The Edmonton Commercial Graduates (Grads) dominated women's basketball in North America during the interwar years. Percy Page started the team in 1915 with students and graduates from Edmonton's McDougall Commercial High School, where he was a teacher, and only twice during the Grads' twenty-five years did girls who had not been at McDougall High play for the team.
From 1915 until the team disbanded in 1940, when their practice area was taken over for military purposes, the Grads won 502 of 522 games. At one point in their history they had a winning streak of 147 games, followed by a 78-game winning streak. They won their first Canadian title in 1922 and never surrendered it. In 1923, against Cleveland, they won the first international series for the Underwood Trophy. They defended it successfully for seventeen years. The Grads competed in Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale (FSFI) championships held in the same cities as the men's Olympics on four occasions (1924, 1928, 1932, and 1936) and won the unofficial world championship each time, with twenty-seven consecutive victories.
Everywhere the Grads played they drew large crowds, including the record attendance of 6,792 for an Underwood Trophy match against the Chicago Taylor-Trunks in Edmonton in 1930. However, the Grads did not forget their Prairie roots, and they staged basketball exhibitions in several small Alberta communities. Coach Page expected his Grads to behave "like ladies" both on and off the court, and his teams established a reputation for sportsmanship, dedication, and determination. Significantly, they demonstrated that they could play the more vigorous men's rules and yet retain their femininity. When asked about the Grads' secret of success, Page replied, "They were champions because they were whole-hearted, sport-loving girls in whom the spirit of the Prairie was born and bred."
Ronald S. Lappage Lakehead University
Fitness and Amateur Sport Canada. For the Record: Canada's Greatest Women Athletes. Toronto: John Wiley and Sons Canada Ltd., 1981.
Kidd, Bruce. The Struggle for Canadian Sport. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996.