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 has profiled all inductees, giving more insight into their accomplishments and contributions to the fabric of the community.
Born in 1948 in Sarrail, Alberta, and raised in Powell River, Roy Gerela spent his early years playing soccer in the community. The youngest of nine children, Roy, along with older brothers Metro and Ted, was well-known locally for his sporting abilities.
Powell River News reporter Don Moberg described the brothers in a 1969 article:
“Back in Powell River, the Gerelas were making quite a name for themselves, too. Rarely a week went by that some of the exploits of Ted or Roy weren’t recorded in the News. Often stories about Roy Gerela netting three goals, Ted Gerela scoring four or both boys teaming up to score all of Wildwood’s goals under the pleased eyes of Wildwood coach Mort Thorsell were on the News’ sports pages.”
Roy moved to Hawaii and graduated from Kalani High School in Honolulu. From there he went to New Mexico State University (NMSU), where he played football as a punter and defensive back. It was in his senior year when he discovered a talent for soccer-style kicking that set him on course for a lengthy and successful career in the NFL.
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. Roy’s brother Ted, who went on to a successful career in the Canadian Football League with the BC Lions, was the first in the family to try it.
“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,” said Ted, “and he did and from there he just blossomed.”
Roy became the first soccer-style kicker in NMSU history and his skill helped change the game's approach to kicking.
“It was still the age of the pioneer and people were still trying to figure it out and wondering if it was going to stick around, or if it was a fad,” said Roy in an interview with the Honolulu Star Bulletin in 2005. “More people took to it; now all these kickers now are soccer-style kickers.”
Roy went on to be a fourth-round draft pick in the 1969 American Football League draft by the Houston Oilers. He played for the Oilers that year, as well as during their first National Football League season of 1970. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers before the 1971 season, and quickly became popular with Steelers fans. He even inspired a fan club known as “Gerela's Gorillas.”
He led the NFL’s American Football Conference in scoring in 1973 and 1974, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1972 and 1974.
Roy became the first Canadian to win a Super Bowl in January 1975 when Pittsburgh celebrated a 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. He went on to win two more Super Bowl championship rings with the Steelers in Super Bowl X (January 1976) and Super Bowl XIII (January 1979), both victories over the Dallas Cowboys. He is the only Canadian to have won three Super Bowls.
Roy was released by the Steelers and played in three games for the San Diego Chargers the following season before an injury sidelined his career. With more than145 career NFL games played to his credit, Roy kicked 184 field goals and 351 extra point conversions. With 731 total points he ranks third on the Steelers' all-time scoring list, behind Gary Anderson and Jeff Reed.
Since his playing career ended, Roy has worked as both a high school and college football coach. In 2012, he became the head football coach of Gadsden High School in Anthony, New Mexico.
Other inductees to be honoured at the Powell River Sports Hall of Fame inaugural induction ceremony banquet include the 1969/1970 Powell River Regals hockey team; soccer and boxing athlete Les Adams; track and field pioneer Gino Bortolussi; hockey player Bob Crawford; soccer player Drew Ferguson; football player Ted Gerela; hockey player Gary Lupul; and 1984 Olympic track and field athlete Connie Polman Tuin.