History Of The Canadian Nationals

by Rob Dinerman

October 23, 2001  -When Jamie Bentley defeated WPSA colleague Scott Dulmage in late January '95 in a four-game match between two former champions(Jamie '89, Scott '87), he thereby became the final winner of the Canadian National Hardball Championships, an event that began in 1912 and wound up with 75 renditions.

Other than a break during the two world wars (1916-1919 and 1941-1945), the Canadian Nationals not only was held every year but combined with its U.S. Nationals counterpart to become the culmination of the hardball season. Especially in the second half of the twentieth century, the presence of the leading Canadian players in the U.S. Nationals became increasingly common, and the fact that the two events were often bunched on consecutive or nearly consecutive weekends in mid-February contributed to the psychological synergy between the two events.

This phenomenon presented itself in virtually every conceivable permutation. John Nimick gained so much momentum from winning the Canadian Nationals in '82 that no one could stop him when the U.S. event was held in Washington D.C. the following week, while Ned Edwards became so demoralized by his unexpected and convincing semi-final loss to Victor Harding in '81 that he never regained his equilibrium and didn't come close to fulfilling his top-seeded status in Detroit the following week, losing in the quarters to the unseeded Edgardo Alvarez. Both Victor Niederhoffer in '74 and Peter Briggs two years later were so galvanized by the upset losses they suffered in Canadian National finals they had been considered sure shots to win that the extra motivation spurred them to U.S. championships one week later, with Victor exacting revenge over his Canadian Nationals conqueror, Gordy Anderson, in Annapolis, while a chastened Briggs buzzed through the draw in Philadelphia without the loss of a single game.

Some players, like three-time champs and native Canadians Phil Mohtadi('76, '77 and '80)and Scott Stoneburgh('91-'93), reached their peak at the Canadian event and entered the U.S. tourney too exhausted or satiated to match this standard, while others, notably Charles Brinton, looked upon the entire season as a kind of ramp that led to what he regarded as the top of the mountain, the U. S. National championship. It is a tribute both to Brinton's perception and modesty in knowing that he could reach his true peak only once per year and to his ability to time precisely the attainment of that peak that he never won the Canadian Nationals (which he regarded as the final stepping-stone in his season-long pre-U.S. Nationals climb), yet managed to win the U. S. Nationals four straight times in the early 1940's.

In 1953, Earnest Howard parlayed his aggressive volleying style to become the first of four Canadians to win the U. S. Nationals (followed by the hard-hitting Colin Adair in '68 and '71, the fleet-footed Michael Desaulniers in '78 and '80 and the smoothly graceful Scott Dulmage in '88). All four of these men also won their home country's national squash championship-Howard in '53, Adair in '69 and '71, Desaulniers in '78 and Dulmage in '87, and the first three-named are joined by six Americans in their dual accomplishment of winning both titles in the same year, namely Beekman Pool in '32, Henri Salaun in '56 and '57, Sam Howe in '67, Anil Nayar in '70, Niederhoffer in '75 and Nimick in '82.

In addition, Mario Sanchez in '79 became the only Mexican to win both events in the same year and, for that matter, the only Mexican ever to win the Canadian Nationals. In addition to the foregoing, there are also four other Americans---Herbert Rawlings in the late 1920's, Neil Sullivan in the late 1930's, Ben Heckscher in the late 1950's and Steve Vehslage in the mid 1960's-who won both national titles at some point in their careers, usually only a year or two apart.

Many of the Canadian Nationals winners, especially from the late 1970's onward when professional squash started to seriously grow, would go on to become stars on the WPSA hardball tour, and it is a tribute to their staying power that even now, nearly seven years after this event made its curtain call in the mid 1990's, that a number of the last few Canadian National champions, including Stoneburgh, Dulmage and Bentley, are still very highly ranked on the current ISDA professional doubles tour that has enjoyed such recent success. The Canadian Nationals has a rich history that thoroughly permeated squash throughout the twentieth century, and its legacy continues strongly even today.

1912    K Molson                           1958    Henri Salaun
1913    P. MacKenzie                    1959    Henri Salaun
1914    L. C. Outerbridge                1960    Ben Heckscher
1915    G. H. Southam                    1961    Don Legatt
1916-1919    Not held                    1962    J. W. S. Chapman   
1920    L. C. Outerbridge                 1963    J. W. S. Chapman
1921    C. Peabody                        1964    J. W. S. Chapman
1922    C. Peabody                        1965    Robert Hetherington
1923    J. Labreque                        1966    Stephen Vehslage
1924    Capt. Gerald Robarts          1967    Sam Howe III
1925    Ralph A. Powers                1968    Steve Vehslage
1926    J.H. Chipman                    1969    Colin Adair
1927    Capt. Victor. A. Cazalet    1970    Anil Nayar
1928    Jay Iselin                            1971    Colin Adair
1929    Herbert N. Rawlins, Jr.    1972    C. Nancarrow
1930    A. Martin                        1973    G. Anderson
1931    A. Martin                        1974    G. Anderson
1932    Beekman Pool                1975    Victor Niederhoffer
1933    A. Martin                        1976    Phil Mohtadi
1934    E. Snell                        1977    Phil Mohtadi
1935    H. Martin                        1978    Michael Desaulniers
1936    C. H. Pooley                    1979    Mario Sanchez
1937    N. J. Sullivan                    1980    Phil Mohtadi
1938    H. Martin                        1981    Jay Gillespie
1939    H. Martin                        1982    John Nimick
1940    Hunter H. Lott                1983    Gil Mateeer
1941-45    Not played                1984    Brad Desaulniers
1946    J. L. Leibel                    1985    Alan Grant
1947    Joe Hahn                    1986    Paul Deratney
1948    Joe Hahn                    1987    Scott Dulmage
1949    J. L. Leibel                    1988    M Barber
1950    Ed Hahn                    1989    Jamie Bentley
1951    Henri Salaun                1990    M Barber
1952    Henri Salaun                1991    Scott Stoneburgh
1953    Earnest Howard            1992    Scott Stoneburgh
1954    Diehl Mateer                1993    Scott Stoneburgh
1955    Diehl Mateer                1994    M Leckie
1956    Henri Salaun                1995    Jamie Bentley
1957    Henri Salaun        


This first appeared on squashtalk.com

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