She organized B.C.’s first speed skating club in Dawson Creek, almost as soon as she arrived. Youngsters that she trained won many age-classed Canadian championships in both outdoor and indoor competition.
One of her skaters, Tom Overend, still skates for B.C. and was on Canada’s National Speed Skating Team in the 1972 and 1973 season. He placed 13th in the men’s Junior World Championships in Assen, Holland last January.
Other skaters, Terry Meeres, Fay Clease, Joan Tod, Donna and David McLeod, Gail Scott, and Alan Overend have coached or have assisted speed skating in B.C. in some capacity over the past years.
Mrs. Underhill revived, after a lapse of several years, indoor speed skating in Canada by staging the Canadian Indoor Championships in Dawson Creek in 1963. This has been held annually in various centres in Canada since then. Dawson Creek was chosen as the site for the 1966 Canadian Outdoor Championships because of Mrs. Underhill’s efforts.
Her influence extended beyond the boundaries of B.C. as she successfully encouraged B.C. clubs to become involved with the Canadian Amateur Speed Skating Association. A result of this was that the first National Speed Skating Newsletter, the Racer, was edited and published in Dawson Creek by Mr. Howard Overend from 1965 to 1969 and again in 1971. The Racer was circulated across Canada and to 24 I.S.U. member countries. It earned Howard Overend the Sports Federation of Canada Award for outstanding contribution in the field of Sports Publications in 1968 and again in 1973.
Mrs. Underhill helped form the second speed skating club in B.C. when she assisted with the organization and coaching of the Fort St. John Club in 1965. And at the same time she initiated the organization of the British Columbia Speed Skating Association, which became an effective body in the development of speed skating in this province. Pat Underhill left Dawson Creek in the fall of 1965. But the interest in speed skating, which she had created, lived on.
Because of people like Millie and Joe Bodnar, Clara and Howard Overend, Ruth and Warren Smith, Gordon Strate, Beryl Heath, Lyle Braden, Doug Tod and Bill Dyer, the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John clubs flourished. B.C. skaters continued to win recognition across Canada, notably the second Winter Games in Saskatoon in 1971 when B.C. skaters captured a gold, a silver and three bronze medals.
In 1967, the Fort St. John club hosted the Canadian Indoor Speed Skating Championships and in 1971, Fort St. John hosted the Canadian Outdoor Championships, which were held on B.C.’s first and only 400-metre outdoor ice oval.
In 1966, the newly formed BCSSA sponsored an indoor speed skating clinic in Esquimalt, which resulted in the formation of a third club in B.C. — the Esquimalt Speed Skating Club. Jim and Colleen Shields have kept this club active and competitive despite costly and hard to get indoor ice time and lack of nearby competition.
The Haida Club of Vancouver was organized in 1969 and B.C.’s newest club, the Mission Racers, was formed in 1972. There were 160 active speed skaters in B.C. last season.
Because there is both outdoor and indoor speed skating competitions in Canada it is logical to assume that the northern clubs will excel in outdoor speed skating and the coast clubs in indoor. But a good skater’s goal is Olympic style competition which is outdoor competition, not in the mass start style used in indoor and some outdoor competitions, but where two skaters race in separate lanes around an outdoor ice oval against the clock.
An artificial ice oval located in the mainland is considered necessary if any real development is to be made in speed skating in B.C.