Loss of Pasquale defines importance of national championships for UVic Vikes

University of Victoria host public tribute to life or Eli Pasquale on Nov. 16

Canada’s Eli Pasquale in action in Edmonton in this 1983 photo. Canadian Basketball Hall of Famer Eli Pasquale, a two-time Olympian who played at four world championships over his career, has died. He was 59. Pasquale, a native of Sudbury, Ont., died Monday from cancer, Canada Basketball said in a release. Pasquale led Canada to a fourth-place finish at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He returned to the Games four years later in Seoul and helped Canada to a sixth-place showing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Staff

With an opening game loss against the Calgary Dinos the host UVic Vikes are out of the running for the national women’s soccer championship at Centennial Stadium.

But hey, it’s the third national championship hosted by the University of Victoria this week, and you can’t win them all.

It’s all part of a roller coaster week of emotions for the Vikes athletics program, which saw the field hockey team win their 13th national title on home turf on Saturday. On Sunday the women’s rowing team finished second to UBC at the Canadian University Rowing Championships at Elk Lake, with one gold, four silver (women’s eight, women’s lightweight single, women’s open single and women’s open lightweight coxed four) and one bronze medal (women’s open lightweight double).

Win or lose, it’s a celebration of the University of Victoria’s success as a national athletics program. And it was made all the more real with the death of Eli Pasquale at just 59 years old on Monday. The university has organized a tribute to the life of Eli Pasquale for Saturday, Nov. 16, at the McKinnon Gymnasium.

READ MORE: Eli Pasquale’s impact on basketball in Victoria second to none, says former coach

This was the quiet kid who single-handedly rewrote Victoria’s basketball culture when he arrived at McKinnon Gym as a scrawny point guard from Sudbury, Ont., in 1979. As a leader of five straight national basketball titles from 1980 to 1984, Pasquale’s impact reached beyond basketball into the entirety of the Vikes program.

It’s safe to say the Vikes might not have the legacy they do if Pasquale chose a different school in 1979. The gravity of the championship week combined with Pasquale’s death is a collision that’s hit the Vikes at their core.

“The passing of Eli grounds you in reality, it’s a reminder that life is precious,” said Clint Hamilton, director of Vikes Athletics, and a member of the 1984 Vikes national championship team with Pasquale. “Championships are exciting, and I work with phenomenal people who are absolutely working their best and delivering exciting championships. Any time you get to watch a national championship, you cherish them and value them.”

Few university athletic directors in Canada hold their administrations to a standard as high as Hamilton does. The former U Sports (CIS) and Canada West national president is as prepared and organized as anyone in the industry. He helped drive the building of the $70 million Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities, and he led the bids for the Vikes recent hosting of the national women’s basketball (2017) and rugby championships (2016) as well. And still, nothing prepares you for the death of a major alumni, the guy they called Steve Nash before there was Steve Nash.

“It’s always challenging,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a range of emotions to go from watching the rowing team come within a whisker of winning the national title, and watching your events team deliver these championships, to have the heartbreak of losing Eli.

“I love working around championships. You see your athletes at their best and you know how hard they’ve worked. You get to see how they perform at their maximum, just like what Eli did. What he meant to the community and program at UVic, and what his family has gone through, it grounds you in reality. It’s why championships are critically important. But it grounds you.”

The public is welcome to the Eli Pasquale tribute on Nov. 16. Doors open at 2 p.m.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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