The Sport of Water Polo was first introduced into Saskatchewan in 1913 by an Englishman named Don Mackay. He played water polo with the Lancashire International team. He brought the sport to Moose Jaw where he introduced it to the Moose Jaw Aquatic Club. He is also responsible for generating the interest, enthusiasm and developing the aquatic skills within the first water polo clubs in Moose Jaw.
Regina, having few indoor aquatic facilities prior to 1967 did not have a strong aquatics program. After the University pool was constructed, Steve Jerkovits is credited with creating the interest in the sport of water polo in Regina. He approached a number of speed swimmers and life guards at the University pool about playing the game. As a result of his effort, the first University Cougar Team was formed in 1968. He was quoted as saying “In the beginning there was very little skill, but lots of determination.”
The first team members of the University team included Jim Ursan, Lynn Anderson, Mike Donegan, Cliff Chase, David Dexter, Craig and Keith Bertram, Bob Kennedy, Ian Watch, Carl Ellard, Mike Boyd and Dave Pettigrew.
The Regina team represented the south in the 1968 Saskatchewan Summer Games and Provincial Championships in Saskatoon. The team continued to grow and take shape and after a 20 game schedule was played, Regina was able to send an All-Star Team to the National Championships. For the first time in history, a Saskatchewan team was represented in the Canadian Water Polo National Championships. The Regina team showed better than expected, by defeating teams from Victoria, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
In June of 1969 Regina topped the strong Saskatoon team in the best-of-three series for the right to represent Saskatchewan at the first Canadian Summer Games in Halifax Nova Scotia. Although the team did not make the playoffs, they placed seventh and proved that they could win games in National Competitions. This provided a big boost for water polo in Western Canada.
Interest for the sport grew following the National Competitions and in 1969-70 a league was formed consisting of four Junior teams for boys 18 years and younger and four Senior teams. Swimmers and non-swimmers alike were encouraged to come to play.
Many accomplishments have been made in water polo in the province since the first teams were formed. Some of these have included the Senior Women’s All-Star team winning GOLD at the 1973 Nationals in Edmonton, Alberta.
Early accomplishments like that have resulted in a cascade of tournament wins and including a Juvenile Men’s National Championship. There have been many Saskatchewan players who have been selected to national teams and played for Canada in international tournaments. Regina being one of the smallest programs in Canada has put itself on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the 1990′s.
In 1986, Michel Langelier was hired to coach the high performance athletes in Saskatchewan. Michel took the program to new heights by organizing the competitive program and recruiting players. Under the leadership of Michel, the Regina programs flourished, and teams in all age groups and levels attended National Championships and many other events in Canada and the USA. In 1989, Michel recruited Wing Wong to take over the reigns of the Regina Water Polo Association women’s program. With the invaluable addition of Wing Wong to the Regina Squids, there was an unmatched record of success and improvement. With his Olympic experience and world class talent, Wing passed on his vast knowledge to all his athletes. He originally coached the women’s squad, taking them to a bronze medal at the 1990 Junior Women’s National Championships. The next year he took on the role of men’s head coach. That same year he guided his players to a Bronze medal finish at the Juvenile Boy’s National Championships. This wasn’t the end of Regina’s success at the national level. In 1992 the Squids took another step forward by winning the first ever National Championship in Water Polo in the Juvenile boys age group. Once again led by the coaching of Wing Wong, the Juvenile boys from Regina asserted themselves as a national powerhouse in the Juvenile boys division by winning a bronze medal at the 1993 National Championships. In 1998, Wing decided to pursue a career in computer engineering and left Saskatchewan for North Carolina. Wing left a legacy of programs and players as evidenced by the continued success of his athletes. Throughout the 1990′s and now in the early 21st century, Regina teams have medalled many times in the cadet, juvenile and junior divisions at both the men’s and women’s National Championships. Furthermore, many Regina athletes have been selected Most Valuable Goalie, Most Valuable Player and have received All-Star awards at Nationals during this time period.
Along with team success there have been many individuals from Saskatchewan who are currently or have been on National Teams participating at international events. Andrea Hoffman played on the Senior Women’s National Team and competed at two World Aquatics Championships (1991 in Perth, Australia, and 1994 in Rome). Andrea now is the head coach of the Regina Women’s teams. Kent Hardisty and Noah Miller are currently Senior Men’s National Team members. Kent has been a national team member since 1986 and has played at many international tournaments including four World Aquatic Championships (1991 in Perth, Australia, and 1994 in Rome, 1998 in Australia, 2001 in Japan). Noah has been a Senior National Team Member since 1999 and has attended one Senior World Championship (Japan 2002).
Ian Affleck was selected to play with the Junior National Team in 1990. Dee-Jay Randall and Dave Affleck were both selected to the Junior National Team in 1993 and competed at the 1995 World Junior Championships in France. Sharie Zimmerman was a member of the Junior Women’s National Team. Sharie played at the Nor-Am Classic in Portland, Oregon in 1995. Robin Randall, William Tunison and Noah Miller were members of the Juvenile National Team and Junior National Team, also known as the Dream Team, from 1995-1999. They represented Canada at Junior World Championships during this time; Noah in 1997(Cuba) and 1999(Kuwait) while Will and Robin competed in Kuwait in 1999. Robin, Noah and Will also went on to compete for Canada at the World Student Games; Noah in 1999(Spain) and Noah, Robin, and Will in 2002(China).
Currently, there are many young players who are also making their marks on the national scene. Kevin Graham and Andrew Dickson were selected to the Youth National Team in 2002. Evan Andrews and Marshall Young are members of the Junior National Team. Whitney Genoway, Marnie Koch, Jessica Wagner, Sarah Nesbitt, Jen Mathie, Jenna Crook are/were members of the Youth Women’s National Team.
As well, Water Polo Saskatchewan is committed to the development of its developmental players. WPS has implemented many summer and grassroots programs to help develop smaller communities. The summer programs are aimed at new players and give them exposure to the sport. Through these programs WPS has great success and continues to pursue growth in various communities within Saskatchewan.