The sport of squash was near life-support in early 2000 when a scattering of players were still found playing the game either at the Université de Moncton’s three north American courts or, for a select few with the right of access, at the Military Base’s sport recreation centre, where there was the only international sized court. Earlier days of squash joy and strong participation had long passed since the days of “Sneakers”, a popular sport club that was most active during the 70’s and early 80’s but which over extended financially and in spite of an active squash community closed in 1988.
It is fair to say that it was in 2003 under the leadership of City of Moncton’s iconic event director, Ian Fowler, along with the support of Mayor Brian Murphy and council that local squash enthusiasts were provided with a rebirth opportunity. The city offered up a part of the soon to be closed Dudd James arena as a location for a new squash club. Lead by Jim Morris, a group of dedicated squash souls worked arduously to develop a plan that would finally be approved by the committee in early January 2005 but not without the understanding that if this project went off course, everyone on the committee stood financially exposed. A $200,000 loan from the City along with $27,000 of member equity capital combined with ample volunteer sweat equity in the end made it all possible.
Jim Morris, our club’s founding president (2005-2013), was certainly the maestro in leading this project. Matt Goobie would effectively act as volunteer general contractor with an undivided attention to costs, details and, costs, if only to emphasize the later. Meanwhile the stoic John Redding (and our club’s 2nd president from 2013-2016) applied his most capable accounting hand to the ledgers as treasurer. Marc Lalonde served as secretary while Liam McGuigan, Marc Doucette and Darryl Nameth and many others helped build the coalition of new members. We would be remiss not to mention Frank Legacy who shortly after the Club’s opening moved to Calgary. Frank’s applied his high energy and good humor in painting wherever required all with the support of a small army of volunteers dedicated to the completion of our new Squash Moncton Club facility.
The club officially opened its doors May 8th 2005. It would have taken 17 years for Moncton to reacquire a squash club since Sneakers. As a 'member owed' club the day to day management and event organisation was dependent on the good will and endless enthusiasm of the players. The membership in the early years held steady at 90 to 100 players. The club was most active annually hosting numerous tournaments and attracting players from across the Maritimes. Visitors loved the ambiance and freedom that a social-minded and member owned club did offer. Most were envious of Squash Moncton members. The club stepped up “its game” in 2008 in hosting its first national tournament in the Women’s team championship and once again in 2010 with the hosting of the Men’s team championship.
In the fall of 2009 helped by a $10,000 funding grant from the National Coaching Association, the Club hired its first full time professional in Chris Hanebury who served diligently for two years. He was followed by the joyful and relentless Jan Prieditis (Coach) whose cheerful personality charmed many more newcomers to the game. This led to the doubling of club’s membership to the 200 range by 2015.
In the middle of the summer of 2015, the executive of Squash Moncton were met with a bid-opportunity that may well go down as the turning point in our club’s history; an invitation by Squash Canada to bid for the 2015 Pan-American Games ASB squash court complex that consisted of 3 state of the art singles court convertible into two doubles courts. Thankfully the club had just hired the most capable Ian MacGowan as its first administrator, and this retired UK vice-principal applied his talent to compiling together a RFP document with text coming from many members, all feverishly writing from various holidaying spots around the country. In the end an excellent proposal document was forwarded to Squash Canada.
Easily valued at over $300,000 these courts were available for $50,000 to the bid that would demonstrate the most impact on Squash in Canada as beneficiaries of these courts. While there were many attributes to Squash Moncton’s submission, it was undoubtedly the overwhelming support from the four Atlantic provincial squash associations that put our bid over all others. It was truly an Atlantic bid and in early September, Squash Canada informed Squash Moncton it had been retained as the winning bidder. Ecstasy all around probably best describes how all of the board, staff and members felt. Provincial Government officials led by local MLA Cathy Rogers also assisted in our receiving a $50,000 provincial grant toward the costs while the City of Moncton further extended its loan facility. Another $50,000 of capital was raised from the membership. The City’s Moe Belliveau, the late Ian Fowler’s replacement and club member, was never far in facilitating these supports.
The arrival of these new state of the art courts meant a total spending of near $200,000 to account for the upgrade of our facility. It doubled our capacity to six courts plus added international softball doubles just as this relatively new game was becoming a mainstay internationally. At the time of writing, Squash Moncton remains one of only two facilities in North America with two doubles softball courts. The momentum, publicity and the expanded capacity did lead to another 100 new members joining, putting the club well on a new growth path toward a 450 membership goal.
The game of squash is today thriving at Squash Moncton and this at all level; from its rapidly growing junior and adults programs to the retention of aging players taking up the less strenuous doubles game, the familiar sound of balls squashing, of heavy breathing and social intermingling remain distinguishing sounds that resonate energetically throughout the club.
Squash Moncton is primed for a rapid progression that will likely include the hosting of numerous national if not international events over the years to come. It started with the hosting the National Men’s team tournament in early January of 2017, a resounding success as it introduced Squash Moncton to some of the finest players from across the country. This was followed by the hosting of the top 6 men and 4 women Canadian players in a World doubles trials at June of 2017, again another resounding success with some of the best softball doubles played before members and large online viewership from across Canada. A group of dedicated parents also organized the hosting of the Jester junior summer camp that attracted some 22 youth from all four Atlantic Provinces for a week of squash with two national coaches on hand, another success.
Meanwhile the selected women’s team of Sam Cornett and Nicki Todd capture of 5th place at the Worlds doubles in Manchester England the following month meant that Squash Canada would achieve entry into the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Certainly this would be a fine and just reward for Squash Canada’s president Lolly Gillen, her board members and staff in taking a chance on a doubles initiative that would prove successful. Squash Moncton and its members were honored to have been part of this first doubles crusade.
After a six year of wonderful service to our Club, members bid a very warm and fond farewell to Coach Jan in August of 2017, he who along with his lovely wife Saane, headed off to new adventures in the Yukon where “Coach” was to assume the position of Territory Squash Professional. In turn and following a search process, club members welcomed a talented Andrew Mount (36) as its newest head professional thereby beginning a new chapter in our Club’s history.
We are proud to still be a 'member-owed' club with squash and squash players being at the heart of everything we do and everything we plan for in the future. As our membership continues to climb, club members, staff, board and newest president, Patrick Daigle, encourage everyone to come along, learn and enjoy of the game of Squash, and help shape the opportunities that lie ahead.
We look forward to updating this story over the years to come, with our members and the great game of squash as our focus.