In 1973, the Ottawa-Hull & District Squash Association (OHDSA) was formed by the Rideau Lawn Tennis Club, CFB Uplands, the Skyline Health Club and Vic Tannys.
The aims of the Association were “ 1) to promote squash activity in the National Capital Area (NCA), by providing free coaching clinics for the players of all calibers and by promoting inter-club competition and 2) to provide administration of squash in the NCA by organising and sanctioning NCA tournaments and by representation of the NCA to the Quebec Squash Federation”. Soon after this, its allegiance was altered to “Squash Ontario and the National Association”, and it worked closely with both organisations.
The Executive Committee of the Association was set up to include a President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Committee members responsible for orchestrating its Tournament, League, Officiating, Ranking, Women and Junior program activities. Additional members were added many years later, to run the ODSA Cup, and manage the website.
By 1975 the OHDSA had changed its name to the National Capital Squash Racquets Association (NCSRA), and in 1985, it changed again to Ottawa & District Squash Association (ODSA).
The Early Days
There were 9 league teams in 1973, and games were often played on hardball or hybrid sized courts, with many players being expatriates from countries (like the UK, Ireland, Australia, Egypt, India, and South Africa) where the soft ball (or international) game had prospered for decades. It was in 1973 that Ottawans were first treated to the highest calibre squash, when the legendary Hashim Khan played an exhibition match here.
The period from 1975 to 1985 marked the heyday of squash, as there was an explosion in the popularity of the soft ball game in Canada, and Ottawa was in the vanguard. In Ottawa alone, in the eight months to May 1977, 37 new courts were built, bringing the total to 65, of which 40 were of Internatioinal size, including 4 glass backed exhibition courts, with galleries seating 100-150 spectators. In this period, it was said, more International courts were built in Ottawa than in the rest of Canada combined.
The location of these courts included the Ottawa Athletic Club, Nepean Sportsplex, Greenway Glen, Rideau, and the All Seasons. The RA Centre opened courts in 1978, Club Laurier and Thunderbird in 1979, Queensview in early 80s (converted from racquetball), Sportheque in 1984, Cascades and Carleton University in 1985. Later, courts were opened in the University of Ottawa, Arnprior, Barrhaven, Cornwall, Deep River, Gloucester, Kanata, Osgoode, Petawawa, Smiths Falls, as well as in the “Y”, and in some hotels and apartment blocks.
Players, Championships and Exhibitions
With the courts came the players – world, national, and local stars, not to mention all the people new to the game. It was a thrilling time to be involved in squash, as Canada hosted 11 different World Championships between 1977 and 1984, and two of those were held in Ottawa. In 1977 the World Amateur Teams event was hosted at the OAC, All Seasons, Rideau and Greenway Glen clubs, while in 1982 the World Junior Women’s Individual event – 32 players – was held at the OAC.
In 1979, Geoff Hunt, the reigning world champion from Australia played an exhibition match at the OAC, against Bruce Brownlee of New Zealand, then ranked No. 7 in the world. In the same year, Heather McKay, unbeaten by any woman in the world for the previous 17 years, played an exhibition match against Vic Wagner, of Ottawa and one of Canada’s top players. Again in 1979, the NCSRA Summer Team tournament, played at the OAC, Rideau and All Seasons (shortly before it closed), attracted the Canadian and US teams, both preparing for the World Amateur Team event, held later in Australia.
In 1981 Greenway Glen hosted a World Women’s Individual warm up tournament, while a World Junior Women’s Team Invitational event was also played in Ottawa the same week-end. Every year from 1982 to 1989, Ottawa hosted either a National (6) or Provincial (2) Championship. Since then few majors have come to Ottawa, some of the last being the Canadian Junior Championships at Queensview in 1999, the Ontario Women’s Team events in 2008 and 2014 at the RA Centre, and the Canadian Men’s Masters event hosted by Sportheque in 2012.
League and Local Tournaments
League play has always been an important component of competition between clubs, and increased from the original 9 teams in 1973 to over 30 by 1979, and for the past few years, the number has remained steady around the 35-40 range. The Women’s League is run separately and has ranged between 30 and 80 players.
Clubs run in-house tournaments and ladders and many also run Open events, so that out-of-towners, as well as players from other clubs, can vie for the titles and be considered for teams going out of town to National and Provincial tournaments.
Since International squash returned to Ottawa, 14 different players resident in Ottawa, have played on more than 30 Canadian teams at World Championships, with several others playing at World Individual and PanAm events and other tournaments outside Canada. Many more have competed at National and Provincial tournaments in Canada, at senior and junior levels.
Ottawa has always had strong junior programs, supported by some dedicated coaches, parents, and organizers, at both the ODSA and club level. No Ottawa school offers a squash program, but, despite this, Ottawa club coached members have won 5 Canadian National, 17 Canadian Junior National, and at least 1 US National titles over the past 40 years. During the same period 12 players have also played on Canadian Teams at World Championships (several more than once). Others have won Provincial titles and come close at the National level.
The ODSA contributes regularly toward the cost of the junior programs, including team representation at Canada and Ontario Games, as well as to the expenses of tournaments for all ages.
The necessary coaching and development for players, at all levels, has been supplied by some excellent overseas coaches, like Aly Aziz, Andrew Dales, Gulmast Khan, Bryan Patterson, and Heather Wallace, and more recently, by David Morrish, Colin Whitney, Ian Woodhead, and Steve Wren. In addition, Ottawa has had many excellent Canadian trained coaches, both professional and volunteer, like Ron Hughes and Rene Denis, and others too numerous to mention.
Officiating has always been strong in Ottawa, with David Wilson ( an early Chair of the CSRA Officiating Committee and a National Referee), Tony Leadman and Larry Jones (Provincial Examiners) and Gary McNaughton (Provincial Instructor) leading the way in the 1970s and 1980s. Penny Glover, being a National Referee and Examiner and former Chair of Squash Canada’s Officiating Committee, has been the mentor to so many local referees. In 1980, Ottawa had 16 certified referees, and by 1989 there were 58. During the same period, Ottawa was the only Ontario Region, outside of Toronto, to have “A” level referees. More recently, Tim Birch-Jones, of Ottawa, developed an excellent on-line certification program for potential officials across Canada (https://www.coursepark.com/squashcanada)