Forever rivals Firefighters FC and Columbus FC will meet again on a Sunday afternoon in Vancouver, albeit this time under much friendlier circumstances. On 24 March 2019, heroes from the two Organisations of Distinction will be inducted to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame as part of a special class of Past Canadian Players from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Jim Blundell and Gary Stevens of Firefighters FC as well as Bobby Smith and Gino Vazzoler of Columbus FC highlight the group of 12 honoured players that will be inducted to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame on Sunday 24 March during the Canada v French Guiana match at BC Place. During the 1960s, the four all-stars featured in one of the most heated rivalries in Canadian soccer.
Regina’s John Schepers will join Blundell, Stevens, Smith and Vazzoler as part of the group of five living members to be inducted as part of this special class on 24 March. The quintet are joined by seven other stars who will be honoured posthumously: Harry Phillips of Toronto, Bill Gill of Montréal, and Frank Ambler, Eddie Bak, Don Matheson, Bobby Newbold, and Jackie Whent of Vancouver. This expanded class honours players from an older era from well before the Hall of Fame was established. All 12 were stars for more than a decade in Canada’s biggest leagues from the 1940s through 1960s, notably the Pacific Coast League, the Western Canada League, and the National League of Ontario and Québec.
The Canada Soccer Hall of Fame will induct these athletes at half time of the upcoming Canada v French Guiana match. Tickets to the important home international match start as low as $20 (plus applicable fees) via Ticketmaster.ca or by phone at 1.855.985.5000. Group discounts are available by organising a group of 10 or more tickets, giving fans a discount of up to 30% off the regular price. There is also a special Me+3 ticket offer in Price Category 2 which gives fans four tickets for the price of three.
“Canada Soccer congratulates this group of honoured members who all made a positive impact on the game during a unique era of growth for our sport across the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s,” said Steven Reed, Canada Soccer President. “In honouring this group of stars, the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame ensures that their commitment, their achievements, and their passion for Canadian soccer is celebrated amongst the greats of the game in Canada.”
The Canada Soccer Hall of Fame celebrates the individual and team achievements and traditions in the game of soccer in Canada. Including this group of 12 players, the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame has welcomed 126 players, 13 players/coaches, 10 officials, and 40 builders as honoured members since 2000.
In all, 15 persons will be inducted to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame in 2019. Later this year, two Modern Canadian Players will be selected (one male, one female, to be honoured at future home international matches) as well as one non player (Builder, Coach or Referee, to be honoured at the Annual Meeting of the Members in May). Additionally, Canada Soccer will celebrate one Team of Distinction as well several Organisations of Distinction in 2019 (also to be honoured at the Annual Meeting of the Members).
FORTIES, FIFTIES, SIXTIES
Firefighters FC and Columbus FC took their turns winning three-straight Pacific Coast League championships, with the Firemen winning three straight from 1963-64 to 1965-66 and then the Italians winning three straight from 1968-69 to 1970-71. Their Sunday rivalry at old Callister Park was legendary with the two sides facing each other more than 40 times in league and cup competitions from 1961 to 1971.
While Blundell and Smith were briefly teammates at North Shore at the end of the 1950s, they led their respective rivals in goalscoring throughout the 1960s: Blundell for the Firefighters and Smith for Columbus. The duo won five of the league’s nine scoring titles from 1959-60 to 1967-68. Blundell scored the most Coast League goals for one team throughout the 1960s; Smith, meanwhile, led the decade in scoring and retired as the league’s all-time goalscoring champion.
Both organisations also won Canadian titles in the 1960s and 1970s, with Stevens and Vazzoler winning multiple titles. Stevens helped Firefighters win Canada Soccer’s Championship in both 1965 and 1973 while Vazzoler helped Columbus win it all in 1964, 1969, 1977 and 1978.
As for Schepers (pronounced SKEH-perz), he is rare player that has won titles in three separate provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan, and his hometown Manitoba. The former Canada international won a national title in 1962 and is still the only teenager to score a hat trick in the Canadian final. In the old Western Canada Soccer League – the first Canadian league that crossed three provinces – Schepers was the league’s all-time goalscoring leader.
Frank Ambler, Centre Forward from Vancouver, British Columbia (honoured posthumously) – a two-time Dominion of Canadian Football Championship winner and five-time Pacific Coast League winner; third-highest Coast League scorer in the 1940s and single-season record holder; scored more than 150 goals across his 16-year career.
Eddie Bak, Fullback & Inside Forward from Vancouver, British Columbia (honoured posthumously) – a joint-record five-time Canada Soccer Championship winner; a five-time Pacific Coast League winner, two-time Kennedy Cup winner, and nine-time all-star in a 12-year span.
Jim Blundell, Centre Forward & Inside Forward from Vancouver, British Columbia – a Canada Soccer Championship winner, five-time Pacific Coast League winner, and Kennedy Cup winner; two-time Coast League scoring champion and Firefighters’ all-time leading scorer in Coast League competition; scored more than 140 goals across his 13-year career.
Bill Gill, Goalkeeper from Montréal, Québec (honoured posthumously) – a Dominion of Canada Football Championship winner and one-time runner up; National Soccer League of Ontario/Québec winner; Most Valuable Player of the 1952 Canadian final; Canada goalkeeper for the 1947 Triner Trophy international competition against USA; a 20-year career in Montréal.
Don Matheson, Left Half & Inside Forward from Vancouver, British Columbia (honoured posthumously) – a Dominion of Canada Football Championship winner and two-time runner up; a six-time Pacific Coast League winner and eight-time all-star selection; Coast League’s Most Popular Player in 1950; a 17-year career.
Bobby Newbold, Goalkeeper from Vancouver, British Columbia (honoured posthumously) – a Dominion of Canada Football Championship winner and five-time Pacific Coast League winner; led or co-led the Coast League in clean sheets nine times and retired as the league’s all-time leader; a 15-year career with St. Andrews FC.
Harry Phillips, Centre Half & Forward from Toronto, Ontario (honoured posthumously) – a Dominion of Canada Football Championship winner and USA Dewar Cup winner; National League MVP and Tom Holland Memorial Award winner after his final year; finalist for Canadian Press Best in 50 Years soccer category in 1950 after an 18-year career.
John Schepers, Centre Forward from Winnipeg, Manitoba (residence in Regina, Saskatchewan) – a Canada Soccer Championship winner and three-time Western Canada League winner; MVP of the 1962 Canadian final; Western Canada League’s all-time leading scorer, four-time scoring champion, and one-time MVP; a 25-year career in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Bobby Smith, Centre Forward & Outside Forward from Vancouver, British Columbia – a two-time Pacific Coast League winner and two-time Kennedy Trophy winner; Coast League’s all-time leading scorer, three-time scoring champion; Columbus FC’s all-time leading scorer in Coast League competition; more than 180 goals scored across a 14-year career.
Gary Stevens, Fullback from Burnaby, British Columbia – a two-time Canada Soccer Championship winner and one-time runner up; a four-time Pacific Coast League winner and two-time Kennedy Cup winner; MVP of the 1966 Kennedy Cup finals and five-time BC all-star in successive seasons; a 13-year career with Firefighters FC.
Gino Vazzoler, Centre Half from Burnaby, British Columbia – a four-time Canada Soccer Championship winner and one-time runner up; first centre half to win four Canadian titles; a three-time Pacific Coast League winner as well as a BC Premier League and BC Soccer League winner; a 20-year career with Columbus FC.
Jack Whent, Left Half & Forward from Vancouver, British Columbia (honoured posthumously) – a Dominion of Canada Football Championship winner and North American Championship winner; a one-time Pacific Coast League winner; finalist for Canadian Press Best in 50 Years soccer category in 1950 during a 16-year career in Canada, USA and England.