Early Beginnings of the ISA > 1981

This press article has been sent to The Shuffler by Peggy House, 1st Secretary of the CNSA, and wife of Jack House, the 1st President of the CNSA.  However; this article is more about the attention, the excitement, this new venture into INTERNAIONAL SHUFFLEBOARD brought to Muskegon, MI and to America.  You will see reference to William (Bill) Johnstone of Sault Ste. Marie, the very first President of the ISA.  It should be noted that the Japanese were instrumental in the formation of the ISA and have participated in every ISA since 1981. At this time, 1981, 3 Nations made up the Association, Americans, Japanese and Canadians. Australia, Brazil and Norway have since joined. Thanks Peggy from Stan.   

MUSKEGON – Most people think of shuffleboard as a sport for retirees who need exercise.

But competitors here from Japan, Canada and the United States take this week’s first International Shuffleboard Championships quite seriously.

.. This event is the Super Bowl of shuf­fleboard. Everyone who’s anyone in shuffleboard is here at McGraft Park, witnessing the sport’s finest contestants. Knowledgeable fans sit in bleachers sur­rounding the 20 courts, cheering their favorite players.

The crowd is well-versed in shuffle­board’s unique lingo. “He’s in the kitch­en” is a remark often heard, but it doesn’t mean someone is raiding the concession area for a snack. When a disc is pushed into the widest area of the triangle shaped court, 10 points are tak­en off the score.

Now that’s when being in the kitchen can be a disadvantage.   – .-

But having the hammer is in one’s fa­vor. That refers to the person with the last turn to score in a frame. And a pilot is a disc set up so an opponent can’t knock off another disc with point value.

The language of shuffleboard is not simple, and neither is the game. It has the image however, of being an easy, unchallenging game and officials are working to change that.

“A lot of people have the impression  … that it’s just an old people’s game where you just knock the other discs off,” says – Bill Johnstone. A native of Sault Ste. Ma­rie, Ont. Johnstone is the 80-year-old president of the International Shuffle­board Association, Inc. The three coun­tries here are the only members of this relatively new organization for an, old sport.

“There’s a lot of strategy involved in this game, arid we’re trying to promote it more for young people,” he says.

‘A lot of people have the im­pression that it’s just an old peo­ple’s game where you just knock the other discs off’

– Bill Johnstone, 80

“It’s just such an exciting and intrigu­ing game,” Webb says, “there’s so much strategy and finesse involved.”

Webb says he has “devoted the past 10 years of my life full time to encourage people to play.” He’s instructed over 1,500 in the game and has organized many leagues in his home state.

Most of Monday’s crowd needed no instruction. Wayne and Mae Wiitanen ‘of Delcoma, Fla., are up visiting relatives and welcomed the chance to watch their favorite sport.

“Shuffleboard really keeps a person alert,” says Mae, “you have to be re­laxed. It takes a certain amount of concentration!” It was evident the Wiitanens were veterans of the game as they talked strategy and second-guessed the participants.

A couple of Canadian competitors were also excited about the tournament. “We were asked to come here, and this is great,” says Canadian Bill Brown, who won his opening match. Ironically, Brown discovered the sport in Florida, where he vacations.

“The tournament is run very well, and this is a nice place to have it,” says fel­low Canadian Shirley Knox.”

All sports crowds have their favorites, and in this case it’s the Japanese team. People at the ISA tournament cheered the overseas competitors, and smiles were exchanged in return.

Since it’s a rule that contestants can’t be spoken to while competing, spectators wait until the “athletes” come out­side the courts to get autographs.

But as soon as players left the fenced ­in court area, fans took their programs for the players to sign. The Japanese signed in their native alphabet, but the American spectators didn’t care.

The language may have been foreign, but shuffleboard is shuffleboard to these students of the game. 

THE SHUFFLER extends our sincere appreciation to Peggy House for sending along this story.  This event took place in 1981 in Muskegon Michigan.

Stan McCormack.  2012 04 25.  

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2 Responses to

  1. Michael Zellner says:

    Beautiful look back at the founding of our sport. President Johnstone’s photo is proudly displayed on the Presidential Wall in the ISA Hall of Fame building in Clearwater, Florida along with all the Past Presidents who guided the ISA to where it is today.

    Liked by 1 person

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