Friday, April 30, 2010

Rainmakers to the Hall on Satuday

Saturday is enshrinement  day at the Basketball BC Hall of Fame and when the Class of 2010 is introduced two former Prince Rupert Rainmakers will take their place among the sporting greats of Basketball in British Columbia.

John Olsen enters the Hall on Saturday in the Builders category highlighting a lengthy association with the game that has marked most of his life so far.

The Vancouver Province's Howard Tsumara provides a look at the  many achievements that the 66 year old Rupertite has accomplished over the years, testimony to his love of basketball and his impact on the game on the local, provincial and University level.

Also sharing the spotlight on Saturday will be Luanne Krawetz (Hebb), another Rupertite and former Rainmaker who will join the honour roll in the athlete category.

The two former Rainmakers are the latest additions to the Baketball BC Hall of Fame, which has been celebrating basketball's past in British Columbia since the first inductions in 2003

The full Tsumara article, which also highlights the reign of the Rainmakers during the sixties is available on the Province website, and on the off chance the paper doesn't make it into Prince Rupert on a Friday, we provide it below.

Love of the game culminates in Hall 
Can't wait for Saturday 
By Howard Tsumura 
The Province 
Friday, April 30, 2010

In the mid-1950s, Prince Rupert was a city without a hockey rink, and the biggest dream a young boy could have was to play high school basketball for the Rainmakers.

So each day before dinner 12-year-old John Olsen would take the bottom out of a cardboard box, nail it to a wall and start to shoot, hoping one day to pull on the famed jersey of the local heroes.

 "The guys at Northern B.C. Power, which was just down the road from where I lived, they used to leave a light on outside so that I could play there after dark," recalled Olsen. "They also left a ladder there for me. So I used to shoot and shoot and shoot, and when the box was shredded, I'd climb right back up and bang on another one. My sister would have to come and call me when it was time for dinner."

 Like a young James Naismith nailing up peach baskets, Olsen knew the game would someday become his life.

And on Saturday, after a half-century spent enriching the fabric of the game in this province, the 66-year-old Olsen will be inducted as part of Basketball B.C.'s Hall of Fame class of 2010. "It wasn't even a basketball that I would use back then," Olsen said of his dimly-lit, back-alley shootarounds of his preteen days.

"It was probably a soccer ball. And the box might have been seven feet (off the ground). But what I remember most is just falling in love with the game."

From a playing career that included Boise State, UBC and the national team, to his work as both a builder and referee at Prince Rupert's annual First Nations tournament, to his stint as Basketball B.C.'s first president, Olsen has left a substantial imprint on so many facets of the game in B.C.

And as Olsen reflected on his early sporting days in Prince Rupert, the picture he painted was almost that of a small U.S. town, a place where basketball was literally the only indoor sport to play much of the year.

 "We didn't have a hockey arena, so no one played hockey and the soccer pitch was rained out all winter so we all played basketball," said Olsen. "I compare it to being on Team Canada in a small town.

"I think it was also an offshoot of the U.S. army being up there in the 1940s," he said. "They built two gymnasiums, including the Civic Centre, which is where I learned to play."

So talented was Olsen that he cracked the Rainmakers' senior varsity lineup as a ninth grader for the 1958-59 season under head coach Don Hartwig. The Rainmakers finished second at the B.C. tournament the next season and Olsen went on to become the only player in the history of the event to be named a B.C. first team all-star three times.

And what a team the Rainmakers were.

They travelled to Alaska for games, but gained their toughness by playing in the town's senior men's basketball league, where the physical play far outstripped anything they saw in high school games.

"We played against men, that was how we got ready," laughed Olsen, who routinely worked 16 to 18 hours a day in the fish-packing plants during his summer.

"They didn't want high schoolers beating them, and we got beat up pretty bad. But then when we got down to Vancouver, it was easy."

Olsen helped lead the Rainmakers to the 1960 championship final, a 69-52 loss to Vancouver College, as well as seventh and sixth place finishes the next two seasons, and those teams laid the foundation for the 1964 team, which remains the only team from the North B.C. West zone to ever win the provincial title.

Following high school, Olsen played two seasons at Boise State (1962-64) when the school was still a two-year junior college.

He then suited up under coach Peter Mullins for one season (1965-66) at UBC.

 "To this day, that is probably the most fun I have ever had playing basketball," said Olsen, who scored 21 points in his first start for the T-Birds, a win over the Montana Grizzlies at War Gym.

News of Saturday's induction has brought great memories flooding back.

 "This sort of feels like the completion of so many great things that have happened to me," he said. "I can hardly wait until Saturday." - - -

 HALL INDUCTEES Basketball B.C. will induct the following people into its Hall of Fame Saturday at the Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre:

 ATHLETES Greg Wiltjer, Bob Barazzuol, Jim Bardsley, Kelly Dukeshire, Gord Herbert, Luanne Krawetz (Hebb), Richie Nichol

 BUILDERS Mel Davis, John Olsen

 OFFICIALS Bill Crowley, Bob Ogdon TEAMS 1937-38 Vancouver Westerns (men), 1969-70 UBC Thunderbirds (women)

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