In its inaugural year, Powell River’s Sports Hall of Fame will induct one team and eight athletes who have had a lasting legacy. In the weeks leading up to the gala, taking place June 15 at Hap Parker Arena, the Peak will profile the inductees, giving more insight into their accomplishments and contributions to the fabric of the community.
Born in 1944, Ted Gerela moved with his family from Sarrail, Alberta, to Powell River when he was three. He loved sport of any kind, and soon distinguished himself as an award-winning athlete in any contest he entered.
In 1960 he was voted top sportsman at Brooks Secondary School and was described in a Powell River News article of that year: “Since grade seven [Ted] has actively and skillfully participated in any and every sport event. On the football field the opposition regards him as a menace, an all-star player to be feared. In basketball, hundreds of fans yell hysterically each time the fast, sharp-shooting man latches onto the ball. If their team is lagging all their hopes rest on Ted, and Ted always comes through. The same holds in volleyball and softball and in all divisions of track and field.”
At the urging of some family friends, Gerela moved to Spokane, Washington, the following year to attend Gonzaga Preparatory School, a private institution renowned for its athletics programs.
“I went there to play sports,” said Gerela. “Gonzaga is a sports hub, you might say. That first year I excelled at track and field down there. I went to the state championship and competed against some of the best in Washington State.”
It was in his junior year that he began playing football. Spokane-based newspaper The Spokesman-Review recalled the 1963 Gonzaga Prep football team as one of the best in the school’s history.
“The team was led by fullback Ted Gerela, who came to G-Prep from Powell River, BC,” the paper stated. “The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Gerela was a grown man playing a boy’s game. They might catch Gerela and then he would drag them 15 or 20 yards down the field. They had to hit him five times before they could get him down.”
Gerela’s football skill won him a four-year scholarship to Washington State University. It was there he had something of an epiphany.
“That’s when I started my kicking, at Washington State,” he said. “I found out I could kick the football soccer style.”
The style of approaching the football from an angle and kicking with the instep of the foot, rather than head on and with the toes was rather new at the time. It is widely thought to have been brought to American football by Hungarian Pete Gogolak. The style proved hugely successful for Ted and he immediately shared the news with his brother, Roy, who went on to become a placekicker in the National Football League.
“When I found out I could kick soccer style, I called Roy and I just told him to go and try it and give it a shot and he did and from there he just blossomed,” said Ted.
During his time at Washington State, Ted was being noticed by the professional teams. According to an article by sports reporter Grant Kerr, not everyone was immediately aware of his talent:“The BC Lions, meanwhile, didn’t know about Gerela until another Powell River athlete, Williard Wells, brought the name to the attention of then minor football coordinator Denny Veitch.”
In the article, Veitch said: “We did a little research into the abilities of Gerela, and it was almost too good to be true.”
In 1967 Ted joined the BC Lions, establishing himself as a star player. He opened his first season by tying the Canadian Football League record of five field goals in one game, an achievement he made five times in his career. He was an accomplished long-range kicker and won the Dr. Beattie Martin Trophy as best rookie in the Western Conference in 1967. In 1968 he hit 30 field goals, which was a record for any professional league and also won the conference scoring title.Local football fans were filled with pride.
A Vancouver Sun article from the time reported: “Football fans in Powell River who watched the re-telecast of Monday’s BC Lions-Saskatchewan Roughriders football game found themselves turning to one another and ecstatically shouting ‘That’s our boy!’ more than once during the course of the game.”
Looking back on a lifetime of sporting achievements, Ted said he recalls his earliest sporting days most fondly.
“The best times, when I look back on it, was doing all the development work like playing soccer and all the sports in Powell River,” he said. “Soccer was just like a prelude to getting involved in other sports and how we got involved in football.”
Ted remembers many great athletes in Powell River during those years.
“But in order for them to excel and find out if they could compete, they’ve got to go outside of the community,” he added.
The chance to come back and be recognized in his hometown means a lot, he said.
“It’s a tremendous honour being inducted into Powell River’s first hall of fame,” he added. “I’m really looking forward to coming back and seeing all those faces that I haven’t seen in years.”
Reserved seating tickets for the inaugural gala dinner are available at Taws, 4597 Marine Avenue.