Monthly Archives: December 2013

Cliff ‘Doughy’ Spring

Cliff Spring in The Columbian, 1924
Cliff Spring appearing in The Columbian newspaper, 1924

(January 24, 1888 – March 8, 1974)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1906-1913; 1915; 1918-1924)
Toronto Lacrosse Club (1914)
Ottawa Capitals (1916-1917)

Born in Draper Township of Muskoka District in Ontario, Cliff Spring moved west as a youngster. He played intermediate lacrosse with the New Westminster West Ends starting in 1900 through into 1905. In the summer of 1905, he went to play for a team in Kamloops but returned to New Westminster the following year to play a season with the New Westminster Reginas. While with the Reginas in 1906, he also appeared in between the posts as a call-up goalkeeper for the senior Salmonbellies. In 1907 he found himself back with the West Ends intermediates but then soon turned senior full-time that same year with the New Westminster Salmonbellies.

No other pair of brothers dominated the game during the professional era quite like the Spring Brothers, Cliff and Gordon – or better known to their fans and opponents as ‘Doughy’ and ‘Grumpy’. 18% of all the pro goals scored on the Coast between 1909 and 1924 were scored by a Spring. On New Westminster, ‘Grumpy’ Spring accounted for almost 19% of the Salmonbellies goals while brother ‘Doughy’ accounted for another almost 15% of the goals – keep in mind that ‘Grumpy’ did not play in the Salmonbellies’ last three professional campaigns. Therefore, their careers combined, the Spring Brothers were responsible for one-third of New Westminster’s goals.

Cliff Spring looking at memorabilia during the 1960s.
Cliff Spring looking at memorabilia during the 1960s.

When trying to determine which one of the Spring brothers was the better player, it boils down to comparing raw statistics with raw ability – and statistics don’t always paint a clear picture. Statistically speaking, brother ‘Grumpy’ would be ranked the better player on account of his goal-scoring – but as a student of the game played on the field, Doughy would be regarded the better player due to his knowledge and ability to play, competently when required, in any position on the field – including between the posts in goal – although his usual territory was in the midfield. Meanwhile his brother ‘Grumpy’ was really only dangerous and effective when parked in the vicinity around the enemy crease.

Cliff Spring led all professional players on the Pacific Coast with 157 career games played between 1909 and 1924. Ranked behind his brother Gordon, Cliff was second in all-time pro scoring with 154 goals and third in penalties with 55 infractions accounting for 274 minutes – ranking him at 8th for time spent sitting in the sin bin. Regarded as one of the finest stick-handlers developed, ‘Doughy’ was known for foregoing any form of protection, preferring to play barehanded and bareheaded.

Unlike his brother Gordon who played his entire lacrosse career for the New Westminster Salmonbellies, Cliff was lured to Ontario along with team-mate Len Turnbull in 1914 when they signed with the Toronto Lacrosse Club of the Dominion Lacrosse Union. Appearing in all 18 matches for the second-place squad, ‘Doughy’ Spring finished tied for sixth place in the league for goals with 24.

He returned to the Salmonbellies the following season but 1916 then found lacrosse in British Columbia suspending play for the remaining duration of the Great War. With the offer of a job and a split of the gate receipts, Cliff Spring packed up his bags once again and went back East – this time signing with the Ottawa Capitals of the National Lacrosse Union. ‘Doughy’ scored 32 goals in 18 games to lead the Capitals in goals and he finished fourth overall in league scoring in 1916. Unfortunately, his time spent playing in the NLU saw him experience something he was not familiar with back home in the Royal City: losing – as Ottawa limped to mediocre results in the standings during his two seasons. In his three seasons played in Ontario, he never saw a winning season above .500.

Knee problems almost forced him to retire after the 1921 campaign. The legendary ‘Bun’ Clark then retired and New Westminster was suddenly left without a goalkeeper – and at one point heading into the 1922 season it appeared the 34-year-old ‘Doughy’ was going to take up business in net.

While most players are winding down their careers at this stage due to age and injuries catching up with them – and with his brother now departed from the playing field – ‘Doughy’ nevertheless persevered and saw some of his finest seasons played for the Salmonbellies in the early 1920s as the field game began to regain some of its former popularity. However, like everyone else in the professional ranks, he was sidelined when the game died in June 1924.

In other sports, Cliff Spring was an accomplished basketball player during his youth starring for local New Westminster teams (along with various lacrosse team-mates of his) from 1902 to 1908 for the Armouries and Columbian College squads – winning a provincial title in the 1907-08 season. After he moved to Abbotsford, he once again took up the hooped game and played the occasional game representing his new home town.

His only known dalliance with Canada’s “other” national pastime saw him, somehow managing to slip under the radar as an amateur, suit up as the goaltender for an ice hockey team from the rural Alberta town of Three Hills during the winter of 1918-1919.

At the age of 46 and ten years away from the game, ‘Doughy’ Spring took advantage of the reinstatement of the former professional players into the amateur ranks to sign with the New Westminster Adanacs of the Inter-City Lacrosse League in 1934. Making the transition now from field to box lacrosse, he managed to score 9 goals in his 7 games with the Adanacs.

The following season, now playing for his brother ‘Grumpy’ who managed the Salmonbellies, Cliff found his old form as he racked up 49 goals and 8 assists in 18 games for New Westminster. He played one last game for the Salmonbellies in 1936 before calling it quits and hanging up the gutted stick for good.

Cliff ‘Doughy’ Spring was an obvious choice for charter membership induction to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965.

(PHOTO SOURCES: New Westminster Columbian May 27, 1924; CLHOF X994.31)

Johnny Howard

Johnny Howard, May 1911
Johnny Howard, with New Westminster in 1911

(March 3, 1880 – December 16, 1937)
Montréal Shamrocks (1899-1908)
Regina Capitals (1909)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1910)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1911-1913; 1915; 1918)
Québec Irish-Canadians (1914)
Vancouver Terminals (1920-1921)

One of a handful of players to transcend the hated West Coast rivalry to suit up for both Vancouver and New Westminster squads, Michael John Howard – better known to fans as Johnny or ‘Mose’ Howard – was an Easterner lured west by Con Jones who then settled down on the coast.

He broke into the senior game with the Montréal Shamrocks mid-way into his teens in 1899 and became part of their dynasty of championship teams in both National Lacrosse Union league play and Minto Cup challenges. The Montréal Gazette noted in May 1907 that Howard was “considered by many to be the best point player in the country”. In total, he would win 6 Minto Cup championships during his 10 seasons spent with the Shamrocks.

In 1909, Howard was recruited by the talent-stacked Regina Capitals in their losing attempt to pry the Minto Cup away from the Salmonbellies. The Capitals originally offered $250 and all expenses paid to the Easterner – but they had to double their offer before he would agree to suit up with Regina for the series.

While watching the two-game series, Con Jones saw something in the defensemen to recruit him the following year for his own Vancouver team. Howard played one season with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club before signing with his redshirt opponents the following year.

Johnny Howard guarding the net, 1913
Johnny Howard guarding the net, 1913

New Westminster wanted him to counter ‘Newsy’ Lalonde as Howard was one of the very few players with the defensive ability and know-how to shut down Vancouver’s star goal-scorer. He replaced the point spot on the defense vacated by veteran Charlie Galbraith. Howard’s value to the Salmonbellies in 1911 was instrumental – unlike the rest of the team who were paid from a divided pool of the gate receipts at the end of the season, Howard received a $1500 contract paid by “a private individual” in lieu of Howard’s share of the gate.

In 1914, Howard was lured to the Ancient City to play for the Québec Irish-Canadians in the Dominion Lacrosse Union after the club had relocated from Montréal. After the resignation of manager Arthur Delorme a month or so into the season, and not long after his arrival, Howard was named the replacement manager and team captain. Both the team and the league would be gone by the following season – which then found Howard back playing with the Salmonbellies in New Westminster.

His final two seasons saw him return to Vancouver – retiring after the 1921 season and then becoming a referee in the professional league. He called the first 10 games of the 1922 campaign before being replaced by Harry Pickering and Gordon Spring for the remainder of the 16-game season.

A fairly clean defensive player respected for his consistent and solid play, however never backing down when the fisticuffs were involved, he appeared in 93 matches while with Vancouver and New Westminster. He played 5 seasons and 48 games with the Salmonbellies and 3 seasons and 45 games for Vancouver teams. Howard was a big and rugged defender who never let up – yet still a genuine sportsman who was admired by all, an idol to the youth who followed the game and extremely popular with the fans during the heyday of lacrosse.

Adding to his 6 Minto Cups won with the Montréal Shamrocks, he would add another two Minto Cup championships won with New Westminster, in 1912 and 1913, and his final one with Vancouver in 1920 for an impressive total of 9 Minto Cup championships.

howard gravesiteAlthough never managing to score any goals due to his deep defensive positioning as the point man – which back then had a completely different meaning, being the very last line of defense before the goaltender – he clocked up a total of 93 pro games on the Pacific Coast, ironically tying him with his on-field nemesis ‘Newsy’ Lalonde in 10th place for career games played.

He was sent off 24 times for a total of 156 penalty minutes – ranking him 15th and 17th respectively amongst the professionals on the Coast – although perhaps his lengthy career contributing more to a higher placement than would be expected from his manner of play.

In this author’s opinion, Howard is the best player from the Pacific Coast’s field era so far not inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Johnny Howard passed away suddenly from a probable heart-attack at his home in Marpole in 1937. At his funeral, former New Westminster teammates Cliff Spring and James ‘Pat’ Feeney along with Vancouver teammate Archie Adamson acted as his pallbearers.

johnny howard stats

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 99-41; CVA Sp P71; author’s photograph)

Thure Storme

Thure Storme as a youngster, ca.1913.
Thure Storme as a youngster, ca.1913.

(January 1, 1894 – February 16, 1975)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1921-1924)

Carl-Thure Storme was born on New Year’s Day of 1894 in what was then called Moodyville – but known to us today as the Lonsdale Quay neighbourhood of North Vancouver.

In his youth, he played junior lacrosse for the New Westminster West Ends between 1910 and 1912. He then joined the senior team in 1913 with whom he played the next three seasons.

Storme went overseas in 1916 while the First World War was raging across Europe. He returned home to New Westminster as an invalid from a permanent right-arm injury.

On his return, he managed to persevere and resume his lacrosse career in 1919 with the New Westminster seniors.

Thure Storme became a pro lacrosse player for the New Westminster Salmonbellies in 1921. After playing his first season as a substitute, the Dane effortlessly settled into the scoring role vacated the following year by the legendary Gordon ‘Grumpy’ Spring.

Thure Storme, 1922
Thure Storme, 1922

During his short, four-season pro career he led the Salmonbellies in goal-scoring in 1922, 1923, and 1924 and finished either second or first for goals in the league during those same years. He only played in 44 games but managed to bag 50 goals and 4 assists to finish 10th overall in career scoring and goals in the West Coast pro game.

He would later resurface in the box game when he played the 1934 season with the New Westminster Adanacs at age 40, scoring 6 goals in 7 games.

Outside of lacrosse, Thurne Storme was accomplished in many athletic pursuits. He held many track records won in high school and YMCA track meets – in events such as the quarter-mile relay, high-jump, and hop-step-jump.

He was a soccer player with the (New) Westminster United and (New) Westminster Rovers teams for three seasons between 1913 and 1915. During those same years, he was a star basketball player with New Westminster high-school and YMCA teams who completed against teams from south of the border in Washington state.

After the war, Storme continued to play soccer in 1919 and 1920 until a broken leg finished off his soccer career. Strangely enough, he managed to continue playing lacrosse and made the jump to the professional game once he recovered.

His war injury did not get in the way of his baseball career as he was a southpaw pitcher with the New Westminster Pastimes club in 1919. He was talented enough to land a spot in 1926 with an unidentified semi-pro baseball team in San Francisco – allegedly pitching 37 scoreless innings.

Thure Storme was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1971 and passed away four years later.

thure storme stats

(PHOTO SOURCES: CLHOF X979.228.1; X994.8)

Byron ‘Boss’ Johnson

Byron ‘Boss’ Johnson as the Premier of British Columbia
Byron ‘Boss’ Johnson as the Premier of British Columbia.

(December 10, 1890 – January 12, 1964)

Victoria Capitals (1910-1911)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1913; 1915)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)

Although now remembered as British Columbia’s 24th Premier from 1947 to 1952, in his younger days ‘Boss’ Johnson also had a brief stint as a pro lacrosse goalkeeper for Vancouver.

Born in Victoria to Icelandic parents, his nickname ‘Boss’ was not reflective of his personality temperament but rather stemmed from his heritage. The anglicisation of his original Icelandic birth-name, “Björn” – or “Bjössi”, is roughly translated as ‘Little Björn’ – or in English: ‘Little Byron’. Neighbourhood children couldn’t pronounce Bjössi; the closest to it they could get was Boss. So ‘Boss’ he became.

Johnson was an extremely good athlete as a boy and he was eager to excel in all forms of sports he played – for example, rugby is noted as one of his interests – but it was lacrosse that became his primary focus and first love on the playing field. After playing lacrosse for various teams at the scholastic level, he turned senior with Victoria Capitals in the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association before then making the jump to professional in 1913, playing parts of three seasons for an assortment of Vancouver squads.

The signing of ‘Boss’ Johnson in 1913 was big news in his hometown of Victoria. Here he appears in the Victoria Daily Colonist.
The signing of ‘Boss’ Johnson in 1913 was big news in his hometown of Victoria. Here he appears in the Victoria Daily Colonist.

He signed with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club late in the 1913 season as a replacement for the future hall-of-fame goalkeeper Cory Hess. Con Jones was keen on the Victorian youngster and spent the better part of two months pursuing the reluctant keeper. Johnson tried out for Vancouver at the end of June and won unanimous praise from the likes of national stars such as ‘Newsy’ Lalonde and Nick Carter, in their opinion harder to beat than ‘Bun’ Clark, one of the best in the land at the time.

Finally Jones managed to induce him to sign when he offered him a 10-game contract paying $1200, but ‘Boss’ only managed to play in 2 matches before league play collapsed and folded for that year.

Whether by coincidence or by design, Johnson made his debut in the first professional match ever played in his hometown of Victoria – narrowly losing 5-4 to the New Westminster Salmonbellies at Oak Bay.

When Johnson signed to play professional lacrosse, he was one of the most prominent and popular sports figures in Victoria and it was a major blow to the Victoria senior lacrosse team and its hopes in fielding a team that year capable enough to challenge for the Mann Cup. As well, the local rugby team would suffer on the field from the loss of its star fullback now that ‘Boss’ was prevented from participating in amateur sports of any sort.

‘Boss’ Johnson then switched ships in 1914, debunking rumours in the process that he would go East to play for the Québec Irish-Canadians of the Dominion Lacrosse Union, when he signed with the Vancouver Athletic Club. The 1913 Mann Cup champions decided to take their game to the next level, departing the senior ranks for the professional game as a replacement for the now-defunct Vancouver Lacrosse Club – with ‘Boss’ Johnson replacing yet another future hall-of-fame goalkeeper, Dave Gibbons, in the process.

‘Boss’ would make a return to Victoria when the Vancouver Athletic Club and New Westminster scheduled their June 13, 1914 match to be played at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. Johnson and fellow Islander (and Icelander) teammate Ed ‘Cotton’ Brynjolfson both played prominent roles in front of their fellow Victorians as they helped lead the Athletics in defeating the Salmonbellies by a score of 8-7 that day.

During the 1915 season, back again with Con Jones and his revived Vancouver Lacrosse Club, ‘Boss’ found himself replaced in late June 1915 by Dave Gibbons. Johnson’s final game for Vancouver, on June 26, 1915, ended on a decidedly sour note as he was ejected from the game after a second-quarter bout with Bill Turnbull of New Westminster – with 50 minutes in penalties accumulated against him.

Very rare image of Boss Johnson and Dave Gibbons, 1915
Very rare image of Boss Johnson (left) and Dave Gibbons (right) as team-mates in 1915

As his lacrosse career ended, his military career in the Field Ambulance Corps then began. There is no mention regarding his transition away from the playing field and it is unknown whether Gibbons replaced him because of impending enlistment or due to his heated scrap with Turnbull.

In all, ‘Boss’ Johnson appeared in 13 matches during his short professional career. He managed to defeat the Salmonbellies in 5 of those games to give him a .385 winning record – no mean feat considering the chaotic organisational nature of the Vancouver squads during those immediate years. He would let in 97 goals for a 7.46 goals-against average.

Later in life, during the 1930s as his political career began to take off, he became Commissioner of Lacrosse and worked to provide playing fields and equipment for youngsters throughout British Columbia. In his final year as president of the British Columbia Lacrosse Association, 3,600 sticks and 36 sets of goal nets were distributed in 1936 under Johnson’s promotion committee.

On the playing fields of politics, Byron Johnson led a Liberal-Conservative coalition government for five years and is primarily remembered for introducing mandatory health insurance in British Columbia and the first provincial sales tax to pay for that coverage. His government also began construction on the diking network in the Fraser Valley in the wake of the devastating 1948 floods. His legacy however in provincial politics has been overshadowed by John Hart who preceded him and W.A.C. Bennett who followed.

Just as his transitional stint as Premier of British Columbia would be remembered, ‘Boss’ Johnson was a transitional figure as well in the game of lacrosse: a reliable player who excelled well during his time but nevertheless found himself book-ended by greatness that came both before and after him.

For more information about Premier Johnson’s political career, the best references are the books ‘British Columbia’s Premiers in Profile: the good, the bad, and the transient’ (2000) by William Rayner and ‘Portraits of the Premiers: An Informal History of British Columbia’ (1969) by S.W. Jackman.

boss johnson stats

Angus ‘Angie’ McDonald

Angus ‘Angie’ MacDonald
Angus ‘Angie’ McDonald

(February 4, 1897-1998)
Vancouver Terminals (1919-1921; 1921-1924)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1921)

A star ‘home’ midfielder for Vancouver during the post-Great War period, ‘Angie’ had his roots in Eburne, a now-vanished community that was located on modern Sea Island in Richmond. His family hailing from Glengarry in Scotland, McDonald grew up on a 400-acre farm on the island which is now home to Vancouver International Airport.

As a youngster, he played intermediate lacrosse in the Vancouver Amateur Lacrosse Association with his local Eburne Lacrosse Club in 1912 and then won intermediate city championship with the Vancouver Olympics in 1914.

His professional debut saw him enter the game as a substitute goalkeeper for the injured Dave Gibbons. ‘Angie’ McDonald only played in 6 pro seasons, but his 60 goals and 65 points in 60 games is good enough to place him ninth in all-time career scoring on the Coast and third overall for all Vancouver players.

McDonald almost abandoned playing lacrosse after his first season as he was contemplating a move north, but the speedy midfielder had a change of heart after being convinced by team officials to remain in town and re-sign with Vancouver.

In 1921, he bolted for Con Jones’ rebel Vancouver entry in the short-lived Pacific Coast Association and found himself leading the league scoring race with his 11 goals – but when that league folded after just 5 games, he soon found his way back to his old Vancouver team in the British Columbia Association.

His playing career would take a 10 year hiatus after the professional game died in 1924. Reinstated as an amateur in 1934, McDonald played three seasons of box lacrosse in the Inter-City Lacrosse League from 1934 to 1936. His first season was spent with the St. Helen’s Hotel team in Vancouver, which then relocated to McDonald’s hometown of Richmond in 1935 to become the Farmers.

His greatest personal heroics as player occurred in these twilight years now as a box lacrosse player. On July 17, 1934, with his St. Helen’s behind by three goals, 37-year-old ‘Angie’ led an incredible comeback in the final minute and a quarter of play when he laced passes off successive draws to set-up three goals over a 39-second span to equalise the score – with his young teammate Doc Nicoll bagging the game-winner with 5 seconds to spare.

A youthful ‘Angie’ MacDonald with Eburne Lacrosse Club, 1912
A youthful ‘Angie’ with the Eburne Lacrosse Club in 1912

1935 would see the Richmond Farmers reach the Mann Cup finals versus Orillia Terriers. After brushing aside the North Shore Indians and Trail Smoke Eaters, the Farmers finally met their match as they were swept in three games by the Terriers – who were in the middle of their three year domination of the Mann Cup. ‘Angie’ would appear in a total of 59 regular season and playoff games, scoring 108 goals and assists for 149 career points in box lacrosse.

Outside of lacrosse, McDonald held down jobs in the shipyards and construction trades. He was trained as a pilot in Toronto for six months during the Second World War but never saw any combat action. His only other serious personal interest was Bible scripture study and he wrote a number of books on the topic despite admitting he had little time for organised religion; he wrote for interest alone and not publication. He got married when he was 62. Eight years later the couple moved to Kelowna.

Angus McDonald was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1968.

McDonald lived to see his one-hundredth birthday in 1997 and the still-alert former lacrosse star was interviewed by a Kelowna newspaper for the special occasion. He passed away the following year, some 74 years after the last game in the British Columbia Association professional league was played.

‘Angie’ McDonald was almost certainly the last remaining participant from the 1909-1924 golden age of professional lacrosse in British Columbia – and most fittingly, he scored the last goal ever in the last pro game ever. On Saturday, May 31, 1924, at Con Jones Park, McDonald scored an unassisted goal 14 minutes and 54 seconds into the fourth quarter for Vancouver, their fourth and ultimately final goal in all sense, in their losing 6-4 effort against New Westminster.

He literally wrote and then personally signed off the last chapter written for his playing era.

angie mcdonald stats

(PHOTO CLHOF X994.80; CLHOF X994.156)

Special thanks to the City of Richmond Archives for providing biographical information.