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 professional entries: the Athletics, Vancouver Lacrosse Club, the unfortunate ‘Greenshirts’, and finally, the Vancouver Terminals – appearing in 98 pro matches and scoring 140 goals and 8 assists before bowing out prior to the ill-fated 1924 season. He would get his hands on the Minto Cup in 1920 and was a member of the retracted 1918 championship team. Prior to becoming a professional player, Crookall played two seasons of senior lacrosse with Vancouver Athletic Club in 1911 and 1912 and won the Mann Cup during that time.
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 in scoring – 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.
A long-time resident of Bowen Island, located in Howe Sound west of West Vancouver, practically all knowledge of John Crookall’s personal life outside of lacrosse comes from Bowen Island historian Irene Howard and her book Bowen Island 1872-1972. As she wonderfully writes, with lacrosse details repeated above removed:
John Francis “Dot” Crookall (1889-1965) was born in Toronto, the son of Martha Aspden Crookall and John Crookall, a well-known Vancouver building contractor. He went to Mount Pleasant School, then learned bricklaying and the other building trades from his father. He became a star lacrosse player with his first Mann Cup winning game in 1911. He had first come to Bowen on family camping trips with his mother and father. Then while he was in amateur lacrosse married Erna Ford of New Westminster and lived with her on Bowen Island where he worked for the Terminal Steamship Company. He built some cottages for Captain Cates’ Terminal Resort.
To get to his lacrosse game he used to paddle across the channel to Whytecliffe Park, beach the canoe and catch the Pacific Great Eastern gas jitney to North Vancouver.
He also played semi-pro baseball and was a well-known umpire. After he retired from lacrosse he worked as a bricklayer in Vancouver, but with the onset of a serious illness stopped work and went with his wife to live at Killarney Lake on Bowen Island. After he had recuperated, he and his wife remained on Bowen Island to manage the Tea Room for the Union for several summers, after which he worked as a carpenter for the company until his retirement in 1955.
Always an enthusiastic fisherman, he now fished the year-round, every possible day, even Christmas, and seldom came home without a catch. In a good year it would total nearly 1000. He was not very fond of fish; he gave most of it away. For two years he held a commercial license but sold only to the Union. He was a familiar and much love figure on Bowen Island, where he ran the bingo games, coached the softball team, fed the ducks in the lagoon and kept track of the hatching dates of the ducklings. In his last illness he refused to leave the island and died in the Orchard cottage where he and his wife had lived for so many years.
John ‘Dot’ Crookall was one of the inaugural, charter 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.
(PHOTO SOURCES: CLHOF X994.144; CVA 99-905 excerpt)
Special thanks to Bowen Island Museum & Archives for providing the excerpt from Irene Howard’s book Bowen Island 1872-1972.