Brent Mutis, CapU Sport Information & Compliance Officer
When you consider father-son sporting legacies, you tend to find pairs that reached great heights in the same sport.
Consider Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty, Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. or Archie Manning and his sons Peyton and Eli. All made their achievements in the sports of hockey, baseball and football respectively.
It’s less common in when the offspring of an athlete goes on to great things in a different sport but with Capilano University, there’s a prime example.
When the Blues men’s volleyball team dramatically came from behind in the PACWEST final to take gold in February, it secured a provincial title for Graeme Hughes and his teammates. It also put him in rarified air, being the son of a Blues provincial-title winner.
Mark Hughes captained the 1978 Blues men’s soccer team to its first-ever B.C. crown as a center back clearing danger from the front of the net. Fast forward to 2020 and Graeme is an outside hitter soaring high over the volleyball net, hammering kills past opposition blockers.
“I definitely see my dad as a huge inspiration,” says Graeme, a fourth-year psychology student. “Obviously him telling me, ‘Back when I was in university, I got a provincial championship’, it definitely made me want it even more, just so I can share that with him.”
Mark’s 1978 team claimed the title, in what was then known as the Totem conference, by virtue of finishing atop the table of six teams.
“(My) first year we weren’t very good,” recalls Mark, now 62 and a partner at an investment firm. “The next year, (head coach) Joe (Iacobellis) started doing some recruiting, bringing in some young guys, certainly the Charles brothers (Ken and Terry), Randy Kennedy, Pete Roach… they were terrific players.
“It was a really good group of guys, we got along really well, we had excellent coaching and it all gelled.”
Strangely enough, neither father nor son had any feel for the sport the other grew to excel at. Graeme was through with soccer after a brief foray.
“I did not go very far,” he says with a laugh. “I think soccer really wasn’t for me; as a little kid, I was a little bean pole, I probably weighed about 50 pounds. Standing out in the cold wasn’t my thing. (My dad) definitely tried to get me into it but it just wasn’t my sport.”
Mark was encouraged by his soccer coach Iacobellis to try volleyball while a CapU student.
“Joe came to me one day and he said, ‘You’re tall and you can jump. Why don’t you come and try out for the volleyball team?’ That experiment lasted half a practice. I had bruised knees, a cut on my chin and I knew my gig was up when I started serving underhand. That was it, my 35- or 40-minute experience at Cap volleyball.”
The memories came back last season each time Mark and Graeme’s mom Sandy visited the North Vancouver campus to watch Graeme play. They even managed to get to St. Thomas University in New Brunswick in March to see the Blues win the CCAA national championship.
“Well his mom and I are extremely proud of his efforts and the team. The boys and the coaching staff all did a fantastic job of getting the kids ready to peak at the right time of year and they did a terrific job, all those guys.”
Before anyone gets the idea Graeme has one up on his dad with a national title under his belt, it should be noted Mark got their first as well as a Blues assistant coach alongside Iacobellis. Under their tutelage, the Blues won national titles in 1988 and 1990.
And while his passion for the beautiful game didn’t translate to Graeme, athleticism and height did but volleyball didn’t find the younger Hughes until his Grade 11 year at Elgin Park Secondary in Surrey. His older brother Nick had encouraged him to try it but at the time, Graeme figured basketball was his chance to play sports at university.
“Then I had a few friends at my high school ask me to join the volleyball team,” he remembers. “I went to one practice and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my sport. I love this so much more than basketball.’ From there I just started playing as much as possible.”
A lot of hours traveling to games and training, not to mention the effort his mom and dad put in to make it happen, has paid off and Mark is thrilled his son has enjoyed the same kind of experiences he did as a player.
“Graeme, all those kids, will have memories for a lifetime with that group of guys,” says Mark. “They’ll always have a central point. I certainly have that with people I’ve played sports with.”
Already, that resonates with Graeme.
“I would say it means a lot to me now; I think it’s a really cool story and it brings us closer. And I think as I get older it will definitely mean a lot to me.
“It’s really cool to think that I’ll be able to tell my kids.”
A third-generation of Hughes in Blues colours? Don’t be surprised if it happens.