Ultimate Frisbee History in Canada
“The strongest among the weak is the one that doesn’t forget their weakness”
Ultimate made its first International appearance at the 1975 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto. This was the beginning of introducing ultimate Frisbee to Canadians in the way of demonstrations added to the other tournament events. Canadian Open tournament co-director Ken Westerfield would organize and play in these early demonstrations with some of the ultimate founders (Johnny Appleseeds) from New Jersey, who were there to compete in the other events at the Canadian Open. Westerfield also played ultimate while competing in the mid-1970s at U.S. Frisbee events on the East Coast and touring team league ultimate in California’s NCUFL (1977-78). In 1979, retiring from competing in U.S. and Canadian national freestyle, disc golf and over-all competitions, Westerfield continued to organize Frisbee show tours and disc competitions in Canada. Because of Ken’s love of ultimate, began organizing ultimate Frisbee events in Toronto. In 1979, Westerfield with the help of Irwin Toy’s CFA director Bob Blakely and Chris Lowcock created the Toronto Ultimate Club.
Westerfield started weekly ultimate pick-up games on Kew Beach with beach freestylers Patrick Chartrand, Stuart Godfrey and Jim Lim, then sent team participation invitations to Wards Island, West Toronto, North Toronto and his own team Beaches. These were the first four teams with each team taking turns hosting Wednesdays weekly league game nights at their home locations. The league starting night was at Kew Beach. Westerfield, using Bob Blakely’s office copy machine and mailing facility at Irwin Toy, would produce a weekly newsletter highlighting the games and scores for each team as well as their league standings through the playing season. The Toronto Ultimate League developed and was renamed the Toronto Ultimate Club (TUC), that now has 3300 active members and over 250 teams playing the year round. This was the first ultimate league in Canada and now one of the world’s oldest. The Toronto Ultimate Club became a founding partner for the Toronto Rush, the first Canadian professional ultimate team in the AUDL.
Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
At Willows Beach in Victoria, Scott Lewis and a group of friends started regularly playing a game of their own invention they called Frisbee Football. In 1974-76, early Frisbee sports promoters Jim Kenner and Ken Westerfield, sponsored by Irwin Toy, (Wham-O licensee for manufacturing Frisbee’s in Canada), presented the West Coasts first disc sports competitions on Kitsilano Beach. In 1977, Ken and Jim hosted a Wham-O/ Irwin sponsored NAS overall tournament that brought all the best disc throwers in the world to Stanley Park. In 1979, the very first game of ultimate in B.C. was played as part of a multi-disc sports tournament at Kinsman Gorge Park in Victoria. In 1982, the Victoria Flying Islander became the first ultimate team in the province. 1982 saw the beginning of regular weekly pickup games at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver, culminating on the weekend of June 29-30, 1985 when the first ultimate tournament in western Canada, held at Jericho Beach, featured two Vancouver teams plus one each from Victoria and Calgary. The Vancouver Ultimate league began in 1986.
Marcus Brady and Brian Guthrie are the founders of the Ottawa summer league (1986), Ottawa competitive ultimate and the No Borders tournament. After Marcus played around with discs at Glebe Collegiate, he went on to start an intramural Ultimate program at McGill University. He returned to Ottawa and played pickup before starting the Ottawa Carleton Ultimate League Thing (OCULT) with Brian Guthrie and members of five teams. Brian started playing the game in the mid to late 1970s in Kingston and Toronto. In 1984 he began to play pickup in Riverside Park, befriending Marcus. In 1986, the two went on to organize the first Ottawa summer league of five teams, with the first captain’s meeting being held in Brian’s living room. Marcus was the tournament director for the first annual Canadian Ultimate Championships, held in Ottawa at St Paul’s University in 1987.
Jean Luc Forest and Mike Jones were the co-founders of Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports. MODS became the first Canadian Ultimate Organization to incorporate in Feb of 1988. MODS was also the first to achieve Provincials Sports Organization status. Jean-Luc shared his passion of disc sports with his communities, and during the time of his individual accomplishments, he was first introduced to Ultimate in Toronto in the early 80s. In the Summer of 1987, Jean-Luc and Mike Jones organized a Winnipeg team to attend the first Canadian Ultimate Championships in Ottawa. Knowing this was an invaluable opportunity to bring crucial national tournament exposure to a core of Winnipeg players, and in turn strengthen the disc sports community in Winnipeg, they built a team. The stage was set for Mike, Jean-Luc and his brother Pierre’s longstanding vision of galvanizing a disc sports community in Winnipeg. By the Fall of 1987, Jean-Luc and Mike were determined to create an organization that would support the future of Disc Sports in Manitoba. That Winter Jean-Luc and Mike were the principle architects behind the drafting of the constitution which established the Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports. MODS’ Winnipeg Ultimate League began as a league of four teams at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg. These early years of the Winnipeg Ultimate League set in motion a series of tremendous accomplishments and growth.
Discraft, founded in the late 1970s by Jim Kenner and Gail McColl in London, Ontario, later moved the company from Canada to its present location in Wixom, Michigan. Discraft introduced the Ultra-star 175 gram disc in 1981, with an updated mold in 1983. This disc was adopted as the standard for ultimate during the 1980s. In 1991 the Ultra-star was specified as the official disc for UPA tournament play and today is the preferred disc for ultimate players worldwide. In 2011, the Discraft Ultra-star was inducted into the USA Ultimate Hall of Fame for Special Merit.
The first Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC) were held, for the open division, in Ottawa 1987. OCUA subsequently hosted 1993, 1999, 2002 and 2011 Canadian Ultimate Championships.
Team Darkside of Toronto won Canada’s first national ultimate championships in a close final against the Calgary Cynics. The Cynics would come back to win against Darkside in the 1988 Championships.
Ultimate Canada founded in 1993, serves as the governing body of the sport of Ultimate in Canada. It runs the Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC) and Canadian University Ultimate Championship (CUUC) series.
Furious George, based in Vancouver, British Columbia and Goat from Toronto, Ontario are two of the best ultimate teams to ever come out of Canada. See Jane Run in Toronto, 1987, was Canada’s first Women’s touring team and dominated national championships for many years. Furious George formed in 1995, were the open champions at 2002, 2003 and 2005 UPA Club Championships. They have also won ten Canadian Ultimate Championships: in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Furious won gold for Canada in 1998, 2004 and 2008 at the WFDF World Ultimate Championships, as well as comprising half of the gold medal co-ed Canadian National Team at the 2001 World Games in Akita, Japan. In 2011, Furious George was inducted into the Canadian Ultimate Hall of Fame. Canada has been ranked number one in the Ultimate World Rankings several times since 1998 in all the Ultimate Divisions (including Open and Women’s) according to the World Flying Disc Federation.
In 2013, as a founding partner, the Toronto Ultimate Club presented Canada’s first semi-professional ultimate team, the Toronto Rush, to the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). They went undefeated 18-0 for the season and won the AUDL Championships. In 2014, the Montreal Royal join the league and in 2015, AUDL added the Ottawa Outlaws. Ultimate has become one of today’s fastest growing sports. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted full recognition to the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) for flying disc sports, including ultimate.
Timeline of National Ultimate Developments in Canada.
1972-1985: Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Toronto and (1974-1977) Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships. introduced Frisbee and the beginning of competitive modern disc sports.
1975: Ultimate is played for the first time at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships on Toronto Islands.
1979: Toronto League started.
1986: Vancouver and Ottawa Leagues started.
1987: First Canadian Ultimate Championships – open division only.
1987: Winnipeg Ultimate League.
1988: Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports (MODS), first Provincial Sports Organization founded.
1989: Women’s Division added to Ultimate Nationals.
1991: WFDF World Ultimate Club Championships in Toronto.
1993: Canadian Ultimate Players Association begins.
1994: Juniors Division added to Ultimate Nationals.
1995: Masters Division added to Ultimate Nationals. First Annual University National Championships – open & women’s divisions.
1997: WFDF World Ultimate Club Championships in Vancouver
1998: Team Canada Masters wins first Gold Medal for Canada at Worlds (WUGC) – quickly followed by Gold in Mixed and Open. Since 1998, Canada has been ranked number one in the World, several years in all divisions, by WFDF World Ultimate Ranking.
1999: Mixed Division added to Canadian Ultimate Championships.
2002: First Canadian team to win USAU (UPA) Championship: Furious George (Vancouver).
2008: WFDF World Ultimate & Guts Championships in Vancouver.
2010: Canadian Ultimate Players Association changes its name to Ultimate Canada.
2011: Ultimate Canada Hall of Fame is created to honor pioneers, players and leaders in the sport.
2012: Junior Division at CUC splits from Mixed into Junior Open and Junior Women’s Divisions.
2013: The Junior Open and Junior Women’s divisions at CUC split away from the adult events competition turning CUC into a 7-day tournament.
2013: As a founding partner, the Toronto Ultimate Club presented Canada’s first semi-professional Ultimate team, the Toronto Rush, to the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL).
2015: WFDF World Ultimate Rankings by country. Canada is ranked number 2 out of 44 countries.
2015: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted full recognition to the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF), (of which Ultimate Canada is a member) for flying disc sports including ultimate.
Canada Ultimate Hall of Fame
Furious George (team)
Directory of Ultimate Frisbee Clubs across Canada.
Note: This information was referenced and time-lined from disc sport historical and biographical articles including U.S. and Canadian Disc Sports Hall of Fame inductions, Disc Sports Player Federations and other historical resources. This article was researched, written and compiled by Frisbee and disc sports historians. The history in this document may change as events and people are added. Linking or reproducing in whole or part is permitted. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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