Squash racquets is played with a long-handled, small-headed racquet in an enclosed court that resembles a giant, lidded shoebox. Each player (or pair in doubles) takes turns hitting the ball to the front wall - rather like lawn TENNIS but with both players on one side of the court. The game is an offshoot of racquets but is played with a soft, "squashy" ball; hence, the name. There are 2 versions of the game: the International game, which is played worldwide, including in America, where it is becoming increasingly popular, and the American game, which is played almost solely in Canada and the US. Although squash courts may have existed in Vancouver as early as the 1880s, it was the Montreal Racquet Club, the Toronto Racquet Club and the Hamilton Squash Racquets Club that formed the Canadian Squash Racquets Association (CSRA) in 1913 - the world's first national squash organization.
Canadians who have excelled at the game include Ernest Howard of Toronto, the first Canadian to win the US singles championship (1953); Colin Adair of Montréal, the only Canadian to win the US title twice; Michael Desaulniers, who won the US title twice; and S. McElhinney, S. Murray and J. Maycock, all winners of the North American Women's Open Championships.
In recent years, the fact that many-times world champions Sharif Khan and Heather McKay lived and played in Canada helped to develop the game in this country, as did the advent of nationally televised matches. Sharif Khan dominated squash in North America from the time he settled in Toronto in the 1960s. He won every major tournament and holds the 12-time winning record for the American Open championship. In 1994, he and partner Craig Wells won the world doubles championship in the over 50 category.
The most outstanding Canadian player to date is Jonathon Power of Toronto, who achieved the number one world ranking in May 1999 after winning the world championship in Qatar in November 1998. In 1997 Power jumped to prominence when he became the first North American to beat the long-reigning Janshar Khan in Qatar.
Until the 1970s most squash courts in Canada were privately owned, or were found in social clubs, sports clubs, universities or private schools. Recently many new commercial courts are being constructed with large galleries and facilities for televising games. This business approach has opened the game to increasing numbers of spectators and participants. Although facing stiff competition in some centres from other racquet sports, the intense competition and high levels of skill and fitness demanded by the game, together with the fact that people of all ages and fitness levels can play, guarantee its popularity.