s also humbling because we’re going to be joining players and teams who were considered great in their time.”

Grisdale said he learned of the news about six weeks ago but stayed mum until all of the surviving members of team were informed.

“Four of the players have passed on now. But the remaining ones and their families I understand will be at the ceremony in Langley,” he said.

Alberni beat the Sault Ste. Marie Gunners in three straight games out of best of five series for the Senior A crown in April of that year in Port Alberni.

The games against the Sault weren’t challenging, Grisdale said. But the lead up to the final was. Alberni beat the Vancouver Cloverleafs first for the B.C. title, then the Edmonton Town Hallers for the Western Canadian title.

Grisdale said the final game against Vancouver stands out the most. Alberni’s Ron Bisset scored with seconds to go to give the Athletics a 58-57 victory in overtime.

The series against Edmonton stands out for another reason. “They used some football players to rough us up but we got through that and won,” Grisdale said.

There was some celebrating to do after the win against the Gunners, Grisdale said. “There was a parade, open convertibles and we had a big dance at the Athletic Hall. It was really something.”

The town had been two cities then, but both Alberni and Port Alberni revelled in the win. “I often think that was one of the first things that contributed to the towns ultimately amalgamating,” he said.

“It’s an experience – a fellowship – that I’ll never forget.”

Alberni wasn’t some hayseed team from a small town that took people by surprise. The Athletics played against some American teams, even playing host to former NBA great Elgin Baylor. Some Alberni players played on the Lower Mainland.

“We were well known. People knew who we were,” Grisdale said.

Alberni had the total package: Joe Samarin’s nimble footwork, Ron Bissett’s deft shooting, Doug Brinham’s jump shots and Al Brown’s magician-like play-making.  But key to the team’s win was coach Elmer Speidel.

Elmer Speidel

“He introduced us to the jump shot, fast break and conditioning,” Grisdale said. “And he had simple plays and a system that was easy to understand.”

Speidel was brought to Port Alberni in 1953 from Seattle, where he played both collegiate and semi-pro basketball. Those assets combined with a competitive spirit made Speidel just the coach the Athletics were looking for.

“I was brought here to win, that was my job. We put a winning team on the floor and achieved what we set out to do,” Speidel said.

Speidel brought the Athletics to the Western Canadian final in 1954 but lost to Winnipeg three games straight. “The refs hosed us in that series,” he said. “The boys deserved better than that. They deserved to win.”

Speidel coached from 1953 to 1965 and retired from coaching after that. Grisdale retired from Senior A ball as well in 1964. “I got into teaching and high school basketball. But you get old and you move on in life,” Grisdale said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

 

Just Posted

Three people deemed heroes after rescuing another in fiery crash on B.C. highway

Two people taken to hospital following head-on collision near Port Alberni

Crews mopping up after burning field Beaver Creek near Port Alberni

Firefighters from three departments, aerial support battled large grass fire

Port Alberni prepares to welcome hundreds of Indigenous youth delegates

Gathering Our Voices event will take place in the Alberni Valley from March 19-22

Beaver Creek club looking for name for new park

The Beaver Creek Community Hall is holding an online contest

Franklin Expedition exhibit opens at Alberni Valley Museum

Echoes in the Ice: Finding Franklin’s Ship runs until June 8 in Port Alberni

VIDEO: RCMP ask kids to help name soon-to-be police dogs

13 German shepherd puppies will be born this year

Horvat scores 16 seconds into OT as Canucks beat Blackhawks 3-2

Pettersson sets rookie scoring record for Vancouver

No injuries, pollution in Vancouver Harbour ship collision: Transport Canada

Transportation Safety Board says it has deployed a team of investigators look into the incident

Budget 2019: Five things to watch for in the Liberals’ final fiscal blueprint

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will release the Trudeau government’s final budget on Tuesday

New concussion guidelines launched for Canada’s Olympians, Paralympians

The guidelines will be in effect at this summer’s Pan American, Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru

Alphonso Davies doubtful for Canada game against French Guiana in Vancouver

Canada will be without injured captain Scott Arfield and veteran Will Johnson

Watchdog called after man who yelled racial slurs at B.C. vigil hurt during arrest

BC RCMP say man was ‘acting suspiciously’ at prayer vigil for victims of New Zealand mosque shootings

NDP’s Jagmeet Singh steps into the House of Commons, making history

Burnaby South MP becomes first visible minority to lead a federal party in the House of Commons

Most Read