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Three individuals and one team have made P.E.I. sporting history.
John Bowness, Gerry Hopkirk and the late Myron Weeks, along with the 1989 Westisle Composite High School senior boys’ team, were the inaugural inductees into the Volleyball P.E.I. Hall of Fame.
“To honour the tradition of where volleyball has come in 60 years is great,” Peter Bolo, head coach of the 1989 Westisle Wolverines, told the Journal Pioneer. “A lot of times people just see the here and now type of thing, but there is quite a tradition of excellence that goes way beyond.”
The Volleyball P.E.I. Hall of Fame was established to formally recognize athletes and coaches who have demonstrated outstanding performance in the sport on P.E.I. The well-attended ceremony took place as part of the recent Volleyball P.E.I. Awards Gala in Summerside.
“Just look at this,” said Hopkirk looking around the room. “It’s amazing.
“My granddaughter (Ella Hickey) is here and she plays volleyball, and she already has been to two national championships. There are lots of opportunities for people now.”
“To honour the tradition of where volleyball has come in 60 years is great. A lot of times people just see the here and now type of thing, but there is quite a tradition of excellence that goes way beyond.”
-Peter Bolo, head coach of the 1989 Westisle Wolverines
Hopkirk, a six-foot-three power hitter, was part of three championship teams at Summerside High School, before captaining the Mount Allison Mounties to consecutive Atlantic University Sport championships in the late 1960s.
“Our high school coach, a fellow by the name of Charlie Ballem, really got things started,” said Hopkirk. “When I was in high school, there was a 12-team men’s league in Summerside.”
Hopkirk noted, including himself, there were five players from Summerside on the Mount Allison team that attended the first Canadian university championship. The others were Bill Bishop, Mike Sheen, Bryan Scully and Scott Linkletter.
“(Volleyball) has been a big part of my life,” he said. “Volleyball has always been great on P.E.I.”
After graduating from Mount Allison, Hopkirk did post-graduate studies at Dalhousie in Halifax, where he led the Fairview Aces to consecutive Atlantic titles. The winner advanced to Volleyball Canada’s national championships.
Hopkirk moved to Charlottetown, and became player-coach of the Charlottetown Mic Macs, who would win two more Atlantic crowns. He organized a competitive tour of England for the Mic-Macs in 1973.
“Our two-week trip to England was wonderful,” said Hopkirk. “We played eight matches, won seven and just had a wonderful time.”
Hopkirk was praised for setting the bar for volleyball achievement on P.E.I., but he is quick to credit his teammates for his success. He emphasized volleyball is a team game.
“Volleyball is a game that is a little different from others,” explained Hopkirk, who now resides in Charlottetown. “You can’t be good at all without great teammates.”
Bowness served as Kensington Intermediate-Senior High School (KISH) athletic director for 32 years.
“When I first came to Kensington in ’71, I came right from university and I was a football, soccer, hockey guy,” commented Bowness. “All of a sudden, when you go to a small school, you are responsible for doing everything.”
That included coaching volleyball, which Bowness admittedly knew nothing about upon his arrival. However, it didn’t take him long to learn.
The Bowness-coached Torchettes would win 16 P.E.I. School Athletic Association senior AA/AAA volleyball titles, including a stretch of 13 in 16 years.
“I had the old Ford van and everyone in Kensington used to call it the ‘Green Machine,’” recalled Bowness. “It was a six-seater and back then we never left Kensington without 13, 14 people in it. You would never get away with that now, but that’s what we did back then.
“I always had the girls dress up for road games, and be proud of where they were from.”
Bowness started the KISH Volleyball Extravaganza tournament, which will celebrate its 45th anniversary in September 2019. To further illustrate his legacy, KISH introduced the John Bowness Achievement Award in 2003, one year following his retirement.
The award is presented to a student who shows dedication, determination and enthusiasm for sport.
Bolo described Weeks as the “grandfather of volleyball on P.E.I.”
The Fredericton, P.E.I., native has been credited with introducing and playing a crucial role in the development of the sport in Canada’s smallest province.
“The fact that he was an original volleyball player on P.E.I. was important to him,” Blair Weeks of his late father. “The fact he took so many players to national championships, and always made sure teams from P.E.I. went to nationals was important, and he did that a lot.”
Myron was part of a three-man team that started playing volleyball at the YMCA in Charlottetown in the late 1950s, and his career as an athlete, coach and referee spanned five decades and attended over 35 national championships.
“It was a passion for him,” said Blair. “It was the one thing that was most important to him of anything. . . He was proud of the fact he helped a lot of kids have a lot of fun, and they got to play at a competitive level.”
Myron also influenced a young coach by the name of John Bowness.
Blair noted his father took pride following his eight children in the sport of volleyball as well.
“We all played some volleyball for him,” added Blair. “He coached pretty much us all at one point through the years.”
1989 Westisle Boys
The Westisle Wolverines entered the 1989 season with high expectations. They did not disappoint.
“We had won the provincials the year before with nine of those guys, and they were 30-3 (won-lost) that year,” explained Bolo. “We wanted to challenge them, so we planned a big tournament in Ontario and stopped in Quebec. The thing with these guys was the quality of teams that they beat.”
The 1989 Wolverines posted an overall record of 47-1, including a 12-0 record in P.E.I. School Athletic Association league regular-season league play. Westisle would sweep its provincial semifinal and final matches.
Members of the 1989 Westisle senior boys’ team:
- Dana Betts
- Scott Harper
- John Keefe
- John Ellsworth
- Glenn Ford
- Jason Gallant
- Curtis Oliver
- Late Roger O’Halloran
- Glenn O’Halloran
- Charles King
- Lorne MacKendrick
- Coach Peter Bolo
Of all 47 wins, they won all except one in two straight or three straight sets and the average score was 15-6.
The Wolverines, who had five players represent P.E.I. in volleyball at the 1989 Canada Summer Games, won the Westisle Wolverine Classic, along with tournaments at Three Oaks, Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro, N.S., and defeated highly-touted Ontario schools en route to becoming the first Island team to win the Dalhousie tournament.
“They were just an exceptional group of young men, and great representatives and ambassadors for Prince Edward Island as well,” said Bolo, whose Westisle teams won 17 championships and appeared in 27 provincial finals.