Hall of Famer
Inducted in 1962
World candlepin bowling record, single string (213)
World candlepin bowling record, three-string total (496)
Wilbert Martel made his pastime his passion. Born in Cape Breton, he moved to Halifax as a youth where he became the proprietor of one of the city's leading bowling alleys. For more than 50 years, Martel was the leading candlepin bowler in the Maritimes and an avid promoter of the distinctly eastern form of bowling. Developed in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1880, candlepin bowling is popular almost exclusively in Maritime Canada and the American New England states. It differs from the more traditional five- and ten-pin forms of the game. Bowlers use 4 1/2-inch balls (smaller than the five-inch five pin balls) without holes and roll at ten "candlepins," which are only three inches wide and 15 inches high. Strikes are exceedingly rare in the game and recording spares is a difficult task given that pins that have been knocked down are not removed from the lane between balls. These pins are known as deadwood and the best bowlers use them in a variety of carom shots. A perfect score is 300 in a single "string" (or game) and has never been recorded. Known for his smooth bowling style, short steps to the line, and an ability to hit a single pin, Martel was a frequent competitor in bowling tournaments throughout the Maritimes and New England. He rolled 400 or better for three strings-one of the sport's watershed achievements-more than 25 times. Martel set world records of 213 for a single string and 496 for three strings. As late as age 72, he came within three pins of rolling a three-string 400. Even in 1978, 20 years after his death, local newspapers were still referring to him as the "undisputed candlepin king." Martel was also an accomplished golfer and hockey player. He was one of the original sponsors of the Halifax Wolverines hockey club, which won the 1935 Allan Cup, awarded to Canada's senior amateur champion. But it is for his accomplishments in the bowling alleys of the Maritimes that Martel is remembered. He has also been inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.