Leslie Adams, soccer and boxing
“My grandmother’s father was a great warrior and hunter, so she learned from that. When I was a little boy she used to rub squirrel feet on my feet asking our creator to pass the swiftness of the squirrels to me. She used to rub bear feet on my feet so when I walked I’ll be as strong as the bear. So I started to believe it.” ~ Leslie Adams
Tlesla Leslie Adams was born in 1936 in Tla’amin Nation. As a young man he learned traditional disciplines passed down through generations. He was raised by his grandmother, Sara Adams, who helped him build physical and mental strength.
Athleticism and sporting skill was a byproduct of this learning.
Soccer became a passion in the Sliammon community in the 1940s, according to Adams’ daughter, Grace, and her father watched his role models on the Sliammon Braves. He began practising with the senior men’s team at age 10. A broken ankle didn’t even prevent him from training; he just kicked with the other foot.
In addition to soccer, Adams excelled in boxing, track and field, gymnastics and baseball. He made it to the Bronze Gloves competition in boxing, and in 1955, was named soccer’s Golden Boy at the provincial Tournament of Champions, selected as the outstanding player of the entire tournament, which included more than 200 players. He was awarded the Vancouver Sun’s Rose Bowl trophy and was carried shoulder high by his teammates as hundreds of spectators cheered him through the streets when he returned to Powell River.
Adams played for Powell River’s U21 for the next two years and both years made the finals. He was named to the BC All Stars in 1955 and 1956.
Gino Bortolussi, track and field
“Apparently he was a very stylish runner to watch. He was said to have been very graceful. He looked like he was just floating down the track.” ~ David Bortolussi, Gino’s son
Born in Italy in 1919, Gino Bortolussi immigrated with his family to Canada in the early 1920s. He excelled at track and field and caught the attention of Powell River’s Martin Naylor, who represented BC in the Olympic trials in 1936.
Under Naylor’s guidance, Bortolussi set his sights on competing in the Olympics, but the start of World War II put those dreams on hold. He enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces and served in Italy and Holland from 1943 to 1945. During this time he distinguished himself at track and field events held during the war in Canada, England and liberated parts of Europe.
Bortolussi was the best Canadian Army sprinter two years in a row, excelling in the 100- and 200-yard dashes and winning for his regiment. The Powell River resident ran in the Aldershot meets against the best runners in the British Empire.
By the end of the war he had either beaten or held his own against many of the top sprinters in the world. His Olympic goals were still alive, but complications from a back injury suffered in combat eventually brought these dreams to an end.
Gino returned to Powell River and continued his involvement with track and field, coaching a number of local athletes into the 1960s.
In honour of his military service to Canada and outstanding athletic achievements, Bortolussi was inducted into the Canadian Armed Forces Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. He died in 1997.
Bob Crawford, hockey
“He found that sport was his saving grace as a kid from a really difficult life; that was why he gave so much to others. And he always had a soft spot for kids who were having a tough time.” ~ Ann Marie Milne, Bob’s daughter
Bob Crawford was born in 1941 and grew up in South Porcupine, Ontario. He first came to BC in 1960 to play for Powell River Rodmay Regals.
Other young players from South Porcupine had come to Powell River to work and play hockey. Crawford moved to the community in 1960, intending to earn money to go play hockey in Europe, but met his future wife, Coree, soon after arriving. The couple had three children and built a life and legacy in the community.
When he started playing for the Regals, his leadership qualities were evident. After coach Andy McCallum suffered a career-ending injury, Crawford took over the reigns as player/coach, guiding the team to the provincial championship in his first year and a Canadian championship the next.
He was also involved with coaching minor hockey at the same time, leading a group of young players through the ranks who made it to the midget provincials in the early 1980s. Some of those players he coached went on to international hockey careers; two played in the NHL.
Minor hockey increased in popularity after the Regals won the Canadian championship in 1969/1970. Crawford became head coach of the program and ran hockey schools.
Crawford was the first Regal to have his jersey (number three) retired; it hangs in the rafters of Hap Parker Arena.
Drew Ferguson, soccer
“As a kid you dream of being a fireman, policeman, hockey or soccer player. The fact that my goal was to be a professional soccer player when I was 10 and I made it at age 18, that was very rewarding.” ~ Drew Ferguson
Drew Ferguson fell in love with soccer at an early age. He also played volleyball and basketball, but dreamed of making soccer his career.
At 15 he participated in a soccer camp where the guest coach was Jackie Charlton, who won the 1966 World Cup with England. Shortly afterward, Ferguson was living with Charlton’s family and apprenticing with Leeds United, a professional club in England.
Ferguson signed his first pro contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps at 18. His career included stints with the Edmonton Drillers, Burton Albion, Buffalo Stallions, Cleveland Force, New York Cosmos, Chicago Sting, Hamilton Steelers and Cleveland Crunch. He was named MVP on three occasions.
Ferguson scored in the championship game at the 1977 Canada Games. In addition to representing his province, he was a member of the Canadian national team from 1985 to 1991.
His coaching career began while playing with Kitchener Spirit in 1990/1991. He has beenhead coach of Canada’s National Para Soccer Team since 2005.
Ferguson has delivered coach education courses, was a selector for a provincial team, general manager and head coach of Powell River’s soccer academy and technical director of Powell River Youth Soccer Association. He is a member of the national coaching certification program and was a contributing member to the development of the long-term player development model for athletes with disabilities in Canada.
Roy Gerela, football
“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.” ~ Ted Gerela, Roy’s brother
Roy Gerela spent his early years playing soccer in Powell River, where he and his siblings became known for their abilities in a variety of sports.
Gerela was often mentioned in the sports section of the Powell River News for his goal-scoring ability on the soccer pitch, and his talent for kicking would later translate into a career on the football field.
He moved to Hawaii, where he graduated from high school, then attended New Mexico State University. He was a punter and defensive back for the university, but in his senior year he discovered soccer-style kicking, which led to success at the professional level.
Houston Oilers drafted Gerela in 1969; the American Football League team selected him in the fourth-round. After spending two years with the Oilers, the first in the AFL and the second in the National Football League after the two leagues merged, he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers before the 1971 season.
Gerela led the NFL’s American Football Conference in scoring in 1973 and 1974, and earned Pro Bowl selections in 1972 and 1974. He became the first Canadian to win a Super Bowl in 1975 when Pittsburgh defeated Minnesota Vikings. He went on to win two more Super Bowl championships with the Steelers in 1976 and 1979.
He is the only Canadian to have won three Super Bowls.
In145 career games, Roy kicked 184 field goals and 351 extra point conversions.
Gerela has worked as a coach at the high school and college levels since retiring.
Ted Gerela, football
“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. Soccer was just like a prelude to getting involved in other sports and how we got involved in football.” ~ Ted Gerela
Born in 1944, Ted Gerela moved with his family from Sarrail, Alberta, to Powell River when he was three. He loved sports 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. Gerela moved to Spokane, Washington, the following year to attend Gonzaga Preparatory School. He excelled at track and field and went to the state championship. He began playing football in his junior year.
Gerela’s football skill won him a four-year scholarship to Washington State University, where he started kicking the football soccer style, which proved hugely successful.
During his time at Washington State, Gerela was noticed by professional teams, including the BC Lions, who were made aware of his talent by another Powell River athlete, Williard Wells.
Gerela joined the BC Lions in 1967 and established himself as a star player. He tied the CFL record of five field goals in one game in his first season, and accomplished the feat five more times in his career. He won the Dr. Beattie Martin Trophy as the best rookie in the Western Conference in 1967.
In 1968, he kicked 30 field goals, which was a record for any professional league, and won the conference scoring title.
Gary Lupul, hockey
“People appreciated his style and work ethic when he was in the league,” said Martin. “He was a fast skater and he tried hard.” ~ Corey Martin, Gary’s sister
Gary Lupul was born in Powell River in 1959 and excelled at any sport he tried, including hockey; he began playing at age five. He moved away at age 15 to play for the Nanaimo Clippers (BC Junior Hockey League) and then the Victoria Cougars (Western Hockey League).
He excelled at both junior levels and had his best year with the Cougars in 1978/1979 when he scored 53 goals and added 54 assists in 71 games. He represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Sweden that same year.
Lupul signed a free-agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks later in 1979, the same year the National Hockey League club held its training camp in Powell River.
In his first professional season, Lupul played for the Canucks’ affiliate in Dallas and scored in his first two NHL games when called up. He played seven seasons with the Canucks from 1979 to 1986, including an appearance in the 1982 Stanley Cup final; he scored five points in 10 playoff games that year, including a game-winning goal against the Los Angeles Kings.
In his NHL career, Lupul played in 293 games, scoring 70 regular season goals and 75 assists. The scrappy 5’9” and 175-pound forward also racked up 243 penalty minutes over his career.
Lupul died in 2007, but is remembered fondly as “The Pride of Powell River.”
Connie Polman Tuin, track and field
“I was always doing tons of events. When I went to a track meet I’d just be running from event to event.” ~ Connie Polman Tuin
Connie Polman Tuin showed talent in many sports, but a visit to the track at age nine set her on her future path. Her brother had joined track and field and she was asked if she wanted to join. Two weeks later she attended her first meet and placed fourth in the province in her first race.
At age 10, Polman Tuin won two provincial gold medals and tied the provincial record in long jump, earning her the BC Athletic Award for top athlete in her category. At 12 she broke five provincial records.
In 1976 she represented BC at the Canadian League Nationals and won gold in shot put. At 15 she was selected to represent BC at the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships.
A year later she won pentathlon gold at the Canadian Junior National Championships. At 17 she won bronze at the Pan American Junior Track and Field Championships.
In 1981 she was named BC high school athlete of the year, won the Canadian Junior Championships in heptathlon and represented Canada at an international meet in England.
In 1982, at age 19, Polman Tuin won the Canadian Junior championship in heptathlon and silver in 100-metre hurdles. At the Pan Am junior track and field championships she was champion in heptathlon, silver medalist in 100 metre hurdles, set a meet record and was named outstanding athlete. She placed eighth at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, that year.
In 1984, Polman Tuin represented Canada at the Los Angeles Olympics. She placed 16th in the two-day competition.
Polman Tuin currently coaches the next generation of track and field athletes in Powell River.
1969/1970 Powell River Regals, hockey
“When we finally played Val-d’Or, we knew it would be tough. Several of their players had played in the American Hockey League and they came on pretty strong.” ~ 1969/1970 Powell River Regals captain Rob Carmen
Powell River Regals came from behind to win the fifth game of a five-game series against Val-d’Or Olympic to capture the W.C. Hardy Trophy and become national senior hockey champions on April 21,1970. When the hands on the old clock at Willingdon Arena counted down the final seconds, the score was 5-3 for the home team.
Regals had won the first game, then lost the next two before tying the series with a game four win. The home team trailed 2-1 in the final game until Al McLean scored in the second period. With the crowd backing them, Regals then took over. Captain Rob Carmen gave the team the lead, making it 3-2 after 40 minutes.
With player/coach Bob Crawford serving a penalty early in the third period, McLean sent Dave Parenteau into the clear and the centre tucked the puck between the goaltender’s pads for what turned out to be the winner. The packed house went wild.
The rest of the period was pressure-cooked until 18:35 when Parenteau won a draw in Val-d’Or territory and slipped the puck to Carmen. He flicked a shot that deflected to George Chambers, who flipped the puck over the goalie’s shoulder.
Pandemonium reigned as fans realized Powell River was number one in the country.
On their way to the championship, Regals defeated Comox and Port Alberni to win the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey League championship. To capture the Coy Cup as BC champions, the team had to defeat Chemainus, Shmyr Flyers, Prince George and Kimberley.
Downing Lloydminister and Rosetown earned the green and gold the Edmonton Journal Cup as Western Canadian champions.
In all, the Regals played 26 playoff games during the magical run, winning 21.