The Edmonton Commercial Graduates Basketball Club, better known as “The Grads,” started as a high school girls basketball team and became a sports dynasty. Today’s Doodle celebrates The Grads’ induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on this day in 2017. It was a fitting honor for a team that holds arguably one of the best winning percentages in North America—approximately 95 percent over 25 years—in any sport.. With outstanding sportsmanship and determination, The Grads also defeated stereotypes that had discouraged women from participating in competitive sports.
Teacher Percy Page started the team in 1914 as a physical education program for the 60 girls at McDougall Commercial High School in the Canadian city of Edmonton. In their first season, they won the provincial championship, and when some of the graduating seniors indicated that they’d like to continue playing, Page was inspired to set up The Grads after they graduated in 1915.
During the next quarter century, The Grads went on to win 23 of 24 Provincial Championships and racked up stats that would be the envy of any team, including earning winning streaks of 147 and 78 games, separated by just a single loss. They went undefeated in the Western Canadian Championships from 1926 to 1940 and won 29 of 31 games in the Canadian Championships, never losing a series. After the Grads won the Underwood International tournament, also known as the “North American championship,” for 17 years straight, tournament organizers decided to let them keep the trophy permanently.
The Grads additionally won seven of nine games against men's teams and went unbeaten in 27 exhibition games at four Olympic Games—though they never won a medal since women’s basketball was not yet an Olympic sport.
When The Grads first started, basketball was a fairly new sport, having been invented in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith. He would later recognize the Grads as “the finest basketball team that ever stepped out on a floor.”
Doodler Up Close with Olivia When
Today’s Doodle was created by Doodler Olivia When.
Below, she shares some thoughts on the making of the Doodle:
Q: How did you first learn about the Edmonton Graduates Basketball Club? What part of their story do you find most inspiring personally?
A: I think their entire story is inspiring! It surprises me that they’re not necessarily a household name considering their records, but I was so excited that I could help more people learn about them.
Q: The Grads were hailed as “not only an inspiration to basketball players throughout the world, but a model of all-girls’ teams.” Why do you think it’s important to highlight their accomplishments?
A: When I was reading about the Grad’s first world championship game in 1923, I thought it was incredible that they were considered the underdogs. No one can know how much potential you have until you try. Now their team holds so many records still. I think new fields, new sports, new games pop up all the time, and there will always be potential for the “underdog” to shine and make room on the playing field for others in the future.
Q: What was your creative approach for the Doodle in celebrating The Grads?
A: I wanted to show the Grads mid-game, as well as add some details that would tie things to the earlier days of basketball (for instance, the uniforms and the laces on the ball). I’m hoping these elements pique people’s curiosity.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from this Doodle?
A: I hope that people will be inspired to learn more about the Grads and the history of women’s basketball. It was fewer than 150 years ago that women were playing in blouses and bloomers. It’s hard to imagine. Now, new heights continue to be reached and possibilities extended—thanks to the hard work of teams like the Grads.
Early concepts of the Doodle