ALBAN ‘BUN’ CLARK
(born June 5, 1883 – deceased)
Fergus Intermediates (1899-1904)
Toronto Tecumsehs (1905-1908)
Regina Capitals (1909)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1910-1911)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1912-1915; 1918-1921)
For such a famous and well-regarded goalkeeper during the game’s height of popularity on the Pacific Coast, practically nothing is known about the man except some fleeting details.
Even the exact spelling of his name is somewhat of a mystery as he was universally referred by all as ‘Bun Clark’ or ‘Bun Clarke’. His given name, in the couple of instances when it appeared in the press of the day, was rendered either as Alban or Alvan – with Alban Clark assumed to be the correct spelling based on census information from 1901. Alban came from a large Scottish Presbyterian family; he was the fourth of eleven children of Forbes and Jane Clark.
An Easterner who hailed from Fergus in Wellington County, Ontario, ‘Bun’ Clark spent four seasons playing with the Toronto Tecumsehs in the Canada Lacrosse Association in 1905 and in the National Lacrosse Union from 1906 until 1908. In his three NLU seasons in goal for the ‘Indians’, he had 26 wins and 13 losses and finished in succession third, second, and first for wins in the NLU (information on his 1905 campaign in the CLA is unknown). Prior to joining the Tecumsehs, he played for his hometown team for six years and won the intermediate championship in 1902 and 1903.
In 1905, he went west with the Ottawa Capitals on their tour to British Columbia. The manager of the Capitals noted that his life on the farm while growing up in Fergus had become so ingrained in him that ‘Bun’ would go to bed at six o’clock and wake up at dawn. This farming background appears on his 1901 census where his occupation is listed as “eggpacker”.
During his tenure with the Tecumsehs, Clark was reported by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper to be “one of best” but his weakness was “an unhappy faculty to get too good natured at times” after a strong performance between the posts.
Charlie Querrie, manager of the Toronto Tecumsehs, informed Clark in 1908 that his services would not be required the following season, on account of “trouble” that had arose between the Toronto management and the goalkeeper. Clark then headed to the prairies in 1909 and made a brief stop in Saskatchewan, playing as a hired-hand for the Regina Capitals in their challenge for the Minto Cup. Traveling west with the Capitals to face the New Westminster Salmonbellies, ‘Bun’ then stayed on the coast. Due to rules made by the Minto Cup trustee related to the Regina Capitals challenge, Clark was unable to sign with another team that year that were in competition for the Minto Cup.
The following season, Con Jones, impressed by what he had seen watching the Regina matches, signed ‘Bun’ Clark for his Vancouver Lacrosse Club and the goalkeeper made his coast debut on Dominion Day of 1910. Clark had been sitting out and away from the game, at home in Walkerton, Ontario, when Jones telegrammed him with an offer in early June 1910. In the wake of Dave Gibbons (along with some other local players) going on strike for more money, Con Jones was left scrambling to find a replacement. He had given a try-out to the former Fairview Lacrosse Club intermediate champion goalkeeper G McDonald but the promising netminder was injured at the end of the practise when ‘Dude’ Sumner, another former Fairview team-mate of McDonald’s, accidentally knocked the keeper senseless with a “wicked shot” to his nose – making him unavailable for Vancouver Lacrosse Club’s next start.
On May 24, 1911, in the opening game of the season, he had a shutout against the Salmonbellies at Queens Park. Later that same season on June 24, during the second of the two Coronation Medals exhibition matches, Clark shutout New Westminster again. He would get his third shutout of 1911 when he stonewalled his former Toronto Tecumseh club in their lacklustre 5-0 loss to Vancouver Lacrosse Club in the opening game of the Minto Cup playoffs. He would later pick up his third competitive shutout – this time playing for the New Westminster Salmonbellies – in the final game of the 1919 season.
‘Bun’ Clark would play 2 seasons and 21 matches for Con Jones and his Greenshirts before signing with the New Westminster Salmonbellies in April 1912 as a replacement for ‘Sandy’ Gray. The manner of his departure from Vancouver is muddled and conflicted – as it was reported he had been released from the club by Con Jones on April 3, 1912, although other reports from around the same time were saying he had been expected to re-sign with Vancouver. A week after his release, the Vancouver Province reported Clark had told the newspaper he had come to terms with Jones and would be re-signing with Vancouver, followed the next day with news breaking that New Westminster had come along and upped the ante, inking him for $2,000, which was several hundred more than Vancouver was offering to pay. It was a big loss for Vancouver, as the Vancouver Daily World gave credit to Clark, along with fellow import Billy Fitzgerald, as the two main reasons why Vancouver had been successful in winning the Minto Cup in 1911.
‘Bun’ Clark retired after the 1921 season when personal business took him back home to Ontario for good – by that time, he had chalked up 96 games with New Westminster over 8 seasons. His career played out over a 24 year period from 1898 to 1921 with Toronto Tecumsehs, Regina Capitals, Vancouver Lacrosse Club, and New Westminster Salmonbellies and he was the oldest pro player (or longest tenured) in the game when he left British Columbia in 1921.
During his time on the West Coast, he also attended training camps (as a goalkeeper) for the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in the 1911-12 and 1915-16 seasons but never appeared in any league games. When his playing days on the Coast came to an end, the Vancouver Sunday Sun newspaper, in a glowing tribute article written about him in April 1922, compared him to his contemporary, peer equivalent in ice hockey, Vancouver Millionaires veteran goaltender Hugh Lehman.
He played in a total of 117 games in his 10 seasons spent out west with Vancouver and New Westminster – by far the most of any goalkeeper and more than double the number of the next closest challenger. Clark had 67 wins and 2 ties to his credit which gave him a .581 winning percentage. He saw 570 goals scored against him, which resulted in a 4.87 goals-against average. While goalkeepers such as Alex ‘Sandy’ Gray and Bernie Feedham (who succeeded him on New Westminster in 1922) may have had better winning records and goals-against averages, neither them nor any other goalkeeper in the Coast pro game had the durability of ‘Bun’ Clark.
Alban Clark married Mary Thornton in Toronto on October 17, 1927 – his occupation was listed as “grocer” on their marriage license. His marriage is the last documentation of ‘Bun’ Clark as the old, great goalkeeper then disappeared into history.
Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers – if not the greatest – on the Pacific Coast during the field lacrosse era, ‘Bun’ Clark would become one of the inaugural inductees into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965. Two years later the oldtimer made the long trip from his home in Toronto to New Westminster to be on hand for the opening of the new hall of fame on May 17, 1967.
(PHOTO SOURCES: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-585; Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame CLHOF X979.132.1c2; CVA 371-607; CVA 371-595)