A local rivalry that has taken place inside the gym since 1992 is now moving to the boardroom, as Prince Rupert tries to decide what to do this summer when the two schools amalgamate into one. And the most contentious decision of all? Rainmakers … or Hurricanes?
Since the dawning of the 1992-93 school season, it has been the local rivalry when it comes to high school sports. And yet, the rivalry hasn’t exactly led to year-after-year of barn-burning entertainment, especially when it comes to basketball and senior boys.
Sure, it was fun to watch during that inaugural season. And Charles Hays Secondary School also made things interesting during the 1996-97 season with Steve Colussi leading the way, and watching Chris Veale battle Justin Adams head-to-head must have brought back memories of classic Larry Bird – Magic Johnson duels from the 1980s.
Oh, and of course, there was Hays ending the Rainmakers’ run of 12 in a row in 2008.
For the girls, it was closer during the first decade, but even recently that rivalry has faded. Meanwhile, also until recently, Charles Hays ruled when it came to volleyball, but in reality, the sport that drives the high school engine has always been basketball, and it always will be.
And when it comes to basketball, the Rainmaker nickname fits. Prince Rupert Secondary School first opened in 1960, but the name has been a tradition since 1940.
Charles Hays? True, the Hurricane name has its own allure, and that school has built its own reputation by trying new things, such as the wrestling team, and more recently, rugby.
But with this being the last official year for PRSS as a senior secondary, the name debate is already raging. Should it be about history, or status quo? Or, should Rupert think about new beginnings, and simply pick a new name when Hays becomes the only act in town next September?
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The year was 1960. The Rainmaker nickname loudly crossed town from Booth Memorial High School into their new digs at PRSS, and the senior boys basketball team started the new school’s existence with a bang, as they went all the way to the AAA provincial finals, before losing a heartbreaker to Vancouver College. Four years later, the Rainmakers would be crowned provincial champs, and still today, that 1964 team is considered the team of the century. Since the late 1980s, high schools have now been separated into A, AA and AAA rankings, but back in 1964, it was only the top 16 schools in the province that went to the dance, and yet, the little unknown gem from the North Coast won it all.
That’s a history Prince Rupert is proud of, and regardless of what is about to happen, the Rainmaker name should remain, says coach Mel Bishop.
“The Rainmaker name precedent has been set,” he says. “The name has been here for 70 years, and it shouldn’t change.”
Bishop, like many born-and-raised Rupertites, was a Rainmaker, and twice, he saw his team finish third. But when Bishop headed off to university, he had one goal: he wanted to return home to Rupert and coach Rainmaker basketball, and the current PRSS gym has almost run out of room for all of those zone banners. Plus, you can add two AA provincial banners to that list, from 1998 and 2001. That kind of history should not be taken for granted.
“If you look at our tradition, it’s been there,” says Bishop. “You’re competing against the bigger schools with small numbers, and you’re still top 10 in the province every year.”
The list of famous Rainmakers who have gone on to great things is basically endless. Topping that list are two Basketball B.C. hall-of-famers, John Olsen (1960-62) and of course, former national coach Ken Shields.
More recently, top players such as Adams, Brody Bishop and Jacob Thom have gone on to dominate the sport of basketball at the Canadian collegiate level, and it’s hard to fathom them either continuing to live in Rupert or moving back, only to find the Rainmaker name has sunk into the muskeg.
“You’re competing against the bigger schools with small numbers,
and you’re still top 10 in the province every year.”
Even a handful of students at Hays agree. Celina Guadagni is now in Grade 10, and back in Grade 8, as a Hurricane, she was named to the under-14 Northwest girls basketball team, and then made the provincial team. The school, aware that Guadagni is one of their fiercest competitors in any sport, thought it would be an idea for her to head up the student council to decide what their strategy should be done in regards to the name controversy. Her initial response, however, probably caught some of her students off-guard.
“My first thought was that it should be the Rainmakers because of the history, and they’ve been here so long,” she says. “I was at the first meeting, and I said Rainmakers.”
Tyler Verde, now in his graduating year at PRSS, hates to think that this season will be the last one for the Rainmaker name. True, that possibility has many of the Rainmakers even more determined to win as much as humanly possible this season, but Verde is adamant the Rainmaker name should live on.
“I personally think that the seniors should have a name,” he says, adding that he doesn’t think just keeping the Rainmaker name associated with the new middle school is the way to go. “We’ve had so much great success here, and we’ve won so many zones, and so many banners, and I think we should move the name with the high school. Let the Rainmaker name stay with the seniors and coach Bishop, since he’s moving over there.”
And with a history like that, how can a Hurricane compete?
Well, hang on a second. While PRSS has been synonymous with basketball, there are a lot of other high school sports to consider. Charles Hays throughout the 1990s dominated the sport of volleyball, for example, but they’ve also made noise in sports that for the most part have been ignored over at PRSS.
And there have been some impressive highlights for the Hurricanes. In 2004, the wrestling team won the zones, and their own Kyle Nelson then went to nationals. In addition to Guadagni’s success, her predecessors have an impressive background too, as the likes of All-Native Basketball phenoms Judy Carlick and Denise Wilson (to name only a couple) and collegiate stand-outs like Marilou Sullivan certainly bring an impressive resume to the table. And what about other sports, like Huan Pham in volleyball?
“If my house burns down, and I move in with you because you’re a kind neighbour,
and then because I’m more important, you have to change your name?”
Ben Pyde, long-time senior boys basketball coach at Hays who recently left Rupert, grew up in town when the Rainmaker name was the only show in Rupert, so he understands the history, but he doesn’t think it’s right to bring the Rainmaker name into the Hurricanes’ house.
“PRSS is closing and we’re taking them all in,” he said. “So if my house burns down, and I move in with you because you’re a kind neighbour, and then because I’m more important, you have to change your name?
“They should stay with the name Hurricanes.”
Pyde adds the School District may have erred, and should have stuck with PRSS as the high school, and switched Hays to a middle school. That would have made everyone happy, he says. “This should never be the high school. At PRSS, they have the best location for physical education. It’s close to the Civic Centre, they’ve got the swimming pool, the golf course, while all we have is the track.
“The best would be for Hays to go as the middle school, and then the name issue goes away.”
With that in mind, Guadagni wonders if a new nickname might be the way to go to appease everyone. “Maybe a new name would be good,” she suggests. “Charles Hays is a newer school. It would make a lot of sense to keep the (Hurricane) name, because it’s our school, and if PRSS is coming here, it shouldn’t just change.”
At the end of the day, every single student in Rupert will be affected by this amalgamation. Grade 8s, who have been the so-called rookies at their respective schools, will have to endure another year of the same in Grade 9, and current PRSS Grade 11s will have the unusual role of having to move to a new school for their final year, as if their parents suddenly upped and moved them to a different town.
And then there’s an athlete like Keith Paterson.
Paterson, you see, is dedicated when it comes to basketball, but he was also unique when it came to high school hoops. Throughout the past 20 years, the majority of superstar hoopsters have chosen PRSS as their school of choice, in many cases leaving Hays as the so-called “B” team — 1997 and 2008 excepted. But Paterson, like all-stars such as Veale and Brody Quast had done before him, decided to play basketball at Hays. The only problem: this year, with the departure of Pyde, Hays chose not to go with a senior boys basketball team, so Paterson scrambled to transfer over to PRSS, where he is now training with the team as a Rainmaker.
And then for Grade 12? Before anyone can even say the word “Hurricane,” Paterson will be back at Charles Hays. Not surprisingly, he has no idea what the correct decision is. “There’s talk of bringing all of the PRSS banners here over to Charles Hays anyways,” he says. “But Charles Hays is Charles Hays, and they’ve always been the Hurricanes, and they’ve been there for a while.
“But the Rainmaker name has the history.”
Pyde knows that the sentiment within the community seems to be “Rainmaker,” but he is adamant that the School District needs to use due diligence before making a final decision. And the School Board is well aware of the upcoming debate, as it has posted a poll on its website, including what the city should call the new middle school that will overtake the existing PRSS building next September.
Guadagni also wants to make sure that students from both schools will also have the opportunity to have their say. “I think should the students should be a big part of it,” she says.
Paterson agrees. “Maybe a student poll, or maybe just a whole new name so nobody’s fighting over it.”
Still, it might be hard to stop the Rainmaker wave. After all, for 70 years now, the sound of a basketball hitting the backboard has been a familiar sound inside those hallowed walls.
“It’s just tradition,” said Bishop. “And the name, it’s appropriate for the city.”
~Written by Patrick Witwicki