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Earl Zukerman

MONTREAL — The 108th anniversary of the first Canadian university basketball game played in Canada will be celebrated on Feb. 6, 2012.

The first organized intercollegiate hoops contest was played in Kingston, Ont., between McGill and Queen’s on Feb. 6, 1904. McGill defeated the Golden Gaels 9-7 in overtime.

A brief newspaper account of the first hoops game was published in the Queen’s University Journal (Vol. 31, No. 7) on Feb. 16, 1904 as follows:

“The first of the Canadian Intercollegiate basket-ball matches was played on Saturday between McGill and Queen’s. It is to be hoped that this will become a permanent feature, for the more we brush up against our sister Colleges the more we will sympathize with each other.”

“An inter-collegiate basket-ball match, between Queen’s and McGill, was played in the YMCA gymnasium on Saturday, February 6th. McGill won out by the score of 9 to 7. There was a good attendance of spectators, as the game is quite popular among the students. The match was a good exhibition and was keenly contested. At half-time the score was 4 to 3, in favor of McGill. In the second half Queen’s played up and managed to tie the score. At full time the result was 7 to 7. After 10 minutes extra play McGill scored the winning goal. For Queen’s Warren did the most effective work, while A. Ross was the most conspicuous on the McGill team.”

That first McGill team, guided by coach C.B. Powter and team manager Mr. McKergow, was composed of B.H. Higgins, O.B. Keddy, A. Ross, C.W. Oliver, F. Shenkle and team captain Daniel Ross.

Basketball was invented James Naismith, a former football, soccer and gymnastics star at McGill, on Dec. 21, 1891. An inaugural inductee to the McGill Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, Naismith graduated from McGill among the top 10 in his class with a B.A. Honours in 1887.

Only 160 pounds, legends quickly grew about his strength and agility. As a sophomore in 1884-85, he volunteered to play centre in practice one day for an injured rugby-football player. Despite having never played the sport, he became an instant starter and did not miss a game over the next three years. In 1885-86 he won the Wicksteed silver medal as the junior class’s gymnastics champion at McGill. In his graduating year, he won the Wicksteed gold medal as the athletics champion of the senior class.

He later taught physical education and became McGill’s first fulltime instructor of athletics before accepting a position at the YMCA College in Springfield, Mass., where he devised the rules to basketball in 1891.

Naismith was a Presbyterian minister, a medical doctor, a physical educator and received 11 academic degrees. “He had a remarkable career — a career the likes of which probably no other Canadian ever has had,” said former classmate Rev. W.D. Reid in 1939.

A native of Ramsay Township near Almonte, Ont., Naismith was born on Nov. 16, 1861 and died in Lawrence, Kansas on Nov. 28, 1939.