Nicknamed ‘The Smiler’ for his ever-present grin, Jack Purcell was the greatest Badminton player in the world over a stretch of thirteen years. From 1932 until the end of World War II when he retired, he was undefeated taking on all comers from many nations.
Growing up in Guelph in the house kitty-corner to GCVI, he was introduced to tennis by another famous Guelphite, George Drew, who went on to become the Premier of Ontario. In the early 20s he switched to badminton and from 1926 to 1931 held every title in Ontario winning the singles championship five times and the mixed doubles four consecutive times. He won his first of two Canadian championships in 1929. In 1932 he turned professional and defeated the four best British badminton players (the home of the sport), who were on a tour of Canada. That made him the World Champion and he held onto that title until 1944 when the lack of birds and racquets due to the War, forced him to retire.
But Purcell is known for another amazing innovation. In order to provide more protection for the foot, he worked with B. F. Goodrich to develop the instep support we all now take for granted. Amazingly enough, the ‘Purcell Shoe’ has endured and is still sold to this day by Converse.
Mr. Purcell was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 and was named the Canadian Press Outstanding Athlete of the Half Century in the miscellaneous category in 1950.
Elected to the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Athlete category – on April 16, 2002