Monthly Archives: October 2013

Marching towards Professionalism 1890-1908

New Westminster, 1890
New Westminster, 1890

1890–1908 …Marching towards Professionalism

The (original) British Columbia Amateur Lacrosse Association was formed at a meeting held in Vancouver at the Windsor Hotel between the Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster clubs on March 22, 1890. A schedule of six matches was drafted up and New Westminster swept their series to claim the first provincial championship (although some later historical records indicate Victoria as the champion of the inaugural season).

Vancouver would then win the next two titles (1891, 1892) followed by Victoria in 1893 (some records indicate New Westminster) – however over the following years, New Westminster would dominate the championship scene with titles in 1894, 1895, and 1897 through 1902 with Vancouver picking up the slack in the intervening years.

Vancouver Lacrosse Club, ca. 1896
Vancouver Lacrosse Club, ca. 1896

The 1892 season was a great example of early organised field lacrosse. In an incredibly close campaign, each of Vancouver’s five victories for the title was won by 1-goal margins, yet due to their losses they still managed to let in more goals than they scored for the entire season. In those days, each goal scored was actually called winning a “game” and play ended after one team had accumulated four “games” to win the match or time ran out.

Victoria would have to wait until 1919 before winning a second senior amateur title for the Capital City but their closest attempt came during the 1894 season when they tied New Westminster in the league standings. As a result of the draw, a playoff game to determine the championship was played on October 20, 1894 at Brockton Oval in Vancouver. New Westminster showed up at the field an hour and a half late and this later caused the game being called due to darkness and Victoria holding a 3-2 lead with eleven minutes remaining. The referee refused to give the victory to Victoria and the club later withdrew from the BCALA on November 2, 1894 in protest of the referee’s indecision and the late arrival of their opponents.

Vancouver Lacrosse Club, 1899
Vancouver Lacrosse Club, 1899

Two campaigns around the turn of the century – in 1899 and 1900 – saw organised league play deteriorate from numerous cancellations of matches. For example, in August 1900, some scheduled league matches involving New Westminster were cancelled due to their subsequently organised tour of Eastern Canada in August 1900. There were also some matches against Victoria that New Westminster possibly refused to play – allegedly due to ‘rough play’ on Victoria’s part in meetings earlier in the season.

The senior ranks expanded in 1901 with the return of the Nanaimo Lacrosse Club after a two-year hiatus. The Coal City crew were able to secure a couple of surprise victories at the expense of the Vancouver club but generally remained the league’s whipping post for the duration of their senior tenure. By mid-point of the 1902 season, the club had withdrawn from the league and defaulted their five remaining matches. The Vancouver YMCA lacrosse club went back east in October 1901 to challenge for the Minto Cup, the senior championship of Canada which was inaugurated earlier that season.

The 1903 senior lacrosse season ended in dispute between New Westminster and Vancouver and the league championship was still vehemently undecided at the start of the 1904 campaign. The differences between the two clubs dragged on after the three-team schedule was released. New Westminster withdrew from the league on June 2, 1904 after refusal to play two replays to decide the 1903 champion. There was some talk of a second Vancouver team joining, but in the end Vancouver Lacrosse Club and Victoria continued on with an eight-game schedule, which Vancouver handily won after five victories.

Despite the conflicts off the field, one bright spot during the 1903 campaign was growing attendance. The June 30, 1903 match at Brocton Oval between Vancouver and New Westminster saw 7,000 in attendance, reported to have been the best crowd since 1896. Two months later on August 29, 1903, a rematch between those same two teams drew 11,000 onlookers out to Brockton Oval in was dubbed by one newspaper reporter as “the greatest lacrosse match in West Canada”.

Seattle Lacrosse Club, members of BCALA in 1905
Seattle Lacrosse Club, members of BCALA in 1905

In 1905, the BCALA league was reformed with four members: New Westminster, Vancouver, Victoria, and a newly-formed club from Seattle. The Emerald City’s club was later ejected from the league after they were unable to play their two final scheduled games – a move somewhat encouraged by Vancouver since it would improve their record against their league-leading rivals in the Royal City.

The following season saw Victoria withdraw from the senior league and Vancouver field a second club in the form of the Mount Pleasant Maple Leafs. Late in the season, in September 1906, lacrosse players and fans saw the donation of the Kilmarnock Cup as a trophy for the provincial senior championship. Through the efforts of Victoria Lacrosse Club, the $500 mug was donated on behalf of the scotch distillers John Walker & Sons and brought over from England. The Kilmarnock Cup would remain in competition until retired at the close of the 1960s.

New Westminster Salmonbellies, 1908
New Westminster Salmonbellies, 1908

New Westminster became the first Kilmarnock Cup champion in 1907, defeating Mount Pleasant Maple Leafs 5-4. Mount Pleasant had previously bested the Vancouver Lacrosse Club 11-4 in an intra-city playoff.

Victoria rejoined the senior league for 1908. The original schedule was then revised in August to accommodate New Westminster’s challenge trip to Montréal that resulted in the successful capture of the Minto Cup for the West Coast.

On September 26, 1908 in the final New Westminster-Vancouver match of the season, escalating player tempers on the field saw a riot break out when a New Westminster fan pelted a Vancouver player with eggs – which resulted in George Paris, the Vancouver trainer, retaliating by pulling out his gun and firing a shot into the crowd. Thankfully, no one was killed, although the bullet went through the coat of one spectator. Both clubs felt they were victims in the ugly incident and Vancouver stated their refusal to “play any further games in New Westminster…

(PHOTO SOURCES: NWMA IHP1505; Saturday Globe (January 30, 1897); CVA Sp P4.1; Seattle Times archives; NWMA IHP0663 )

The National Game finds its feet 1886-1890

The Daily Colonist, Victoria (March 19, 1889)
The Daily Colonist, Victoria (March 19, 1889)

1886–1890 …The National Game finds its feet

In the years between the 1886 Beacon Hill match (discussed in a previous post) and the formation of the British Columbia Amateur Lacrosse Association (BCALA) in 1890, lacrosse clubs would make haphazard arrangements for challenge matches – usually to be held on such popular, public holiday events as Empire Day or Dominion Day.

As in 1886, there was only one match reported played in 1887 – played between Victoria and Vancouver on Dominion Day with Victoria winning by two goals / “games” to none.

Vancouver Lacrosse Club was formally organised in 1888. The first practices were held on the sawdust at the Hastings Mill yard but it soon became apparently that more suitable playing grounds were required. Through the efforts of Al Larwill, AE Beck, and CG Johnson work began on clearing the Cambie Street grounds which became the first home for athletic clubs in the city.

New Westminster newspapers reported the formation of a lacrosse club in that city on May 12, 1888, but local fans would have to wait another year before the first ever lacrosse game played in the Royal City.

Alhambra Cup at the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame
Alhambra Cup at the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame

The 1888 season saw multiple challenges being issued back and forth between the Victoria and Vancouver clubs. In August, Kamloops played host to a match between the Victoria Lacrosse Club and Vancouver Lacrosse Club during the Canadian Pacific Railroad picnic held there. Won 3-2 by Victoria, the match took around three hours duration to complete. At one point, high winds and a dust storm interrupted play and it took fifty minutes to complete play for the final “game”.

The following spring saw Vancouver Lacrosse Club put forth the Alhambra Cup for competition – originally to be won by the team winning the most matches played in Vancouver, although as the playing season progressed, the Vancouver club would sometimes announce beforehand that, regardless of location, the upcoming game would count towards Alhambra Cup competition.

On June 8, 1889, the visiting Vancouver team dispatched an inexperienced New Westminster side with a 3-1 result in the debut of lacrosse for the Royal City. From such inauspicious beginnings on that Saturday afternoon, no one in attendance could have known they had just witnessed the birth of what would become arguably one of the most legendary lacrosse clubs in all of competitive sports.

After some wrangling, Vancouver and New Westminster ended up making the trip in September to the Kamloops CPR picnic to play; in the meanwhile, Victoria stayed home uninvited and sulked, feeling snubbed by the two other teams.

Vancouver Lacrosse Club, ca.1889-90 with the Alhambra Cup
Vancouver Lacrosse Club, ca.1889-90 with the Alhambra Cup

Concerns over betting at the final Alhambra Cup match in October 1889, which ended in a 2-2 draw, and disagreements between Vancouver and New Westminster over rules and player eligibility to play for what they deemed the ‘championship’, led some people to look at the example of Eastern Canada – for example, usage of a set code of rules like those used by the Manitoba Lacrosse Association. This encouraged them to look towards forming their own provincial association. A week before Christmas of 1889, during a dinner hosted by the president of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club for his players, discussion about the formation of a provincial association was brought up. The move towards formal, organised lacrosse would start to take shape in the spring of 1890.

(PHOTOS The Daily Colonist online archive; the author; CVA VLP 63)

Alfred ‘Boney’ Suckling

Suckling as he appeared in the 1899 Vancouver team photo.

ALFRED ERNEST ‘BONEY’ SUCKLING
(1863 – January 11, 1937)

Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1886-1896)

Alfred Ernest ‘Boney’ Suckling was regarded as one of the best defensemen in the early, formative years of British Columbian lacrosse. Born in Toronto, he had come west with the Canadian Pacific Railroad – and with him, he brought his love of the game. Tough as nails and loved by fans, ‘Boney’ wore no padding nor gloves and was known to tape lead to the butt-end of his stick.

But more importantly, he helped found the Vancouver Lacrosse Club, ca. 1886, and during his lifetime he was often referred to as the ‘Father of Lacrosse in British Columbia’. In the 1889 edition of The Canadian Almanac & Directory, his accomplishments in “establishing healthy young clubs in Vancouver and Victoria” during the summer of 1888 were specifically noted in the lacrosse section of the sports and pastimes chapter.

In the final senior game of the 1895 season, against the Victoria Triangles at Caledonia Park, ‘Boney’ went on a headhunting expedition within ten minutes of the opening whistle. Suckling first targeted Ditchburn – putting the good-natured Victoria player’s head in bandages, dazing and dulling his spirits for the rest of the match. Suckling was finally sent off during the play for the third goal when he struck Frank Cullin on the side of his head with his stick, an action the Victoria Daily Colonist remarked “whenever he is playing a losing game gets nasty and plays roughly”. Cullin returned the blow and the two men then fell to the ground clinching each other in the scrap. After breaking up the melee, Referee JH Senkler removed both players from the remainder of the match.

Alfred ‘Boney’ Suckling, 1890
Alfred ‘Boney’ Suckling when he was a player on the 1890 team.

Suckling occasionally played between the posts as Vancouver could never seem to settle on a consistent fixture in the goal crease. Some early seasons the keeper changed up with a different person from game to game while J Quann and Myers became the usual choices in the mid- to late-1890s. ‘Boney’ was listed as the goalkeeper in a photograph collage printed in the Saturday Globe newspaper in January 1897, accompanying a history of the lacrosse club to that date, although the previous season would end up being his final on the playing field.

‘Boney’ Suckling played for 11 seasons from the game’s debut on the Coast in 1886 until 1896 although he is not listed on the roster for the singular 1886 and 1887 matches played by the Vancouver Lacrosse Club. His final game ended in controversy, when the Victoria Capitals filed a protest – dismissed a couple weeks later on a bureaucratic technicality – due to his rough play in the September 4, 1896 match at Brockton Point.

After his retirement as a player, he later became a referee, team official, and the provincial association president. His involvement in lacrosse continued until a few years before his death at age 74.

suckling graveIn February 1905, while on the way home from a five-week trip to Eastern Canada, Suckling stopped over in Seattle and met with members of the Seattle Lacrosse Club. In his capacity as president of the British Columbia Amateur Lacrosse Association, they were interviewing him about the possibly of the Seattle team joining the BCALA senior league. Seattle would indeed join for the 1905 season but then were ejected from the league a few months later, when they were unable to play their two final scheduled games.

He was also responsible for the building of the old Brighouse racetrack – now the site of Lansdowne Mall in Richmond.

Suckling’s grave is located at Ocean View Cemetery in Burnaby, British Columbia. He passed away at Essondale.

(PHOTO 1890 photograph, detail from CVA VLP63; author’s photograph)

Forgotten beginnings 1882-1886

1882–1886 …Forgotten beginnings

The first ‘organised’ lacrosse game played in British Columbia (between teams representing two different cities) occurred on Saturday, August 28, 1886; played at Beacon Hill Park between the Vancouver and Victoria clubs, the visiting mainlanders won by the score of 3-1 – or three “games” to one, in the old-style nomenclature used at the time.

Quite possibly the earliest lacrosse match in British Columbia - Daily British Colonist, June 18, 1882
Quite possibly the earliest lacrosse match in British Columbia – Daily British Colonist, June 18, 1882

However, while this particular match has gone into the history books as the first lacrosse game played in the province, the game’s roots in British Columbia actually go back by four years to 1882.

On Thursday, February 16 of that year, an athletic club was organised in Victoria that included lacrosse as one of its sports. This was then followed by a highly-publicised match played at Beacon Hill Park on Saturday afternoon, June 17, 1882 although it was essentially a scrimmage game between two teams made up from the mostly-inexperienced players of the Victoria Athletic Club. For unknown reasons, the club was reported (or misreported) in the newspaper as the “Vancouver Athletic Club” – possibly in reference to Vancouver Island, as “Vancouver” was four years away from existing as a geographical reference in British Columbia.

There are also newspaper records of a match in Victoria involving an unidentified collegiate team played a few weeks later as well as a photograph in the provincial archives dated from almost exactly a year later in 1883, taken in Victoria, of an unidentified lacrosse team in that city.

John ‘Dot’ Crookall

John ‘Dot’ Crookall
John ‘Dot’ Crookall

JOHN FRANCIS ‘DOT’ CROOKALL
(February 6, 1889 – May 31, 1965)

Vancouver Athletic Club (1913)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1915)
Vancouver Greenshirts (1918)
Vancouver Terminals (1919-1923)

After Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, ‘Dot’ Crookall easily ranks in as the second-greatest player to suit up for Vancouver during the pro lacrosse era. He turned pro during the 1913 season when Vancouver Athletics challenged for the Minto Cup. He then played the following 8 seasons for the various Vancouver Minto entries: the Athletics, Vancouver Lacrosse Club, Greenshirts, and then the Vancouver Terminals – appearing in 98 matches and scoring 140 goals and 8 assists before bowing out prior to the ill-fated 1924 season. Prior to becoming a professional player, he played two seasons of senior lacrosse with Vancouver Athletic Club in 1911 and 1912.

His position was inside home, which was previously occupied by teammate ‘Newsy’ Lalonde before ‘Dot’ joined the team – and with Newsy subsequently switching over to outside home, the pair made a formidable attack on the goal crease. In career scoring, John Crookall ranks fourth behind Lalonde – the two line-mates are tied with 148 points, but Newsy played 5 less games and scored 7 more goals – and the Spring Brothers of New Westminster.

John ‘Dot’ Crookall was one of the inaugural inductees to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965 and he is one of just three field lacrosse players from the era also in the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame; inducted two years later. He was born in Toronto, Ontario and his last known residence was at Snug Cove on Bowen Island, British Columbia – where he was known as one of the callers at local square dances in the 1930s and 1940s. Outside of lacrosse, he was also known as a baseball umpire.

dot crookall stats

(PHOTO SOURCE: CLHOF X994.144)

Con Jones

Con Jones, 1913
Con Jones, 1913

CON JONES
(August 18, 1869 – June 3, 1929)

For such a major figure in the early Vancouver sports scene, the details are few and far between on Con Jones. Nothing is known of his early life except that he was born on August 18, 1869 and originally hailed from the Woollahra suburb of Sydney in New South Wales. Some accounts say Jones had been a bookie in his native Australia – others say that he later became a bookie here.

What is known for certain is that he arrived in Vancouver in November 1903 and in the years that followed, he opened up a tobacconist’s, the Brunswick pool hall, some bowling alleys, and a café.

Jones marketed his tobacco under the brand name of “Don’t Argue”, which had one of the most unique business logos ever: a guy in a bowler hat confidently muffling another man in the face. The store motto was “Don’t Argue, Con Jones Sells Fresh Tobacco” and it may have featured the first neon sign in Vancouver – sporting his famous “Don’t Argue” logo. There is strong evidence hinting that Jones surreptitiously “borrowed” the slogan and imagery which was also used by Hutton’s Hams & Bacons in his native Australia.

Within two years of his arrival he became one of Vancouver’s leading sports promoters. Jones started out with billiards; one of his first promotions was offering up a trophy for the BC Amateur Championship in May 1904 – but his first loves would become soccer and lacrosse, and he would spend big bucks to promote them both.

His association with lacrosse begun around 1907, possibly sooner, and Con Jones was a key influence in the formation of the British Columbia Lacrosse Association pro league in 1909 (no relation whatsoever to the modern BCLA provincial organisation). Two years later he lured lacrosse star ‘Newsy’ Lalonde to Vancouver in 1911 by offering him $3,500 to $5,000 for a single season, an astronomical sum for its day. (The actual amount Newsy earnt varies depending on sources).

Around 4,000 spectators showed up to witness Vancouver’s debut at Hastings Park on May 31, 1913. On this site, Con Jones would build the stadium that would bear his name.
Around 4,000 spectators showed up to witness Vancouver’s debut at Hastings Park on May 31, 1913. Across the road from this site, Con Jones would later build the stadium that would bear his name.

Jones loved sports so much he built his own stadium on the two-block Hastings athletic grounds that were located on Renfrew Street across from the PNE grounds. His lacrosse team vacated Recreation Park downtown and moved to the athletic grounds in 1913, and Jones would later construct a grandstand, which soon acquired the name ‘Con Jones Park’. Today the site is called Callister Park – although his wooden stadium is long gone (demolished in 1971). As well as benefiting the professional game, he helped build the amateur game at a local level by donating sticks and equipment to youngsters in the public schools.

After running into a scheduling dispute with New Westminster in July 1913, the Salmonbellies walked off the field in protest. Jones pulled the plug on his Vancouver team, refunding $5,000 in ticket revenue to disappointed fans as the sport skidded into the doldrums.

He would return to lacrosse in 1915, after the Vancouver Athletics had floundered the year before as a replacement for his old club. However, Jones himself would soon fall into financial difficulties. With the Vancouver club mired in debt to the amount of $2,300 just two months into the season, Jones showed his accounting books to the Vancouver players and stated he would not be paying them for the rest of the season. The three Easterners that he had imported in for the 1915 season packed up and left for home the following week.

The Great War would then make the 1916 and 1917 lacrosse seasons two of its many casualties as play was suspended due to the war effort.

“Don't Argue, Con Jones Sells Fresh Tobacco”
“Don’t Argue! Con Jones Sells Fresh Tobacco”

By the time pro lacrosse was revived in 1918, it had lost its primacy in the hearts of Vancouver’s sports fans. Jones’ own interest in the pro game would sour again after the 1918 season when his Vancouver team won the Mainland Lacrosse Association and claimed the Minto Cup. However, the New Westminster Salmonbellies then claimed the following year – conveniently after they had lost the cup series – that they had never fielded a team and rejected Vancouver’s claims for the Minto Cup.

While the early 1920s would see the game regain some traction amongst fans, it never flourished at the same dizzying level as it did under Jones’ heyday during the decade prior. In the meantime, out of disgust with the recent situation with New Westminster, Jones turned his attention to supporting the amateur game.

In late September and October of 1920, Jones met with his former star-player Billy Fitzgerald to lay out some plans to field a team to play against a Vancouver team involving Jones. Although never progressing beyond talk, conflicting and muddled news reports hinted that Fitzgerald would either organise and manage an unidentified eastern team to play a twelve-game schedule versus Vancouver or he would organise a Seattle lacrosse team to play in an ‘international league’ involving Vancouver and Montréal. Whether the failure of this international league bankrolled by Con Jones later lent weight to his Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association venture the following year involving Vancouver and Victoria (of which Billy Fitzgerald was a member), is unknown.

When he returned to the professional game in 1921, what seem like a repeated occurrence over the years, constant disputes with the Salmonbellies, struck yet again. New Westminster refused to play against a Jones team, so this time Jones simply walked with his players and formed his own new league, the Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association, with Victoria as the token opposition. But his new venture was short-lived and floundered after just 5 games. Despite importing easterners to stock the teams, Victoria was hopelessly outclassed and the PCLA quickly proved futile.

Jones found himself returning to the British Columbia Lacrosse Association in 1924 after coming to an agreement with New Westminster over organisation for the upcoming season.

Con Jones with his talent-laden Vancouver Lacrosse Club, 1913
Con Jones with his talent-laden Vancouver Lacrosse Club in 1913

Sadly, just as Con Jones had a hand in building up the professional game in Vancouver, he would have a hand in its demise in that city, and ultimately in Canada – as its last bastion was on the Pacific Coast.

In June 1924, four games into the season, Jones suddenly and without warning threw in the towel.

Like a “bolt from the blue”, as one newspaper commented, Jones was forced to quit the game on his doctor’s orders. When local baseball legend Bob Brown then offered to step in and take Jones’s place leading the Vancouver club, the rescue attempt was quickly quashed when Jones flatly refused to allow his park to be used free of charge to help keep the national game alive.

As the Vancouver Province stated: “And that’s that. Con Jones is through.” – and so died the last remnants of the pro lacrosse game in Canada.

Jones was watching a soccer game at Con Jones Park when he suffered a stroke. Five days later, he suffered another attack and passed away at nine o’clock in the morning of June 3, 1929 at the age of 59. He was survived by his wife, four sons, and a daughter. His mausoleum is located at Ocean View Cemetery in Burnaby, British Columbia.

In 1965, in recognition of his status as a builder of the game, Con Jones was named one of the charter inductees in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

(PHOTOS CVA99-35; CVA371-576)

Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart

Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart
Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart

HAROLD REGINALD ‘HADDIE’ STODDART
(January 13, 1900 – May 13, 1974)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1920-1924)

Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart was born on the thirteenth day of 1900. He started playing lacrosse at age 10 as a junior and later played high school lacrosse when he was a teenager during the years of the Great War. When he was 18, Haddie started playing senior lacrosse with New Westminster and then turned pro two seasons later in 1920 with the Salmonbellies.

For his first two pro seasons, Stoddart played in what would appear to modern observers as a defensive midfielder role. But then in 1922 he switched to centreman and became one of the best midfielders for the Salmonbellies – finishing fourth in team scoring in every season from 1921 through 1924.

‘Haddie’ Stoddart was an all-round athlete but once he turned pro, he was forced to give up the rest of his amateur sporting pursuits. As well as being a star lacrosse player, he excelled at baseball and also played football and basketball. When he was 16, young enough to fall below the amateur jurisdiction requirements against pro players, he was pitching for the local semi-pro baseball club. He also gave two versions of hockey – ice and floor – a go.

During his five seasons as a pro player, Stoddart appeared in 70 matches and scored 38 goals and 45 points – ranking him 12th in career scoring for pro players on the Coast. As well, he picked up 35 penalties for 221 minutes. Statistically, his best campaign was in 1921 when he scored 14 goals in 18 games.

After the pro game collapsed and died suddenly in 1924, due to strict amateur restrictions, players like Harold Stoddart were forced out of the game, unable to play for senior amateur lacrosse teams because of them being forever tainted as ‘professionals’.

Finally in 1933, after eight seasons of watching from the sidelines, the restriction against the former pros was lifted. By this time, most of the old pro players had become too long in the tooth to play in the fast, new-fangled box lacrosse game – but at age 33, Stoddart was still young enough to have some gas left in the tank.

He signed with the New Westminster Salmonbellies of the Inter-City Lacrosse League in 1933, scoring 10 goals for them during the regular season and playoffs. The following season, ‘Haddie’ signed with the cross-town rival New Westminster Adanacs and he scored 32 goals and 18 assists in 19 games. 1935 would be his last season, scoring 20 goals and 45 points for the Adanacs.

In 1923 Stoddart married Inez Adele Collishaw, one of the sisters of the famous Canadian World War One pilot, Colonel (later Air Vice Marshal) Raymond Collishaw.

Harold Stoddart was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a Field Player in 1967.

haddie stoddart stats

(PHOTO CLHOF X994.82)