Releasing the short film on International Women's Day was a deliberate choice, said Anthony Wilson-Smith, president and CEO of Historica Canada.
TORONTO – Kay MacBeth was just a baby when the Edmonton Commercial Graduates won the world championship title in 1923, but by the time she joined them at age 17, the team – known as the Grads – had been dominating women’s basketball for more than a decade.
When they played their last game in 1940, the Grads had been national, North American and world champions for 17 years and following men’s rules – rather than the more restrictive “ladies’ rules” – for about as long. The women, who ranged from their late teens to their 40s, won 93 per cent of their games, making them the most successful sports team in Canadian history.
The club is once again in the spotlight, this time as the focus of the latest Heritage Minute – a 60-second film highlighting key moments in Canadian history – being released Wednesday.
MacBeth, the team’s lone surviving player, said the Grads, who at one point would be recognized by strangers on the streets of Edmonton, weren’t in it for the fame.
“It was a great life but there’s nothing like the fine points of the game – that’s a thrill,” the 95-year-old said in a recent interview in Toronto, where she now lives.
Releasing the short film on International Women’s Day was a deliberate choice, said Anthony Wilson-Smith, president and CEO of Historica Canada, which produces the Heritage Minutes.
“I do think that for young women or teenagers playing sports, here’s another set of role models to look at and say, ‘Oh we’ve really been good for a long time,”‘ he said. “This is a really uplifting story about a great achievement that some Canadians are very familiar with, primarily in Alberta, and a lot of Canadians don’t know more about and should.”
In the new video, set in 1923, the Grads challenge the Cleveland Favorite Knits for the title of world champions, an honour they had bestowed on themselves without playing the Edmonton team. After two games, the Grads won by a combined score of 53-33, marking the beginning of their reign.
MacBeth, who played what was then called a left light point guard, joined the team in 1939 for the last two seasons. At five feet four inches tall, she was known for “being fast and good playmaker and not a ball hog,” she said.
“Any time the ball was in our hand, I pretty much started it.”
But MacBeth didn’t always love the sport, initially preferring to play baseball after a disappointing experience with women’s basketball under the sport’s ladies’ rules, she said.
“That was the worst thing you could ever want to do. You could only stand on one spot on the court, one area of the court – the centre stayed in the middle, the guards on one end and the forwards on the other end. You could only dribble once,” she said.
“I lasted one game, it just was too boring.”
She rediscovered basketball at age 13 after the switch to men’s rules, and turned pro only a few years later.
Though the youngest player on the Grads by far – the one closest in age was five years older – MacBeth said the teammates grew close and stayed in each other’s lives even after the Grads disbanded in 1940.
“It was a crying session at our last dinner anyway, everybody was upset to some degree,” she said. “We decided we’d meet every three years somewhere in Canada, which we did until everybody had become either ill or too far away … The last reunion was sometime in the 80s.
While basketball still holds a place in her heart – she can still do a layup – MacBeth said she’s disillusioned with the sport’s evolution.
“I haven’t really watched much this year really at all,” she said. “I really got fed up with the way they were playing so dirty. I just don’t think it’s a game. And they palm the ball all the time! It’s not the same.”
- Manitoba to reform child-care system, spend $6.2M to add more space
- Young women fill House of Commons on International Women’s Day
- Harford Tech jumps out early, cruises past Fallston in boys basketball playoff
- Dennis Rodman Tries To School West Point Cadets On Kim Jong Un
- Women’s march in Edmonton sees rise in resistance due to Trump
- Northwestern starts slowly, but rolls past Southwestern in City girls D-II championship
- No. 3 Kansas closer to Big 12 title with win at No. 4 Baylor
- No. 25 Notre Dame beats N.C. State for fourth consecutive win
- Chris Webber, Rollie Massimino among the Hall of Fame finalists
- Westbrook, Durant all-star reunion off to awkward start
- Canada's Murray wins MVP, leads World Team in Rising Stars Challenge
- MTA track worker coaches kids in basketball after night shift
You might also like
- Housing affordability: Is it time to move to Adelaide?
- Postal worker believed he would never see family again, kidnap trial told
- Latest: Tragic deaths not the first time O'Brien family devastated by fire
- Geri Horner has paid such a moving tribute to George Michael
- Hawaii becomes first US state to sue over Donald Trump's revised travel ban
- 31 dead as fire ravages youth shelter in Guatemala
- WhatsApp is letting a handful of startups test its business chat tools
- Pinterest is buying Twitter cofounder Biz Stone’s human-powered search engine, Jelly
- Uber has hired recruiting giant Heidrick & Struggles to find a sidekick for embattled CEO Travis Kalanick
- Here's how the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill could become law
- US troops seem poised to take a prominent role in attacking the ISIS capital
- The Marine Corps' nude-photo-sharing scandal is even worse than first realized
- Powerful South Carolina political consultant implicated in indictments of a veteran state senator
- Will Donald Trump get a second Supreme Court nomination?
- "Hazing" rituals await Supreme Court's "junior justice" Neil Gorsuch
- The hunt is on for Planet Nine. Here's how to join it
- Trump approves controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline
- Trump praises 'Fox & Friends,' renews old feuds in early morning tweets
- Rex Tillerson finally answers question from NBC News' Andrea Mitchell
- First Read's Morning Clips: The Latest in the Russia Investigation
- Spicer: 'I've let the president down'
- Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday
- OMB Diriector Mick Mulvaney: Washington's 'a lot more broken' than Trump thought
- Trump attacks conservatives over failure of health care bill
- A very consequential week didn't go well for President Trump
- Health Care Showdown: Republicans look to go big or go home
- No deal on health care bill after conservatives meet with Trump
- CA gov on those supporting health bill: 'Their name is going to be mud'
- Give it to me straight, doc: Is Obamacare dying?
- First Read's Morning Clips: Waiting for CBO
- 14 People Share What's It's Really Like to Have An Ex Who Is Now Their In-Law
- The Internet Is Freaking Out About The Way This Chef Cuts Pizza
- Malala Yousafzai becomes honorary Canadian
- Text of Malala Yousafzai's speech Wednesday to a joint session of Parliament
- Controversy over video comparing abortion to Holocaust shown in Catholic high school
- Foul play not suspected in deaths of four people found in burning N.B. house
- Plans to bring high-speed internet to remote First Nations with 3,600 km cable
- Deadly wrong-way collision kills four in Quebec
- Gov. Gen. David Johnston reflects on Vimy and horrors of war
- Canadian accused in Yahoo hack denied bail, judge criticizes parents
- Attention, Gardiner commuters: You've got one more week to use the York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp
- Alleged hitman in brazen Toronto shooting sent message about 'contract killing,' Crown says
- After 6 suspected overdoses, Toronto councillors want amnesty for users who test drugs
- How do you fix child care in Toronto? Get all 3 governments to spend billions on it, report says
- Review of York Region District School Board finds 'culture of fear,' 'systemic discrimination'
- Peel school board steps up meeting security 'to ensure people are safe'
- 'The feather and the Bible were together': A tragedy is helping to mend a city's racial divide
- 5 things we learned about the changing nature of news from The National in Conversation
- 'We hear you': Sudbury city official says cyclists, pedestrians will have a voice at city hall
- Any cuts made to Saskatoon's budget may be permanent, city manager warns
- Council approves demolition of low-rental housing for college residence
- 'It's just not a strong signal': Residents in rural P.E.I. asked to test their internet speed