WILLIAM (BILLY) JAMES FITZGERALD
(February 20, 1888 – June 30, 1926)
St. Catharines Athletics (1907-1908; 1918)
Toronto Lacrosse Club (1909-1910; 1912)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1911; 1915)
Toronto Rosedales (1914)
Cornwall Colts (1919)
Victoria Capitals (1921)
Vancouver Terminals (1924)
Billy Fitzgerald of St. Catharines, Ontario was one of the greatest players of the field lacrosse era. He played most of his lacrosse back east in St. Catharines and Toronto but in 1911 he was enticed to the Coast by a $5,000 offer from promoter Con Jones to sign with his talent-laden Vancouver Lacrosse Club – who then went on to win the Minto Cup championship that year, in one of the few seasons they managed to out-play the Salmonbellies for the silverware.
As well as playing for Vancouver in 1911 – where he scored 15 goals in 14 games – he played parts of three other seasons on the Pacific Coast with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1915), Victoria Capitals (1921), and Vancouver Terminals (1924). He appeared in a total of just 26 games out west and scored 28 goals – but this was still good enough for him to finish 19th in career goal scoring.
In late September and October of 1920, Con Jones met with his former star-player to lay out some plans for fielding 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.
The international league never happened but Fitzgerald did play and oversee the Victoria Capitals team in Con Jones’s brand-new Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association of 1921 – which lasted all of 5 games before folding.
Fitzgerald died at the age of 38 due to complications arising from an operation for gallstones. A few months later in September 1926, a memorial game in St. Catharines, which was attended by thousands, was played in his honour by former team-mates and opponents.
In 1950, he finished second in voting by Canadian journalists for the honours of Canada’s greatest lacrosse player of 1900-1950. Billy Fitzgerald was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1961 and inducted four years later as an original member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
(PHOTO CLHOF X994.97)