The 1932 Winnipeg Toilers capped a hoops’ dynasty. If not for a tragic plane crash that cost them Mike Shea and Joe Dodds, who knows what heights the mighty Toiler name would have reached in basketball lore.
After winning in Montreal in 1926 and defending at home in 1927, the Toilers dropped their Canadian honours for a brief period. There were roster changes by 1932: Colonel A.C. Samson was President, Lyn Sinclair took over the coaching duties from Archie Ferguson, and George Wilson became Manager. Gone were Waddy Ferguson, Cumming, Clifford, Gayton and Schendel and now playing in their stead: Mike Shea, Lauder Phillips, Ron Burgess, Joe Dodds, E. Pearson, W. Walkey and Captain Ian Wooley. The team travelled to Saint John, New Brunswick to defeat the local Trojans and regain the national basketball crown.
Tragedy struck on March 31, 1933 when the team’s plane crashed in Kansas, upon returning from a lost series against the Tulsa Oilers in Oklahoma. In addition to the deaths of Shea and Dodds, the injured included: Wilson, Samson, Wooley, Silverthorne, Phillips, as well as players Andy Brown, Hugh Penwarden and Joe’s brother Bruce Dodds. This marked the end of the Toilers as a competitive group, yet their camaraderie continued, especially at the “Toilers’ Camp”. This cottage on the river in Fort Garry that also served as Waddy Ferguson’s home became “Toiler Memorial Park” in 1965.
ROSTER: Back Row L-R: Lyn Sinclair-Coach, A.C. Samson-Pres., Lauder Phillips, Al Silverthorne, George Wilson-Mgr., W.A. Alldritt (YMCA Phy. Dir.). Front Row L-R: Ron Burgess, Bill Thorogood, Mike Shea, Ian Wooley-Capt., E. Pearson, Joe Dodds, and W. Walkey.