By most accounts softball, mostly fast pitch, started around the NWT in the 1940’s.
The early miners and community residents sought out sport to help quell the boredom of isolation and summer time ball action was the primary competition of choice.
Ball teams sponsored by the mines and town business’s grew in the 1950’s and the first Men’s Territorial Fastball Championships were held in 1963 in Uranium City. Molson’s breweries were the primary sponsor in the early years but Labatt’s also came on to the seen in the 80’s. There were strong rivalries amongst men’s teams representing Ft. Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, Pine Point, Uranium City and Yellowknife throughout the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and 90’s. The communities of Aklavik and Ft. Simpson were also represented on occasion in the 80’s and 90’s. In recent years the men’s competition has been limited to teams from Hay River, Inuvik and Yellowknife with teams also attending Western Canadian Championships. Hay River built a brand new second diamond in 2015 and will be hosting the Western Canadian Master Men’s fastball championships in 2016.
The NWT was first represented at a national softball competition in 1969 when an NWT Men’s team competed in the first Canada Summer Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The NWT participated in softball at every Canada Summer Games since 1969, represented by either a Men’s or Ladies team up to and including the 1997 games.
The NWT was required to play in a best of three competition against the Yukon champs in 1970 and 1971 in order to decide who would represent the north at the Canadian Sr. Men’s Nationals. The NWT Champion Hay River team won the play downs against the Yukon in each of those years and finishing in fourth place in 1970 behind the strong pitching of Wally Dick (Tourney MVP) and slick defensive skills of players like their short stop, Bob Beaulieu.
The NWT and Yukon were each awarded direct entry to the National Championships starting in 1972 with the Hay River team representing the NWT for a third straight year. The NWT has been represented and competed in every Sr. Men’s national since 1970 until 1985 in Kitchener, Ontario.
In the early 70’s during early July, Yellowknife hosted one of the largest prize money men’s fastball invitational tournaments in Western Canada. Big name teams from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC along with NWT teams would compete for $5,000 in prize money. The Tommy Forrest Ball diamond that hosted those early Men’s tournaments will finally have a grass outfield for the 2016 season thanks to a great group of volunteers and community support.
In 1974, the Yellowknife Junior’s became the first ever Canadian Junior under 21 Men’s softball champions after winning the inaugural Softball Canada competition in Ottawa, Ontario. In 1979, the Yellowknife Junior Merchants reached the Gold medal game of the national championships but walked away with the silver medal after an extra inning loss to team Ontario in Richmond, BC.
The NWT also had very competitive senior ladies fastball during the 60’s and in to the 90’s with teams representing Ft. Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, Pine Point, Uranium City and Yellowknife. The NWT ladies represented consistently in the Western Canadian Championships up until the early 90’s.
The NWT first started to see mixed slo-pitch come on the scene across the north in the early 70’s. We now see large numbers of slo-pitch players registered across the north playing in women’s, men’s and mixed invitational and territorial championship tournaments. These participants make up almost 70% of the registered membership in NWT Softball. Men’s and Ladies teams have competed in Softball Canada Slo-pitch Championships as well.