Murray Christison built squash, both figuratively and literally. Arriving in Toronto from his native New Zealand, he brought with him a deep love for the game of squash. In the early ‘70s, there were very few public clubs, most of the activity was in the private clubs and schools. Recognizing this opportunity, Murray found a site in Etobicoke and in 1973, built the Valhalla Squash Club with some of the first international squash courts in the country. Valhalla had 8 courts, including 2 glass-backed gallery courts.
In 1979 and 1981, Murray organized the $50,000 McGuinness World Squash Championship with the later rounds held at the Etobicoke Olympium and Columbus Centre on Canada’s first portable court. When the Mennen Cup Classic transitioned from hardball to soft ball, it was staged at Valhalla and then at Carlson Court.
In 1977, Murray then found a site in Agincourt, a small suburb just north of the city and built Bridlewood Squash Club, with 5 international courts and 4 singles (hardball) courts. The rush was on to complete the club as it was set to host, the ISRF, the forerunner to the World Squash Federation, sixth World Amateur Individual Squash Championship.
Murray sold Bridlewood in 1978 but not before attracting most of Ontario’s top ranked men and women to play and train there.
Murray built, owned, and operated the Supreme Court Club in Mississauga which opened in 1979. Supreme had 8 courts. In 1981 Murray sold Supreme and it eventually became Applewood Squash Club.
Then, the crowning glory of his achievements in the building of Carlson Court, a magnificent venue for staging major squash events. It featured 8 glass backed courts including North American’s first permanent 3 glass-walled exhibition court with amphitheater, seating 360 spectators. There was also a front and back glass walled exhibition court. Murray hosted and managed the $70,000 Drakkar Noir Canadian Open Championships annually from 1985 to 1987 and the Mennen Cup in 1986.
Events organized by Murray were among the first squash matches to be televised and these included the Drakkar Noir Canadian Opens, the Mennen Cup and the 1984 Jack Daniels Canadian Pro Championships.
It’s important to note that funding for squash in Ontario and in Canada during these years was very low. Our high-performance players were not always able to compete internationally. What Murray did was bring the world to Canada and, to Toronto. This enabled our best players, not just to improve their games, but also provided them with a way of knowing how they measured up to the world’s high-performance players.
Murray Christison was a visionary when squash needed one and the contributions he made to growing the game at both the grassroots and professional levels were outstanding.