Sports & Facilities
Alcan sponsored a sports association and soccer and hockey were the competitive sports for the town. The Rod & Gun Club built its clubhouse and curling rink beside Kitimat River.
The Snow Valley Figure Skating Club formed in 1965 with 100 skaters. Over the years, many awards have been won.
Kitimat sports – both recreational and competitive – are diverse and have a strong history. Kitamaat and Kitimat Constructors first met for a softball game at Smeltersite in 1951. Basketball was very popular and teams would make the trek across Douglas Channel to play the Kitamaat team at their rec hall. There was a Kitimat Recreation Committee by 1952, and recreation halls were humming with sports activities such as table tennis, volleyball, and floor hockey. Labour Day sports such as track and field were very big in those early construction days.
Alcan sponsored the Kitimat Works Sports Association (1956) and Shifts A, B, and C organized winter and summer league sports like hockey, softball, and bowling. The boxing club found a home at a shack in the Anderson Creek camp in 1956, and the Kitimat Yacht Club was busy at the old graving dock construction site where the Club had established a marina. Soccer and hockey were the biggest competitive sports for the town. The Rod & Gun Club built its clubhouse and curling rink beside Kitimat River and the Kitimat Curling Club formed in 1956. Pony League baseball began in 1955 with teams sponsored by the Elks, the Bay, and Sheardowns. Kitimat became the northern B.C. champs in 1956. Kitimat Recreations Ltd., Anderson Creek Bowling Alley and Billiards Centre opened its doors in October 1955 with 12 five and ten-pin alleys, billiards, and snooker.
In 1954, a group of local skiers established a small tow on the slope behind Kitimat General Hospital. In cross-country, Europeans arriving for work in Kitimat brought their skis and expertise. In 1978, a lit ski track was laid at the golf course, and the Onion Lake Trails opened in 1985.
From the start, Kitimat was a strong hockey town with male, female, and minor leagues. The Kitimat business community sponsored the Men’s Commercial League. Many all-star teams won championships including the Kitimat Winter Hawks who became the 1977 Pacific Northwest Champions. Mark Fitzpatrick became NHL goaltender for the New York Islanders and received the Masterson Trophy. Fred Marsh invented the breakaway net peg for hockey, in use now all over the world.
Over the years, Kitimat athletes participated in the annual B.C. and Northern B.C. Winter Games, and Seniors and Special Olympics. Eventually, Kitimat with its amazing volunteer energy would host the 1993 B.C. Winter Games.
The Snow Valley Figure Skating Club formed in 1965 with 100 young skaters, and by 1967, had a professional coach. Over the years, Club skaters received many awards including 1978 Junior Men’s World Champion to Dennis Coi. The Marlin Swim Club would coach young swimmers and many would go on to win medals including Alison Barriscale in the 1980s. Members of the Kitimat Karate Club initiated by RCMP officer Murray Johnson in 1978 went on to win many awards.
In fifty years, Kitimat’s sports facilities - three ice rinks, two pools, a recreational centre (YMCA, later Riverlodge) and playing fields – have been numerous.
The YMCA opened its recreational facilities in 1957 then made a decision between a pool and an arena. The outdoor pool opened on a real scorcher of a day in July 1962. The Kitimat YMCA Swim club began in the summer of 1965. The Kitimat Judo Club found a new home at the YMCA, and Jim Linton became the Club’s instructor in 1958. The Riverlodge gymnasium now bears his name. The Y facilities were eventually redesigned at a cost of 1.6 million dollars and re-opened as Riverlodge in May 1979.
Kitimat’s first ice rink – a municipal project and pilot scheme – was outdoors. It opened on the site of present-day Super Valu, January 1962. Its popularity was evident, captured by a newspaper headline that read, “Thousands flock weekly to Kitimat’s new rink.” Unfortunately, the wet climate made for some interesting skating technique and the municipality discontinued the project, deeming it impractical. An indoor rink with the curved roof opened in 1964.
The Hirsch Creek Golf Club opened in 1970. In the 1990s, a curling rink - the new home of the Kitimat Curling Club - opened beside the golf clubhouse, and the two groups amalgamated in the 1990s becoming the Hirsch Creek Golf & Winter Club. The Tamitik Jubilee Sports Complex opened in 1980. Heidi Born formed the Kitimat Youth Soccer Association in 1972, and by 1978 there were 18 teams. Games that had been played on school fields were now played on the Association’s new fields opened in 1996 off Quatsino.
The Kitimat Rod & Gun Club was organized in the winter of '52-'53 by local sportsmen, interested in fishing and trap shooting. Thirty-two turned up to pay their initiation fee and membership fee - $2 each. "...With $64 to work with they set out to build themselves a clubhouse" Northern Sentinel, July 31, 1968. Alcan loaned equipment to haul locally cut cedar and gravel fill. Cedar telephone poles were sold to Alcan to fund plumbing, heating, windows, and lighting. The facility opened its doors in August 1953 and membership increased to 90. Kitimat’s annual Fish Derby was sponsored by local businesses such as Pryde Automotive, then later by the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce.