1955 was an exceptional year for the Alberni Athletics Senior A men’s basketball team. When the Alberni A’s swept to victory at the Canadian senior basketball championships on home turf, it was sheer pandemonium in the twin cities of Alberni and Port Alberni as the fans went wild.

The momentum started in the 1949-1950 season as the team grew from strength to strength beginning with Harry Kermode, followed by George “Porky” Andrews and then Elmer Speidel as coaches. The off-court leader of the organization, who made Alberni the centre of basketball, was Fred Bishop.

In 1953, the A’s won the Vancouver Island and BC championships, beating the Raymond Union Jacks from Alberta. In a memorable 1954-55 season, the Alberni A’s defeated the Victoria Orphans for the Vancouver Island title, then triumphed over the Vancouver Clover Leafs for the BC title with a heart stopping 58-57 overtime victory. Their rampage continued when they overpowered the Edmonton Towne Hallers for the Western Canadian title. The crucial win advanced them to the Canadian Senior A men’s basketball championship.

The date was April 1955. The team was the Sault Ste. Marie Gunners against the home-town favourite A’s. It was to be the best three out of five games. A young Jim Robson conducted the play-by-play. The A’s took the first two games and when it came down to the third, coach Speidel’s strategy combined with “Jumping” Joe Samarin’s footwork, Ron Bissett’s shooting style, Doug Brinham’s jump shots and Al Brown’s play-making to give the Alberni Athletics their winning edge. They overcame the Gunners by a score of 91-64. Elmer Speidel netted 78 points in the three games, sharing top scoring honours with Joe Samarin, who captured 26 points in the final game. It was a clean sweep by the A’s.

With the fans’ enthusiasm and the community’s undying support, April 15, 1955 was a day the Alberni Valley would remember for years. The Athletics had realized a dream for both their community and for all British Columbians.

Team Members:
Ron Bissett, Fred Bishop, Doug Brinham, Al Brown, Joe Buchanan, Neil Desaulniers, Denny Grisdale, Johnny Groholski, Harry Kermode, John Kootnekoff, Dave Mitchell, Joe Samarin, Elmer Speidel (playing coach), Laurie Veitch.