The tournaments are the best part of Prince Rupert squash player, Richard Haley.
The 12-year resident of Rupert loves the camaraderie of the events, but he’s also keen on the competition.
“You’ve got an audience so your mouth goes dry, you lose your breath quickly in the first few rallies as you get into the match and then the crowd slowly disappears from your mind and you just focus on playing the match,” Haley said on Friday after a few practice games with another player.
There’s nothing quite like winning an A tournament, said Haley, who also owns and operates The Argosy antique and vintage shop with his wife.
He loves the individuality of squash as well.
“Win or lose, it’s all up to you. I personally love that, I like playing individual sports,” Haley said.
Up in the north, there aren’t too many opportunities for competition against other players. The Rupert group hosts one big event a year, the Feel the Love tournament, which is this weekend. Approximately 40 contestants take part, from as far as Burns Lake. The Smithers club also has a tournament upcoming in April, which Haley is looking forward to.
He got into the traditionally gentleman’s club sport at the University of Victoria. He had hit the ball around a bit with his father as a teenager, but didn’t really get into it until university, where squash was a big deal. Haley, who is originally from Vancouver, played in inter-city leagues while there and other competitions and just fell in love with the sport.
“It’s just something I never don’t want to do. I can always get up for going down and playing a bit of squash. It feels so good after you finish playing and it’s such a great way to stay in shape,” he said.
Haley also spent some time in Haida Gwaii, primarily for the surfing, before making a permanent home in Prince Rupert. The housing was cheap at the time and he bought some houses to renovate and rent, but fell in love with the coastal city somewhere along the line. It was then that he got involved with the squash community here, which is about 30 committed players and many more that come and go.
The squash player is considered one of the best in the community. He is an A-level player, which is one step below the Open division, which consists of players who make money off the sport. His highlights are the tournaments, but when asked about any challenges, he couldn’t think of too many.
“You’re going to get rips and tears and muscle pulls and things like that, but that’s about it. There aren’t really any low-lights to playing squash. I love the game,” Haley said.
One interesting thing he’s learned through the sport is that it reveals people’s true colours.
“It’s an easy way to identify someone’s true character when you get them on the court. You could have somebody who you know socially, if they are a competitive squash player and you put them on the court, their true colours really shine through,” Haley said.
As he talks about the intricacies of the game, two things shine through. One is that this is a guy who loves the game of squash, and the second is that he understands it, like someone who has been playing the sport religiously for more than two decades.
“It can be a bit like a chess match, this non-pugilistic chess match, because you’re both together, one-on-one in a box like a ring and you sort of have to move your opponent around. Not every shot is a winner and you need to set up in order to attack. Rallies can go on and on until there’s an opening and then you can put the ball away.”
His love of squash makes him want to grow the game as well. Haley knows it’s not a huge sport in Canada like it is in Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries, but he wants to pass on his love of the racket sport. He encourages everyone young and old, new players and those who have forgotten the game, to come to the Feel the Love tournament at the racquet centre this weekend, or to drop in on a Wednesday or Sunday evening.