ALEXANDER BAIRD (ALEX) ‘SANDY’ GRAY
(June 24, 1884 – June 28, 1966)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1903-1911)
A stalwart wall in goal for the New Westminster Salmonbellies at the start of their Minto Cup championship run, Alex ‘Sandy’ Gray was the best goalie on the Coast during the three seasons (1909, 1910, and 1911) in which he played professional lacrosse for the Salmonbellies.
Prior to the advent of the professional game, he had played senior amateur lacrosse for New Westminster since 1903 when he made his debut at the age of 18. He took over from the great Bob Cheyne, who was forced to retire to due failing eyesight. Early in his career, he occasionally played at defensive coverpoint when Dick Eickhoff went in goal.
Alex Gray was the brother of Arthur Wellesley ‘Wells’ Gray, a lacrosse player in his own right and later – as an elected official and provincial cabinet minister – the man responsible for creating some of British Columbia’s earliest provincial parks such as Tweedsmuir and Manning Parks as well as the provincial park in the Cariboo which bears his name.
In action photographs, ‘Sandy’ is unmistakably identifiable with his dark peaked cap, lanky build, skinny legs, and gangly posture while parked in front of the goal.
Gray played a total of 40 pro games and won 27 of them – 2 of them with shutouts. He had a .675 winning record and 4.63 goals-against average, statistics that would lead all Coast pro goalkeepers in both of those categories. He was also the most penalised goalkeeper in the Coast pro game with 9 penalties and 65 minutes to his name – most of those accumulated during his final campaign.
‘Sandy’ Gray retired after the 1911 season, in which New Westminster lost hold of the Minto Cup to the greenshirts of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club. He would then be replaced in goal by ‘Bun’ Clark, lured away from the champions to suit up for the redshirts of the Royal City.
He passed away while at Royal Columbian Hospital, four days after celebrating his 82nd birthday, convalescing from a broken hip he had suffered on May 3, 1966. Outside of lacrosse, ‘Sandy’ Gray worked for 34 years as the provincial government agent at the New Westminster courthouse until his retirement in 1949. He was survived by his unmarried daughter Merle, who resided at the same home as him located at 1821 Nanaimo Street near Grimston Park, and his two sons Alexander Lloyd Gray and Alastair Anton Gray.
(PHOTO SOURCES: NWMA IHP1726; CVA 371-602)