Irving Meretsky, more commonly known as “Toots,” was one of Canada’s most outstanding basketball players in the 1930s. He played on four Canadian finalist teams and went to the 1936 Olympics as a member of the Windsor Ford V-8s.
Born in Windsor on May 17, 1912, Meretsky played basketball and quarterbacked the football team at Windsor’s Patterson Collegiate. After graduation, Meretsky stayed in the city to attend Assumption College.
At Assumption, Meretsky was a member of the famous 1933-34 “Five Fighting Freshman” class. The memorable team won the Michigan-Ontario League and Ontario Senior Men’s titles on the way to losing in the Eastern Canadian Finals to Montreal. Merestky was the team’s second leading scorer, behind only Bill Rogin.
The following year, Meretsky again finished second in scoring to Rogin as the pair were named First-Team All-Stars in the Michigan-Ontario League. Their ’34-35 Assumption team reached the Canadian Finals, falling to Victoria.
While playing for Assumption, Meretsky coached Gordon McGregor Continuation School, which was a school for Grades 9 and 10 at the time. Under Meretsky’s stewardship, McGregor won the Ontario Junior Basketball Championship.
In 1935-36, Meretsky’s Ford V-8s were named Canadian Senior Men’s Champions after defeating the Victoria Dominoes three games to none in a best-of-five series played in Windsor. “Meretsky did outstanding work in every game,” said the Windsor Star of the series’ leading scorer.
As Canadian Champions, the Ford V-8s were elected to represent Canada at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In Germany, the V-8s advanced to the final, where they eventually succumbed 19-8 to the USA. The Canadians took silver, meaning Meretsky was a key figure in what is still Canada’s only medal in Olympic basketball.
Meretsky played two further seasons with the V-8s, reaching the Canadian Finals in 1936-37 only to lose to the University of British Columbia. Meretsky again reached the Canadian Finals in 1938-39, this time with the Windsor Alumni, falling to the Victoria Blue Ribbons.
Meretsky’s playing career came to a close in British Columbia, where he competed as player/coach for Port Alberni, a provincial finalist for the 1939-40 and ’40-41 seasons.
Following his final season with Port Alberni, Meretsky returned to Windsor to manage a family business. He continued to remain involved in basketball, coaching Windsor’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue’s team to the Ontario Basketball Association Bantam title in 1952-53.
Meretsky belongs to the University of Windsor Alumni Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted as a member of the 1936 Ford V-8s.
He passsed away on May 18, 2006, one day after his 94th birthday.