Before he died on May 25, the University of Victoria Vikes had planned to honour Simon Ibell in a big way.
Ibell, the beloved manager of the Vikes men’s basketball team in the 1990s, was coming back to deliver the keynote speech for the 10th annual Vikes Championship Breakfast on Tuesday morning.
It made a lot of sense, as this year is also the 20th anniversary of the Vikes men’s last national basketball title, and Ibell, who earned a UVic bachelor degree in 2002, was the popular team manager when they hoisted the 1997 cup.
Ibell was about to join a list of names that includes Simon Whitfield, Bob Lenarduzzi, Nancy Mollenhauer and Adam Kreek.
Tragically, it was not to be, as Ibell succumbed at 39 years of age to his lifelong battle with Hunter syndrome.
“Ibell and I spoke some time ago about him bringing the keynote message at the milestone 10th Vikes Championship Breakfast,” said Clint Hamilton, director of Vikes Athletics and Recreation.
Instead, Ian Hyde-Lay, who knew Ibell well, will step up and deliver the keynote speech in Ibell’s honour.
“[Ibell] was excited to be coming back to campus in support of our Vikes, and knowing the special relationship between him and Vikes alum Ian Hyde-Lay, it is wonderful that [Hyde-Lay] will bring the keynote message at our event in a way that will no doubt represent the inspiration and positive spirit so evident with [Ibell],” Hamilton said.
As a player, Hyde-Lay won the national men’s basketball championship with the Vikes in 1979-1980, the same year he graduated. He’s taught and coached at SMUS for the past 33 years, and also spent time as an assistant coach with the Vikes men’s basketball team.
Hyde-Lay taught Ibell at Saint Michaels University School, where Ibell attended from 1990 to 1996, overlapping with Steve Nash’s time there during the school’s magical ‘90s success. It was there Hyde-Lay asked Ibell to manage the Blue Jags senior boys basketball team, including future Vikes Ali Wilmott and Ole Schmidt.
“[Ibell] stood for everything that was right and good,” said Hyde-Lay. “It will be an honour to speak on his behalf and, hopefully, accurately portray his values and dreams. Simon was a dear friend for nearly 30 years. [He] absolutely loved his time at UVic… He impacted the community daily through his humility, positive attitude, determination and example, making light of his supposed ‘disability.’”
Following Ibell’s time at SMUS and UVic, he went on to manage the Canadian national basketball team. In 2002 he biked the length of Vancouver Island, raising $250,000 for Bike 4 MPS. After six years working for Right to Play, Ibell formed the iBellieve Foundation and Be Fair 2 Rare outreach program in 2011, advocating for Canadians suffering from rare diseases.
The following year, Ibell was honoured as a UVic Distinguished Alumnus and became a strong supporter of CARSA, UVic’s new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities. Last year Ibell and his family funded a SMUS scholarship so students could have the experience he did.
This year’s Vikes Championship Breakfast is Sept. 26 in the CARSA Performance Gym.