By Peter Zin
If Ryerson had a perfect sports shrine, it would contain these three elements: 1) all five stuffed Eggy heads, 2) a life-size portrait of Ryerson prez Claude Lajeunesse, 3) a bronze bust of Eddie Olchowy.
The mythic Rams’ heads give rise to Ryerson sports glory. The portrait of Dr. Claude gives our beloved president a rise. And Eddie Olchowy was the first president of our badminton club.
Yes, fellow students, we’re about to jump back int item to examine our badminton past. So, leave your inhibitions at the door, warm up your flux capacitors, and let’s take a trip…
The Glory Years, 1952-1965
It was on Feb. 22, 1952 when those cynics at the Ryersonian reported a “dying interest” in Sunday night badminton at Ryerson.
Enter Eddie “Mad Dog” Olchowy.
In October ’52, Olchowy took the helm of the badminton club, and in March of ’53, he purchased the club’s first trophies. Weeks later out of approximately 20 competitors, Don Little and Sue Hill emerged as the first trophy winners.
“Competition was pretty keen in those days,” recalls Little, the top player in the club in 1954. “I think I won the Triple Crown [that] year. I won the singles, men’s, and mixed [doubles].”
Olchowy’s trophies provided the spark, then it was time for the badminton club to catch fire.
In Sept. ’54, under new president Al Yarnell, the badminton club’s membership rose to over 70 members. Players had to wait an hour to play a game.
The surge of interest was quickly attributed to the Physical Training (PT) credits you could get with your membership. These credits counted towards your degree.
The credit seekers were beginning to wear out their welcome.
By the end of the month, Yarnell was forced to abolish the credit system to “find out just who was really interested in badminton.”
“People were getting credits for not doing too much,” Little said.
A $1 membership fee was then established, and order was quickly restored to the badminton club.
By October, Yarnell was replaced by Alec Burns. Burns promised mores games and listed his other interests and chess, singing, stamp collecting, and table tennis.
In February ’55, Ryerson defeated McMaster in its first badminton tournament at another school. But it was still considered a “club” thing because Ryerson’s badminton-ers were not recognized as a team.
“We could’ve won (as a team), or damn close,” says Little. “We were a very active club.”
The next five years saw Ryerson turn into a badminton powerhouse by winning three straight Ontario Intercollegiate Championships (1957-59).
The Dirty ‘70s
Ryerson’s badminton dynasty ended in 1965. After five years of mediocrity, the team took a turn for the worse.
At the beginning of the ’69 season, the always complimentary Ryersonian considered them to be “five out-of-shape, gimpy-kneed men who need much more practice.”
Then came 1972.
With the rise in popularity of cocaine and disco, badminton took a backseat at Ryerson.
Disrespect for the game hit epidemic proportions when 40 out of the 60 badminton racquets were smashed beyond repair. Another 19 were damaged by repairable. Only one racquet was left intact.
In 1974, the team lost three players to disciplinary problems.
In three columns for the Ryersonian in 1974, badminton enthusiast Norma Vale attempted to take the “bad” out of badminton.
“[Badminton] is a game without tennis’ snob appeal or glamour,” she wrote. “[Badminton] is not taken seriously by anyone except a small minority of hard-core devotees … those who find it hard to swallow the fact that badminton is a serious and thrilling game should be at the [next tournament].”
But vale soon fell victim to the declining morals of the dirty ‘70s.
“The style of stroking is the next thing to look out for,” she wrote in her last column. “A good player usually executes these strokes with a minimum of embellishments.”
In 1984, the badminton team was sucked into the fourth dimension and has not been seen since.
Okay, maybe they haven’t completely disappeared, but they still suck, right?