MICHAEL JOHN (JOHNNY) HOWARD
(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.
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.
Although 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.
(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 99-41; CVA Sp P71; author’s photograph)