Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Minto Cup: Before the Juniors

Postcard of the Minto Cup, ca. 1909
Postcard of the Minto Cup, ca. 1909

Donated on March 16, 1901 by the Governor-General of Canada, Sir Gilbert John Murray Kynynmond Elliot, 4th Earl of Minto, the Minto Cup was awarded to the senior amateur lacrosse champions of Canada. Lord and Lady Minto enjoyed such outdoor recreation and activities as ice skating and bicycling during their stay in Canada – and, apparently, in the summer months, Lord Minto also liked to play lacrosse.

Originally restricted to amateurs, within three years the first under-the-table professional teams were already competing for it. After 1904, with efforts to keep the professionals out of competition proving to be futile, it was made open to all challengers.

The Ottawa Capitals were handed the cup in 1901 as its first holders on account of being champions of the National Lacrosse Union the previous season. The first Minto Cup championship game was played on September 29, 1901 between Ottawa Capitals and Cornwall Colts. Won by Ottawa 3 goals to 2, the future King George V and Queen Mary were both in attendance as spectators – and after the match, he was presented with a lacrosse stick and the game ball.

Montréal Shamrocks won the league play for the National Lacrosse Union in 1901 and took over possession of the silver trophy. Later that year, the Shamrocks defeated Vancouver YMCA 5-0 in the first challenge from the Pacific Coast.

The Shamrocks became the first Minto Cup dynasty team as they managed to retain their hold over the trophy for six of the next seven seasons between 1901 and 1907 through a combination of winning league play in the National Lacrosse Union and fending off challenge attempts from outsiders.

In 1902, the Shamrocks defeated New Westminster in a two-game, total-goals series by an aggregate of 11-3. Montréal then repeated in 1903, 1904, and 1905 as league champions – but did not face another challenge from outside the National Lacrosse Union until they defeated the St. Catharines Athletics, champions of the Canadian Lacrosse Association, 13-4 in a two-game, total-goals series in 1905.

Next up was a challenge from Southwestern Manitoba when a team from the town of Souris made a play for the cup, losing 10-2 in the first game and then throwing in the towel when the second game was subsequently cancelled.

Tom Gifford standing on top of the world with the Minto Cup as the Salmonbellies reign supreme, ca. 1909
Tom Gifford standing on top of the world with the Minto Cup as the Salmonbellies reign supreme, ca. 1909

Ottawa Capitals regained the cup in 1906. After the National Lacrosse Union finished in a four-way tie between Toronto Tecumsehs, Toronto Lacrosse Club, Ottawa Capitals, and Cornwall Colts each with 7 wins to their credit, a tiebreaker playoff series was required. The Tecumsehs defeated their crosstown Toronto rivals 12-7 in aggregate score while the Capitals defeated the Colts 8-2 in their two-game, total goals series. Ottawa then met the Toronto Tecumsehs in the two-game final and took the silverware on the heels of their lopsided 14-3 aggregate result in the two-game final.

Going against usual form, the Montréal Shamrocks collapsed in 1906 when they finished in last place. Goaltending was abysmal and the team suffered through many close losses, losing six games by a total of just eight goals. However the Irish would bounce back in 1907 and win the National Lacrosse Union with 10 wins from 12 games played for their sixth and ultimately final Minto Cup championship.

1908 was a pivotal year in the history of the Minto Cup when the New Westminster Salmonbellies defeated the Montréal Shamrocks 12 to 7 in their two-game, total-goals series. The first game of the series was a close 6-5 result before the Salmonbellies responded with a commanding 6-2 win in the rematch to clinch the silverware.

With the benefit of hindsight, the 1908 New Westminster-Montréal series signaled a changing of the guard and is probably the most historically significant event in the cup’s history until the juniors took over control of the mug. It saw the game’s first dynasty coming to an end with a brand-new one at the opposite end of the country ready to take its place. The victory for the Royal City was notable for two other important reasons: the New Westminster Salmonbellies were the last bonafide amateur team to challenge and win the professional trophy as well as the first club from the Pacific Coast to pry the silver mug from the hands of the Easterners.

The actual game-ball from the 1908 Minto Cup series between New Westminster Salmonbellies and the Montréal Shamrocks.
The actual game-ball from the 1908 Minto Cup series between New Westminster Salmonbellies and the Montréal Shamrocks.

The trophy then traveled out west on the Canadian Pacific Railroad with the Salmonbellies players and management – where it would remain entrenched on the Pacific Coast for the next 30 years. In the autumn of that year, New Westminster defended its new championship by winning all three games in a three-game, total-goals series 24-16 against the visiting Ottawa Capitals.

In defeating the professionals of the East, the amateur status of the Salmonbellies was now permanently tainted and revoked, like some irreversible mark of Cain staining both the team and its players forever. Because of this amateur vs. pro status conflict, a very serious and contentious issue in early twentieth-century athletics, the win by New Westminster also helped lay the groundwork for the start of professional lacrosse in British Columbia in 1909 when the British Columbia Amateur Lacrosse Association dropped the “Amateur” from its name and transformed into a professional organisation – albeit a league consisting of just two teams.

Once the professionals had firmly secured their control over the Minto Cup, a new gold trophy called the Mann Cup was then donated in 1910 as a replacement trophy for the senior amateurs to battle over. Until the death of the professional game, the Minto Cup was regarded as the more senior and prestigious trophy – with the Mann Cup taking over that position and honour in the mid-1920s.

The Minto Cup as it appeared in the Victoria Daily Colonist in July 1913.
The Minto Cup as it appeared in the Victoria Daily Colonist in July 1913.

Saskatchewan then made a run for the Minto Cup when the Regina Capitals splashed the cash and loaded up heavy on some serious Eastern talent in their bid for the cup. However even with such legends of the game as Alban ‘Bun’ Clark, Johnny Howard, Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, Art Warwick, Harry ‘Sport’ Murton, Angus ‘Bones’ Allen, and Tommy Gorman on their roster, the Capitals were still no match for the Salmonbellies. Regina lost the first game 6-4 before getting trounced 12-2 in the second game of the series.

While the challenge may not have hit paydirt for the Regina Capitals, it did pay off well for some of their players’ wallets as Clark, Howard, Lalonde, and Allen were then picked up by Con Jones for his Vancouver Lacrosse Club. Eventually Clark and Howard would move on and join up with the rival Salmonbellies, but all four of these household names would nevertheless become fixtures in the Coast game.

New Westminster Salmonbellies would face three more challenges from Ontario during the next two years, taking down the Toronto Tecumsehs, Montréal Amateur Athletic Association, and Montréal Nationals all in succession without conceding a single loss in the six matches played. Neither of the Montréal teams offered much of a challenge but Toronto Tecumsehs kept the Salmonbellies honest by playing to within 4 goals of taking home the silver mug. This period saw the height of New Westminster dominance on the field, and in a poll of Canadian sports writers carried out in 1951, they voted the 1909 and 1910 New Westminster Salmonbellies team the second greatest team in history. The Montréal Shamrocks who preceded them took the top-spot honours as the greatest team.

When New Westminster finally did lose the cup, it was to their rivals in Vancouver in 1911. In the greatest season ever seen on the Pacific Coast, New Westminster and Vancouver finished tied in league play with 5 wins apiece. A two-game, total-goals playoff series was then required to break the tie and determine who claimed the Minto Cup. It was finally Vancouver’s year to be crowned Minto Cup champions as they downed the Salmonbellies 4-3 and then 6-2 to lay their hands on the cherished trophy for the first time. Vancouver Lacrosse Club then successfully defeated another challenge attempt by the Toronto Tecumsehs, winning their first game 5-0 but dropping the second match 3-2 to the ‘Indians’.

New Westminster regained the Minto Cup in 1912 after defeating the Vancouver Lacrosse Club in league play. Later that same season, in what would prove to be the last East-West series for the Minto Cup until the junior game, New Westminster Salmonbellies defeated Cornwall Colts handily in their two-game, total-goals series by an aggregate score of 31-13. It was the last national series played by the professionals and it would be another quarter-century before Ontario would compete for the trophy again.

The last challenge series came the following year when the New Westminster Salmonbellies faced the Mann Cup champions, the Vancouver Athletic Club, in a two-game, total-goals series for the trophy. The Athletics had won the Mann Cup back in 1911 and now wanted a new challenge by making the jump to the professional game. It would be the only time in Canadian lacrosse history when the Mann Cup champions faced the Minto Cup champions head-to-head – with the silverware, in this instance, on the line. Despite being the national senior champions, the Athletics were no match for the seasoned professionals and lost their first game 9-1. The second leg saw a closer result but still not enough for Vancouver to dig themselves out of the hole. New Westminster retained the cup when they took the series 14 goals to 4.

Salmonbellies and the Minto Cup, September 1921
Salmonbellies and the Minto Cup, September 1921

From this point onwards, competition for the Minto Cup remained entrenched in British Columbia between New Westminster Salmonbellies and the Vancouver professional teams.

The First World War put a temporary hold over lacrosse in British Columbia for the duration of the war, as playing sports was viewed by many to be unpatriotic when one’s activities were better served focused on the war effort. By the time the professional game was revived in British Columbia, it was on its last, dying legs in Ontario. The teams there had neither the will nor the means to challenge for the Minto Cup.

In 1918 there was controversy surrounding the awarding of the cup. The Mainland Lacrosse Association had been formed that year with New Westminster and Vancouver as a pro league replacement to the then-inactive British Columbia Lacrosse Association. However a year later at the BCLA Annual Meetings held on May 8 and 15, 1919, the Minto Cup Trustees and British Columbia Lacrosse Association refused to recognise the results of the Mainland Lacrosse Association series as being official. Vancouver had won the eight-game series but would not be awarded the Minto Cup.

Vancouver claimed that they were in perfect order to organise a new league in lieu of the BCLA, which had suspended operations for the duration of World War One. New Westminster disagreed and claimed surreptitiously, somewhat well after the fact, that their club did not actually operate in 1918 despite the obvious. Out of disgust with the situation with New Westminster, Con Jones walked away from the pro game and turned his attention to supporting the amateurs. This was not the first time Jones had disagreements with the Salmonbellies and vice versa – and it wouldn’t be the last time either.

The professional game died in Eastern Canada on July 3, 1920; its demise in the East coming as no surprise for most observers of the game. For the remainder of the Minto Cup’s days as a professional trophy, league play in the British Columbia Lacrosse Association would determine the national champion. New Westminster Salmonbellies would dominate with five cup titles between 1919 and 1924 – with the Vancouver Terminals taking the trophy in 1920 in what was somewhat of an upset series, winning the three-game playoff series which was played even though New Westminster had won league play that year.

The last bastion of the professionals finally gave way when the game died more suddenly on the Pacific Coast, on June 2, 1924, when Con Jones once again walked away from the game, due to health issues.

This time, however, his departure was final.

The Minto Cup then went into cold storage as there were now no teams remaining in Canada, apart from the New Westminster professionals, who could now challenge and compete for it.

Charles A. ‘Charlie’ Welsh in 1911. He was the last trustee of the Minto Cup before it came into the possession of the Canadian Lacrosse Association in 1938.
Charles A. ‘Charlie’ Welsh in 1911. He was the last trustee of the Minto Cup before it came into the possession of the Canadian Lacrosse Association in 1938.

In 1929, there was some talk of offering it up for international competition. Cup trustee Charles A. ‘Charlie’ Welsh made an offer to the Canadian Lacrosse Association to turn the trophy over to them so it could be placed back into competition – this time as the world championship trophy. The plan never came to fruition, and instead the Lally Trophy would be inaugurated in 1931 for the amateur world champions, in the hopes the new trophy could somehow spark interest in the international game.

Finally, after twelve years of inactivity, the Canadian Lacrosse Association decided to revive competition for the Minto Cup – this time to be awarded to the national junior champions of Canada, starting in 1937.

However, before the juniors were able to get their hands on the silver mug, one last chapter of drama was still left to play out: the trophy went missing when Charlie Welsh, the last remaining cup trustee, passed away suddenly on February 25, 1938.

Some of the dates in the timeline of events don’t always match and corroborate between the various newspaper sources – but the general story is as follows:

While the Canadian Lacrosse Association had decreed the trophy for the national junior champion of Canada, at the time they actually did not have the legal authority to award the cup.

That was Charlie Welsh’s job as cup trustee, but he died before he would be able to officially rule that the Mimico Mountaineers were entitled to the silver mug when they won the series in 1938. Orillia Terriers had won the national championship the year before but it is unknown whether they actually ever saw or were formally presented the cup except in name only. If they were presented the trophy, it remained in New Westminster with Welsh.

The original Minto Cup trophy on display at the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame induction dinner in 2012.
The original Minto Cup trophy on display at the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame induction dinner in 2012.

Welsh’s successor, his wife, would have had the power to turn the cup over to the Canadian Lacrosse Association – if she hadn’t passed away herself just an hour after her husband. So a letter was drafted up and mailed off to Lord Minto in Scotland, the son of the original Lord Minto who had donated the cup, to ask him if he would deed the trophy over to the authority of the Canadian Lacrosse Association.

While the legalities were sorted out, another, more critical problem cropped up: where exactly was the cup? Charlie Welsh had never bothered to tell anyone where he had stored it. After a search lasting seven months it was eventually found, hidden away under a desk in his harbour commission office in the first week of October 1938.

A week or so later, the grand old silver mug traveled back east with the Richmond-Point Grey team when they went to Mimico for the 1938 series. Mimico Mountaineers won the finals that year, and with all the legal hurdles now aside, became the first non-British Columbian team to hold the Minto Cup in thirty years.

In August 1940, the cup was sent to Montréal for restoration work at a jewelry firm as the 39-year-old trophy began its new-found, second-wind with the junior game.

Minto Cup 1901-1924 champions

(PHOTO SOURCE: CLHFP006.60.1; New Westminster Columbian 1921 and 1909; X979.115.1 author’s photo; CVA #99-41; photo by author)

Bernie Feedham

Bernie Feedham, 1922
Bernie Feedham, 1922

COLONEL BURNABY ‘BERNIE’ FEEDHAM
(October 25, 1895 – July 3, 1980)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1921-1924)

The legendary Alban ‘Bun’ Clark retired at the end of the 1921 season and the New Westminster Salmonbellies suddenly found themselves in need of finding a new goalkeeper as they headed into the 1922 campaign.

At first, 33-year-old veteran Cliff Spring was strongly considered for the role but in hindsight it was a wise move to keep ‘Doughy’ as a midfielder, as he would go on to have some of his best playing years during the next two seasons.

Instead, Bernie Feedham, a substitute who had joined the team at the start of the 1921 season, made the move into the goal crease and for the last remaining days of the professional era, he excelled between the posts in stopping the ball for the Salmonbellies.

Feedham played 33 games in two-and-a-half seasons as a goalkeeper with a record of 19 wins, 13 losses and 1 tie. His .591 win percentage is the second-best for all pro goalkeepers on Pacific Coast between 1909 and 1924; only Alex ‘Sandy’ Gray had a better win record at .675 percentage. He let in 153 goals which gave him a goals-against average of 4.64 – again, just behind ‘Sandy’ Gray by just 1 goal for the lead as best goals-against amongst goalkeepers.

In his first professional season, when he played as an outfield substitute, Feedham appeared in 18 games – scoring 6 goals and clocking up 4 penalties for 21 penalty minutes.

When he was born in 1895, Bernie Feedham was given probably the most unusual Christian name ever seen in lacrosse – as ‘Bernie’ just ended up being the name that everyone referred to him as.

His actual, full, given-name on paper was Colonel Burnaby Feedham – as in, “Colonel Burnaby” was his first name. When he enrolled in the military during the Great War, as an artillery gunner, it must have been awkward and confusing at times having such a name with the military rank of ‘Colonel’ in it: Gunner Colonel Burnaby Feedham. When signing documents, he shortened his name to “C.B. Feedham”.

According to the book Pioneer Tales of Burnaby (1987), Colonel Burnaby Feedham was reported to be the first white male baby born in the municipality of East Burnaby.

Bernie Feedham as a spare with the Vancouver East Ends junior champions in 1909-10.
Bernie Feedham as a spare with the Vancouver East Ends junior champions in 1909-10.

The earliest evidence of his lacrosse career is a team photograph including Feedham as a spare player with the Vancouver East Ends – who were the Vancouver junior champions in 1909-10. As a youth, he moved around between teams. He found himself as the point defenseman with the East Burnaby public school team in 1911. By the end of that season he was then with the Sapperton juvenile team which toured the province. He spent 1912 and 1913 playing in the New Westminster intermediate lacrosse league for East Burnaby as their inside home (attack) player.

His senior amateur debut came in 1913 when he played two games for New Westminster. The following two seasons saw him with playing for the Vancouver Athletic Club – although he was not part of the squads that subsequently played up against the professionals. His first season with the Athletics was the last of their four-year stranglehold over the Mann Cup.

1917 found Bernie Feedham on Vancouver Island due to the Great War – in uniform, on and off the playing field, for the Victoria Fifth Garrison Artillery team. He also played some games for a team in Sidney along with team-mate Willis Patchell. His military records of the time shed some interesting physical information about the man which would have had some bearing on his playing career: he was somewhat short, his height was 5’6″ at age 22 and he had a history of synovial inflammation in his right knee.

The following year he was back on the Mainland, playing senior lacrosse for the Vancouver Coughlans Shipyards Amateur Atheltic Association team in the Vancouver Amateur Lacrosse Association. The Coughlans ended up winning the Mann Cup in 1918 by defeating the New Westminster holders – the first time the trophy had been put in competition since 1915 – but it is unknown whether Bernie Feedham participated in the three post-season games against North Vancouver Squamish Indians or Winnipeg Argonauts which secured the gold cup for Vancouver.

Feedham found himself playing for another shipyard team in 1919, when he played for the Victoria Foundation Shipyards in the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association. Victoria won the three-team league and then proceeded to defeat the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg for the Mann Cup – with Bernie Feedham responsible for half of all the goals scored by the Foundation Shipyards against the Prairie squads.

He returned to his hometown in 1920 and helped the New Westminster amateurs win the three-team PCALA league and the Mann Cup – leading the scoring along the way.

Not bad playing for three different teams and winning the Mann Cup three years in a row. With the professional New Westminster Salmonbellies, he would then add four Minto Cup titles to his name. All in all, seven national championships in seven years: three Mann Cups as a goal scorer, followed by four Minto Cups – three of them as a goaltender – plus a possible claim to the golden cup in 1914.

Ten years later in 1934, Bernie Feedham would suit up in the new Inter-City Box Lacrosse League as a back-up for Vancouver St. Helen’s Hotel, appearing in two games and letting in 26 goals for a 71.1% save percentage. He also played 14 games that same season as a runner for the New Westminster Salmonbellies. He would then play two more seasons as a runner/back-up with the New Westminster Salmonbellies for a total of 48 games as a runner and 10 of them as a goalkeeper. His brief box lacrosse career, an epilogue quite a few of the old professionals attempted, saw him play in 12 games in net, face 359 shots and make 211 saves for a 58.8% average. When he played out on the floor, he bagged 49 goals and 13 assists for 62 points. In 1935, his 40th year, the old veteran scored an impressive 34 goals in 21 games.

In April 1937, it was reported in The Chilliwack Progress that Feedham would be assisting Cliff Spring with coaching various teams of the “Mustang” lacrosse club in that city.

Outside of lacrosse, Bernie Feedham worked as a salesman for the meat packers Swift & Company between 1917 and 1925 – although his occupation is listed as an accountant on his 1918 military attestation papers. After quitting the packing industry, Feedham then moved his family to White Rock and went into business for himself. He would establish himself there, and gain local fame in the 1930s and early 1940s, with the famous Blue Moon dance hall.

After two fires, the third incarnation of the Blue Moon would be built in 1930 at a new location across from the Great Northern Railway station. Over time, the building – at one time named the Feedham Block – evolved into the Ocean Beach Hotel as it continued to be a fixture of the local White Rock entertainment scene until redevelopment in 2013. Today the establishment operates as The Hemingway Waterfront Public House (Est. 1930) – with the year in its corporate name paying homage to its days when Bernie Feedham founded the Blue Moon at the same location.

bernie feedham stats

(PHOTO SOURCES: CLHOF X979.150.1; CLHOF collection)

Lacrosse Grounds of Yesteryear

There are very few authenticated photos of lacrosse games played at Brockton Point. This undated photo of what looks like Vancouver vs. New Westminster is one of those few.
There are very few authenticated photos of lacrosse games played at Brockton Point. This undated photo of what looks like Vancouver vs. New Westminster is one of those few.

BROCKTON POINT GROUNDS

The Brockton Point Grounds, located on the peninsula of the same name in Stanley Park, are Vancouver’s oldest athletic grounds still in use (by cricket and rugby teams). Its heyday as a lacrosse field was from 1890 until 1905 – although the two seasons it was used by the professionals were in 1918 during the Mainland Lacrosse Association season and then one game in 1922.

The location was originally cleared for a sawmill in 1865 but when the mill was instead built over in Gastown, the site then became one of Vancouver’s earliest sporting grounds. There seems to be some uncertainty pinning down exactly when it was first used for sporting events – although it hosted its first lacrosse match no later than September 1890.

The isolated location and distance from downtown Vancouver made it somewhat unpopular as a venue. It also proved to be unavailable when professional baseball came to town, as the Brockton Point Athletic Association had a strict stipulation that the playing fields were for amateur use only. Once Recreation Park was built downtown in 1905 to solve this issue regarding professionals, the Vancouver Lacrosse Club soon followed baseball across Coal Harbour to the vastly improved, new stadium in April 1906 after disagreements over gate receipts.

Al Larwill’s shack on the Cambie Street Grounds, ca.1896. Somewhere in this photo are future Vancouver pro lacrosse players George and Earl Matheson.
Al Larwill’s shack on the Cambie Street Grounds, ca.1896. Somewhere in this photo are future Vancouver pro lacrosse players George and Earl Matheson.

In 1918, Con Jones signed a three-year, $700 per year lease for use of the Brockton Point grounds. By this point, the Parks Commission was controlling Brockton Point so its use by professionals for the Mainland Lacrosse Association season did not face the same opposition which earlier teams had dealt with. After one season however, and with Con Jones now out of the professional game after a dispute over the Minto Cup, lacrosse returned to Athletic Park.

The last recorded lacrosse games from those early days played at Brockton Point are believed to be amateur, holiday exhibition games which occurred in 1929. An exception to this was an exhibition field lacrosse match organised and played in 1986 between the North Shore Indians and a British Columbia Selects team in celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of both the founding of the city of Vancouver and the first lacrosse game in the province.

The crowd capacity for lacrosse games at Brockton Point is unknown, although the grandstand could hold around 5,000 spectators.

The Cambie Street Grounds can be seen behind the Beatty Street Drill Hall in this 1939 photo
The Cambie Street Grounds can be seen behind the Beatty Street Drill Hall in this 1939 photo. [click on image to magnify]
CAMBIE STREET GROUNDS (1887-1943)

First surveyed and assigned for athletics and sporting pastimes in the 1880s, the Cambie Street grounds were not that well-maintained and deemed unsatisfactory for sporting events well before the time professional lacrosse reached its glory years.

The grounds took up the entire city block bounded by Cambie, Dunsmuir, Beatty and Georgia Streets and was obtained through the persistent efforts of Lauchlan Hamilton, the Canadian Pacific Railway land commissioner and Vancouver’s first surveyor, and MP Arthur Wellington Ross.

In its early years, it could be leased from the Canadian Pacific Railroad for $5 per annum and cows and goats were kept on the grounds as a means to trim the grass. The grounds played host to Vancouver’s first sports event, a rugby game in 1887. Actual lacrosse games at the senior level were only played on the Cambie grounds in 1891, with three matches recorded as being played there.

Al Larwill, 1899
Al Larwill, 1899

Alfred ‘Al’ Larwill had a shack on the grounds and lived there as a sort of unofficial caretaker from the time after the great fire of 1886 until 1902 when he was ordered to move so the site could be renovated. Larwill passed away on April 2, 1911. The Cambie Street grounds saw more use as a practice field – and its real legacy for the game of lacrosse is that many a young Vancouver lacrosse player honed and perfected his skills under the watchful eye of Larwill. Outstanding lacrosse players such as George Matheson and his brothers Waldo and Earl learnt their trade there while growing up as youngsters.

The Cambie Street grounds were renamed Larwill Park in 1943 in memory of the old caretaker, who has since become a now-forgotten yet important historical personage from the very early days of athletics and sports in Vancouver.

Sadly, the name did not remain in use for long. During the Second World War, the grounds were re-developed and Larwill Park became a bus depot for long-distance buses in 1946. The Greyhound Bus Lines depot remained there until 1993 when it was demolished sometime afterwards. Currently the block is occupied by a parking lot.

This photograph of a senior game at Queens Park dates from three years after the pro game died in 1924. It clearly shows the considerable slope of the field along the grandstand.
This photograph of a game at Queens Park dates from three years after the pro game died in 1924. It clearly shows the considerable slope of the field along the grandstand.

QUEENS PARK

Unlike the Vancouver lacrosse teams which moved around from location to location depending on grounds availability over the years, the New Westminster Salmonbellies were firmly ensconced at Queens Park for their home playing field starting from 1890 onwards. Prior to the construction of Queens Park, Townsend’s Field nearby was used during the first season for New Westminster.

The lacrosse field used by the Salmonbellies was located where the modern baseball diamond is located today. The field was notorious for its noticeable uphill slope which the home team manipulated to their advantage.

A few games at Queens Park, such as when the Montréal Amateur Athletic Association and Montréal Nationals traveled to the Coast in their challenges against New Westminster for the Minto Cup, reached the 16,000 range – but between 10,000 and 12,000 spectators was considered large and 8,000 a fair-sized crowd.

Along with Recreation Park, Queens Park was probably the most photographed of all the lacrosse grounds in British Columbia – with the bulk of the images originating during the 1908 to 1911 period.

This incredible photograph is from one of the Minto Cup matches played between Vancouver Lacrosse Club and Toronto Tecumsehs in the Autumn of 1911. Not only does it clearly show the capacity crowds drawn to lacrosse matches, but also the expansive size of playing fields used in those days.
This incredible photograph is from one of the Minto Cup matches at Recreation Park played between Vancouver Lacrosse Club and Toronto Tecumsehs in the Autumn of 1911. Not only does it clearly show the capacity crowds drawn to lacrosse matches, but also the expansive size of playing fields used in those days. [click on image to magnify]
RECREATION PARK (1905-1913)

Costing somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 to build, Recreation Park opened in May 1905 as Vancouver’s first downtown stadium structure. It was home to the Vancouver Lacrosse Club as well as Vancouver’s professional baseball team in the Northwest Baseball League.

Located on the block bordered by what is now Homer, Smythe, Mainland, and Robson Streets, the site was leased from the Canadian Pacific Railroad out of part of their railway reserve lands. At the time, Robson Street did not go through – and the stretch between Homer and Mainland was part of the grounds.

The location was chosen as Vancouver was in dire need of a downtown sports facility for the growing city. The previously used Brockton Point grounds were deemed inaccessible for larger crowds as well as restricted to use for amateur sporting events.

However, downtown Vancouver was changing quickly. When built in 1905, much of the downtown core had still been lightly developed with large tracts still remaining. But in the boom years which preceded and followed its opening in the first decade of the Twentieth Century, Vancouver’s population quadrupled. The Canadian Pacific Railroad had begun to look at using or selling off the land as early as 1909, just four years after the park had opened its doors to the public.

The 1911 season when Vancouver Lacrosse Club won the Minto Cup saw some of the largest crowds ever at Recreation Park, with a record-breaker in the 10,000 to 11,000 range early in the season on June 3. On Dominion Day, the stadium saw 12,045 in attendance – reported as one of the largest crowds ever to witness a lacrosse game in British Columbia.

The massive crowds would continue into the autumn when Vancouver and New Westminster needed a playoff series as both teams finished splitting the schedule with 5 wins apiece. The 14,009 paid attendance, possibly as many as 15,000, who filled Recreation Park on September 16, 1911 was probably the largest recorded attendance to witness a lacrosse game played in Vancouver until the birth of the Vancouver Ravens of the National Lacrosse League in 2002.

Capacity crowd looks on as the Salmonbellies defense rags the ball at Recreation Park, ca. 1911.
Capacity crowd looks on as the Salmonbellies defense rags the ball at Recreation Park, ca. 1911.

When Toronto Tecumsehs travelled west to challenge Vancouver for the Minto Cup in October 1911, standing room only crowds once again filled Recreation Park to capacity – and beyond – with many spectators watching precariously from neighbouring roof tops, window sills, fences, billboard signs, and even clambering up telephone poles for a view of the action. Oddly enough, the reported attendances for these matches were surprisingly low considering that photographic images from the series imply a completely different picture.

Recreation Park was closed after the 1912 season as Vancouver’s sports teams, forewarned and not surprised by the impending closure, simultaneously made their own arrangements to move elsewhere for their 1913 seasons. The grandstand was disassembled and moved to the new Athletic Park located on the south side of False Creek as the baseball team relocated its operations there. Meanwhile, Con Jones moved his Vancouver Lacrosse Club to the Hastings Park grounds near where he would eventually build a stadium that would bear his name.

Ironically, once the site had been leveled to the ground and all trace of the stadium removed, the vacant lot then remained unused as a blight on the downtown core, an eyesore well into the 1940s. All or parts of the block later became a parking lot and storage facility before redevelopment into high-rise condominiums around 2005.

Around 4,000 spectators showed up to witness Vancouver’s debut at Hastings Park on May 31, 1913.
Around 4,000 spectators showed up to witness Vancouver’s debut at Hastings Park on May 31, 1913.

HASTINGS ATHLETIC PARK (1913-1915?)
CON JONES PARK (1921-1971)

With the closure of Recreation Park, the Vancouver Lacrosse Club moved across the city to the wooded wilderness of Hastings Athletic Park for the 1913 season.

Pin-pointing the exact location of the playing grounds can be somewhat confusing as sources and maps sometimes present conflicting and incorrect information. Some sources – such as the atlas Vancouver: A Visual History have the ca.1913 grounds incorrectly located on the site of modern Callister Park where Con Jones’s stadium was located from 1921 until it was demolished in 1971 – while other sources have it correctly located across Renfrew Street in the modern Pacific National Exhibition grounds with the playing field located in the middle of where the Exhibition Park racetrack is currently located.

This confusion is further exacerbated as the newspapers of the day sometimes referred to Hastings grounds as “Con Jones Park” or “Jones Park” starting around 1914 or 1915, well before his stadium was built in 1920-21 – which sometimes gives the impression that there was a stadium structure already on site earlier than 1920.

In September 1920, Con Jones acquired a two-block lot (bounded by Renfrew, Oxford, Sunrise, and Cambridge Streets) across from the PNE Grounds. By May 1921, Jones’s lacrosse teams were making use of the brand-new Con Jones Park and its new wooden stadium. The years when Jones wasn’t involved in the professional game, the Vancouver Terminals were compelled to use Athletic Park. When Jones passed away in 1929, payments on its mortgage ceased and title of the property reverted back to original owner, John Callister – whose heirs later donated it to the City of Vancouver in the 1940s. The old stadium, which had become a shrine for local amateur soccer teams, was demolished in 1971, erasing the last legacy of Con Jones from Vancouver’s sporting map.

Athletic Park Stadium, 1920 - looking eastbound with Fifth Avenue in the foreground.
Athletic Park Stadium, 1920 – looking eastbound with Fifth Avenue in the foreground.

ATHLETIC PARK (1913-1951)

Athletic Park was located on the south shore of False Creek in Vancouver, on the north-east corner of Hemlock Street and West Fifth Avenue overlooking Granville Island. The second grandstand stadium built in Vancouver, it was home to the city’s baseball and lacrosse teams.

The stadium was built and owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway and managed by local baseball legend Bob Brown until 1944, when it was then sold to Emil Sick and his Capilano Breweries, who renamed it Capilano Stadium.

Athletic Park appears on a 1923 map
Athletic Park appears on a 1923 map.

The stadium suffered its second fire the following year and City Hall began to covet the site for construction of a new Granville Street Bridge and its required on-ramps along Hemlock Street as well as extending West Fourth Avenue. After further repairs and renovations to the rickety structure, the stadium was finally acquired by the City and demolished in 1951 – to be replaced by Nat Bailey Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Park.

The stadium was home for the Vancouver Athletic Club and Vancouver Terminals lacrosse teams – although it was generally used more by the various senior amateur teams and leagues than by the professionals, who usually opted for Con Jones Park when it was made available to them for their home grounds in Vancouver. As a general rule of thumb, Athletic Park was used as the home grounds whenever Con Jones was not involved in bankrolling the team in question.

Lacrosse game underway at Athletic Park; believed to be Vancouver’s season opener on May 29, 1915.
Lacrosse game underway at Athletic Park; believed to be Vancouver’s season opener on May 29, 1915.

June 4, 1921 featured a unique occurrence when there were two professional lacrosse matches played in the City of Vancouver on the same day, at the same time, when Athletic Park hosted New Westminster in that day’s British Columbia Lacrosse Association game while Con Jones Park across town hosted the visiting Victoria Capitals of the rival Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association.

The modern day site is now dissected and overrun by bridge overpasses, roads, condominiums, concrete, and commercial buildings – with no hint of evidence remaining whatsoever that at one time there was once a 6,000 seat stadium in existence there.

BEACON HILL PARK / CALEDONIAN GROUNDS / ROYAL ATHLETIC PARK / OAK BAY GROUNDS / THE STADIUM

There were five playing grounds used by lacrosse teams in Victoria during the field lacrosse era – with three of them used by the professionals, albeit for just four games.

Beacon Hill Park hosted the first organised lacrosse match played in British Columbia, in 1886, and was used by Victoria senior teams until around 1891.

Lacrosse action at the Caledonian grounds in Victoria, ca. 1900
Lacrosse action at the Caledonian grounds in Victoria, ca. 1900

The Caledonian Grounds, which dated from 1887, replaced Beacon Hill Park as the home field for the Victoria Lacrosse Club during the 1891 season, with the first recorded senior game played there on August 15 of that year. Located in the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria, the park was bounded by Government, Niagara, St. Andrews and Simcoe Streets and owned by the St. Andrews and Caledonian Society.

It is unknown what year the Caledonian Grounds ceased to be used for sporting events and redeveloped into residential housing – although it has been described as one of the last city blocks in the neighbourhood to see redevelopment.

Royal Athletic Park, located on the block bounded by Caledonia, Vancouver, Pembroke, and Cook Streets, was constructed in 1908 as a much needed replacement for the Caledonian Grounds and the Oak Bay Grounds. It underwent renovations after a fire in 1967 and the grounds are still in use for field lacrosse and other amateur sports to this very day.

Of the four professional lacrosse games played in Victoria, one was played at Royal Athletic Park and one at the Oak Bay Grounds. Both of these matches were New Westminster-Vancouver BCLA league games that took place in Victoria during the 1913 season.

The Oak Bay Grounds – now known as Windsor Park – hold the distinction for providing the first Victoria-based team to challenge and compete for the Mann Cup, in 1913. Oak Bay lost their first game 13-0 and then defaulted their second game to Vancouver Athletic Club.

The two other professional matches played in Victoria however actually involved a Victoria team. Both of these took place in June 1921 when Vancouver promoter Con Jones created the Victoria Capitals, a team made up of local lads and Eastern imports, for his upstart Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association as competition for his Vancouver Lacrosse Club.

The ‘Stadium’ in Victoria hosting a baseball game in 1920. This was the home field for the Victoria Capitals lacrosse team in 1921.
The ‘Stadium’ in Victoria hosting a baseball game in 1920. This was the home field for the Victoria Capitals lacrosse team in 1921.

In May of 1920, a new stadium was constructed on a vacant lot behind the Empress Hotel on Douglas Street where the Crystal Garden is now located.

Referred in the local press as just ‘The Stadium’, it was used mostly by local professional and amateur baseball teams – but it was also briefly the home field for the Victoria Capitals lacrosse team in 1921. The Stadium hosted two home games for Victoria before the league folded after five games and three weeks of play.

Its capacity was reported to be 7,000 and the Victoria Daily Colonist spoke very highly of the venue during its construction – giving it high hopes for the future.

As it turned out, the Stadium’s sporting existence was very brief – no more than four years – as it was demolished at some point before the Crystal Garden was built and opened on the site in June 1925.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA Sp P90; CVA Sp P2; Leonard Frank collection 1939; CLHOF X994.10; CVA PAN P87; CVA 371-596; CVA 371-576; CVA 99-870; CVA 99-1020; BC Archives BCA G-02816)

The National Game in 1911

BCLA bylaws and rulebook from 1911
British Columbia lacrosse rulebook from 1911

Like all other sports, lacrosse has evolved its fair share over the years.

Obviously in Canada, the indoor box variant which was born in 1931 has become the primary form of the game, but the modern outdoor field game has also seen its share of rule changes since the glory days of 1911 – let alone since William George Beers (1843-1900) codified the first set of playing rules in 1869 in his book Lacrosse: The National Game of Canada.

The biggest changes to the field game occurred in the decade prior to the professional heyday. The alterations that took place in the game between 1900 and 1910 were more drastic in nature than what has followed since 1910. Once the pro game became established, there were just two major changes that later came along: reduction of teams and playing field.

By the mid-1930s, the rules of the field game had evolved to a state where they were not much different than the modern game today, except in terms of equipment and how the midfielders line up on face-offs. South of the border, the American game had begun to diverge with the adoption of offsides*. However by this point, the outdoor version had all but passed on in Canada and remained dormant until the late 1960s.

WHY 1911?

So, just how different was the 1911 lacrosse game – and why even use that year for comparison?

FIRST REASON… At least here on the Pacific Coast, 1911 was the all-time highpoint of popularly of the game in Vancouver and New Westminster. There was a high level of support and interest across the spectrum, from the diehard lacrosse fan through to the casual sports-enthusiast, which still continues to elude the modern lacrosse game in the Lower Mainland to this very day.

It was truly the national game for local spectators – as organised ice hockey would not make its debut on the local sporting scene until the 1911-12 winter that followed when the Denman Arena was built. Vancouver’s mild winter weather resulted in a lack of natural ice which had prevented hockey from taking root.

To get a firm idea of the game’s popularity, compare the population in Vancouver (123,902) and New Westminster (55,679) in 1911 with the attendance records at the great lacrosse matches that same year – and then compare those numbers with modern population numbers in those two cities.

Minto Cup game at Queens Park between New Westminster and Montréal AAA on July 23, 1910. Attendance at this game was around 7,000.
Minto Cup game at Queens Park between New Westminster and Montréal AAA on July 23, 1910. Attendance at this game was around 7,000.

Games in New Westminster would draw anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 while at Recreation Park in downtown Vancouver, there were matches at times that went into the 11,000 to 15,000 range. On September 16, 1911, it was reported 14,009 people paid and as many as 15,000 were on hand to watch the playoff game between Vancouver Lacrosse Club and New Westminster Salombellies. In modern terms, this level of popularity would be equivalent to the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League drawing a crowd in the range of 73,000 to 299,500 fans to a single game, on a regular basis!

SECOND REASON… It is a useful and handy coincidence that at least one official rule-book for the British Columbia Lacrosse Association professional league from 1911 does still exist, in excellent condition and in the possession of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, which can be used for rules comparison. In 1911, the British Columbia Lacrosse Association was the name of the professional league and organisation – and no relation to the modern provincial body of the same name.

THIRD AND FINAL REASON… The five seasons in lacrosse from 1909 through 1913 seasons were by far the most photographed of the sport on the Pacific Coast until the advent of digital photography. Action images from those games have been preserved well into the modern era – compared to some decades such as the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, where very few action images still remain available or in existence in archives. There are more action photos from 1911 and 1912 alone than there are from the 1930s and 1940s and it is often easier to locate an action photograph of a New Westminster or Vancouver player from 1911 or 1912 than one who played in 1952 – or 1972 or 1992, for that matter.

Some of these old photographs – specifically wide-angle or long-distance shots of games in progress – can be examined for clues about how the game was played on the field in lieu of film footage. It is known for a fact that at least one game in Vancouver was filmed in 1920 by three movie cameras – but that footage is believed to be long-lost or has yet to turn up anywhere.

DIFFERENT, YET NOT SO DIFFERENT

One of the most obvious changes in the game is the lacrosse stick itself – which of course in 1911 was made of wood and natural materials such as string, leather and cat-gut for the mesh.

However the old wood sticks used in 1911, which obviously differ from the modern plastic-metal stick used today, are also quite different in size and design compared to the modern style of wood stick still produced by the Mitchell Brothers of Cornwall Island or Alf Jacques of Onondaga.

Comparing a 1920s wood stick used by an outfield player with a modern wood stick
Comparing the pocket size of an old wood stick used by an outfield player in the 1920s with a modern wood stick.

The 1911 stick could be of any length but the head could not be more than one foot wide and the pocket had to be strung so it was flat when the ball wasn’t in it. Modern field lacrosse sticks only allow a width between 6 and 10 inches for runners, with most modern stick heads closer to the lesser amount. With the 1911 stick, one and only one string (comparable to the modern shooting string), was allowed to be strung across the head – but it could not be tied down. The string was actually more intended to be used as a means for preventing two sticks from hooking together during a game.

The sticks used in 1911 had a triangular head shape and appearance not much different than a modern wooden goalkeeper’s stick. The pockets on these old sticks are around twice as wide and twice as long in the throat compared to modern sticks used by runners. (The triangular or flat head design didn’t get phased out for the rounded, bishop’s crook form until the late 1930s). Lastly, the shaft on the 1911 stick was generally shorter than those used on modern sticks. Most surprisingly however is the fact that many of these old, larger woodsticks are actually lighter in weight (and thus not as strong) than modern woodsticks – which possibly explains how players in 1911 managed to do without the level of protective padding seen in the game today.

Obviously the passing game – or combination play as it was sometimes called – was still evolving but had nevertheless taken root by 1911. It is easy to imagine that while the players back then would have been skilled and quite comfortable with using the larger pocket-head on these sticks, play for picking up the loose balls on the ground would have been probably more chaotic and harder than it is today.

The next most noticeable differences for the modern eye watching a 1911 game would be the size of the team – in terms of number of players – and dimensions of the playing field.

The 1911 lacrosse team used 12 men per team compared to 10 in the modern game: 11 runners and 1 goalkeeper. While modern field lacrosse is played in a 3-3-3 line-up for outfield players, in 1911 the line-up would look something like 2-7-2 or 2-3-1-3-2. The two extra runners in the midfield helped make up for the fact that there were no substitutions allowed at all during the game, except for injury.

Capacity crowd at Recreation Park, October 1911
Capacity crowd at Recreation Park spills out on to the field for Minto Cup action, October 1911

Unlike field lacrosse today – which has four named positions in use (goalkeeper, defense, midfield, and attack) – the 1911 game mirrored such sports as baseball and rugby by having unique names for each and every position on the playing field: the goalkeeper, point, cover point, the three defensemen (first, second, third defense), centreman, the three home fielders (third, second, and first homes), outside home, and inside home – the last two who were strictly attackmen in the modern sense of the game. The defense and home positions roamed the midfield while the point and coverpoint were the deep defensive opposites of the outside and inside homes.

The two extra midfielders (i.e. third defense and third home) also made up for the the fact that the playing field was vastly larger – with 330 feet minimum the required distance between the two goals – although 375 feet was the preferred distance if possible. The modern field game is a lot more compact at 240 feet between goals on a field 330 feet in length. There doesn’t seem to be any regulations governing the width of the playing field in 1911, so play was likely focused more in the zone down the middle between the two goals rather than going out far on the wings.

At most playing fields such as Queens Park or Recreation Park, spectators were kept behind a short fence which marked the out-of-bounds. Where there was no fence, the crowd could be found standing right on the sidelines. And sometimes, during such capacity events as the 1911 Minto Cup clashes against the Toronto Tecumsehs, some fans decided the best place to watch was found by simply sitting or lying down on the edge of the playing field itself – happily enjoying the match from that vantage point in a simpler time.

The fact that fans did occasionally enter the outer edges of the playing field to watch games probably also further indicates that action very rarely reached out along the far extremities of the playing surface, with little worry for spectators inadvertently getting in the way of the action to be a real concern or hazard for the players or officials.

Protective padding was non-existent apart from gloves – and even then some players opted to go barehanded. In the later years, some players can be seen in some action photographs wearing padded caps with side flaps which gave some token protection to their heads. Facial protection was unheard of – even for goalkeepers, who fearlessly stared down attacking shooters barefaced and with no protection whatsoever, save for their sticks.

Goal nets were the familiar 6 ft x 6 ft size – but the goal crease was a 12 ft x 12 ft square box. The net was positioned so that there were 3 feet between the posts and the side of the crease and the goal line was 6 feet back from the front of the crease. Unlike the modern game, players were allowed to enter the goal crease as well as check the goalie – but only if the ball was also inside the goal crease at the same time.

Lacrosse action at Recreation Park
Lacrosse action downtown at Recreation Park in 1912. Bun Clark has just been scored on by Vancouver.

There were no off-sides or restraining lines drawn on the field as in the modern field game. However with the extra players and farther distance to cover, the game was more positional which managed to prevent a horde of 20 runners all clustered around one net.

Old wide-angle photographs showing the full field of play generally show what appears to be 6-on-6 play engaged in the action with the rest of the players hanging around the goal at the opposite end, with maybe one or two midfielders hovering around the middle of the field to provide some sort of transition. In close-quarters action around the goal, the game movement would probably not be too much different than in the modern game.

In fact, when you consider that box lacrosse originally had 6 (and not 5) runners until the 1950s, it’s fairly easy to see the development relation where box lacrosse evolved from field as a compacted, half-court variant of the field game.

When there was a stoppage in play due to the captain calling a foul with one of the rules or questioning the referee on a call, players had to remain standing on the field exactly where they were when the whistle was blown. They could not move again from their spot until play was resumed by the referee and the ball whistled in.

A faceoff occurred not only when a goal was scored, but also when there were penalties, fouls, and the ball going out of bounds.

Lacrosse was so popular, it appeared in local cigarette adverts.
Lacrosse was so popular, it appeared in local cigarette adverts.

Games were 4 x 20 minute quarters with 5, 10, and 5 minutes for breaks. Has it been mentioned yet to all the midfielders reading this, that there were no substitutions?

Penalties in 1911 were a minimum of 5 minutes and longer time at the discretion of the referee and referees could fine any player up to $10 ($205 in modern dollars) for insulting remarks or actions against any official. In later years, there would be 3-minute infractions.

However, when a player was thrown out of a game, the time remaining in the game was generally what was assessed for penalty minutes against that player. This explains why some players had unusually high penalty minutes in some games. Yes, the game was still rough compared to the modern day – but the penalties hurt the players just as much. A player given the boot in the first or second quarter would thus appear to be punished more in the game report than if he were sent off late in the game for the same infraction.

Lastly, referees were paid $25 per game – or $515 in modern currency.

The biggest changes implemented during the 1909-1924 professional era took place in 1919 which saw the reduction of two players (the third defense and third home players) as well as the reduction in the playing field size. That year, new rules were adopted that saw playing time go from four-quarters to three 20-minute periods – although a temporary measure as it was then changed back to four-quarters in 1922. There were also adjustments to the rules which restricted substitutions and dictated when and how-often player changes could be made.

In 1922, the substitutions rules were altered again, clarifying some earlier confusion. They were now only permitted for injuries or between periods. Starting in 1923, assists on goals were officially recorded for the first time.

* Offsides and the restraining lines for attackmen and defenders – now prevalent in the modern field game, but a glaring omission from the old professional and senior game – were introduced in the United States collegiate game in 1921 but would not appear in the Canadian field game until after its demise and later revival. Usage of the individual positional names would be dropped from the American field game in 1947 although their use in the women’s game would linger on. In regards to the number of players, the American game soldiered on with 12 players until 1932 when they went to the 10-man version.

(CLHOF X994.162; CVA Sp P92-2; CVA PAN P87; CVA #677-1009)