After receiving the honour in 2020 as a builder, Prince Albert’s Howard Gange was officially inducted into the Sask. Volleyball Hall of Fame last weekend.
“I was quite flattered by the designation,” Gange said. “It was almost a delayed reaction since the original induction was supposed to happen in 2020. When we eventually got around to doing it last weekend, it was almost anti-climactic. But it was still very enjoyable.”
Howard has been involved in athletics all his life and has left a big footprint on the Volleyball world in Prince Albert. While attending the University of Saskatchewan, he played Huskie Football and was a member of the Men’s Athletic Board. His coaching career started when he began teaching, including football, basketball and curling. He coached high school football for 17 years and then turned to coaching girls’ volleyball.
The game had changed since he played, with nine players on the court, so he needed a mentor coach and chose Mark Tennant. He started attending Tennant’s coaches’ clinics and enrolled his players in his annual spikers’ and setters’ camps.
“After realizing where the state of the game was in Prince Albert, I realized that the larger centres had club volleyball going as well, not just the school programs,” Gange said. “To try to be competitive, I put together a club team in 1982. As you do more and more skill development, that’s when you see the level of play improve.”
The first year his team went to provincials, only to learn that the game was played much differently at that level. Returning to Prince Albert, he set out with the help of some Junior High coaches, to form a volleyball club. The P.A. Optimist Club agreed to sponsor the new club and the P.A. Optimist Toppers club was formed in 1982, with two teams, a Bantam and a Midget team. Howard coached and organized the Toppers for 12 years having as many as 12 teams in the three divisions per year.
With help from other local coaches, the Toppers achieved a fair amount of success, winning multiple provincial age class championships. While this was very gratifying, Howard was realizing that the number and quality of players coming to his high school team was much improved. His high school team represented P.A. in SHSAA provincials in 11 of 12 years he coached, appearing in 4 provincial finals and winning two, 1986 and 1989. Howard retired from teaching and coaching in 1994 but the Toppers Club has continued to this day.
Gange says while he is enjoying his retired life now, he still feels a sense of pride to see Prince Albert volleyball clubs still emerging as some of the best in the province.
“I’m proud of what the kids have done, as well as the coaches and the organizers,” he said. “When I started the club, it was almost a selfish sort of thing to improve the level of my high school team at Carlton. The club continued to do well, and it’s nice to see that it’s going in the right direction.”
Howard was a member of the Sask. Games Council and was the sport co-chair for the 1992 Sask. Summer Games in P.A. He spearheaded a campaign to create and outfit the Harry Jerome Track for the city of Prince Albert. For this, he was awarded P.A.’s Sportsman of the Year.
In 1995 he agreed to chair the board and be the CEO of the 1999 Western Canada Summer Games, also held in Prince Albert. The games were very successful, and the city was the beneficiary of several million dollars worth of improvements and new facilities. The city chose him Citizen of the Year in 2000. In retirement, Howard continues to curl and golf and spends part of the winter in Mesa, Arizona where he plays pickleball, golf and bocce.
-with files from Sask. Volleyball