By René Denis – The end of the road for the Ottawa AC

Another blow for squash…

Very sad news to report here in Ottawa. The Ottawa Athletic Club is closing its doors this Friday, another victim of COVID-19.

When the OAC opened in 1976, it was truly a mind boggling facility. The world team championships were held there in 1977 and many squash greats played on the show court such as Geoff Hunt, Bruce Brownlee, Hashim Khan and my good friend Bryan Patterson.

I still remember the write-up about the club at the beginning of the 1978 annual World Squash book, the amenities left visitors gobsmacked! Nine glass back squash courts including a large exhibition court that could cater to approximately 200 plus spectators, 10 indoor tennis courts in a row, 4 racketball courts, a banked 4 lane indoor track, a huge exercise area, indoor and outdoor pools as well as a number of outdoor tennis courts.

Speaking of tennis, I got to see John Newcombe play an exhibition tennis match there vs Canadian star, Réjean Genois. I never knew a tennis ball could travel that fast!

I coached there before moving to England to develop my game. I remember having to spend an entire weekend with BP to turn over the mini-leagues which consisted of approximately 400 players. Think about that! It prompted me develop a computerised mini league system that I sold in North America and throughout Europe.

The annual CFRA tournament drew over 500 players and it wasn’t unusual to be playing matches after midnight. Jeff Sneyd, the Pro then can confirm those numbers. The mid eighties were the peak years of squash around here. My RA Club had a 2 year waiting list to get in.

I was a member in 1976, the very first year so I could run and train indoors during the winter. I hadn’t started squash then but my dad was so impressed with the facility he also joined! I’ll always cherish being able to see him workout, something that wasn’t part of his DNA.

A few years later, I joined again thanks to David Gibbs. David was a squash fanatic and quite a character. I was playing at the Rideau but wanted more court time and Dave thought that made sense so he walked into the Manager’s office at the OAC and basically told them I was coming in as his son and proceeded to pay for my membership at the family rate. A typical Dave move! 🙂

All in all, this a terrible blow for squash in National Capital Region. I have some wonderful memories that will stay with me forever.


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