Category Archives: Canadian Lacrosse History

5th Anniversary of “Old School Lacrosse” book

“Seems like a legitimate hit”Five years ago today, on February 14, 2012, the original edition of Professional Field Lacrosse in British Columbia 1909-1924 was published.

Since that time, the Old School Lacrosse website came into being and an expanded, second edition – renamed to match the website title – was published two and a half years later.

To celebrate this 5th Anniversary milestone, an updated book PDF of Old School Lacrosse – Professional Lacrosse in British Columbia 1909-1924 has been uploaded and made public today – including all the player biographies and stories written to date. Enjoy!

Click this link to view and download: OLD SCHOOL LACROSSE – PRO LACROSSE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA 1909-1924

Archie Macnaughton

Archie McNaughton, ca.1888-1892
Archie Macnaughton, ca.1888-1892

ARCHIBALD EDWARD (ARCHIE) MACNAUGHTON
(July 26, 1864 – July 1937)

Montréal Amateur Athletic Association (1882-1891)
Victoria Lacrosse Club (1892-1893)
Victoria Capitals (1894)
Victoria Triangles (1895)

Archie Macnaughton (his surname has appeared spelt variously as McNaughton, MacNaughton, and Macnaughton) is an interesting figure in the very early days of the sport in Canada. While he never played in the professional ranks, he was one of lacrosse’s early star players in Montréal – as well as a pioneering figure in the establishment of the game on the Pacific Coast and the rise of the Victoria senior teams in the mid-1890s.

He was born in Lachine, Québec and was a member of the Montréal Garrison Artillery which participated in the suppression of the North-West Rebellion in 1885. The Montréal Gazette called him one of three “crack showshoers” who were welcomed home by club members.

His Scottish ancestry may possibly be linked to an old family in Glenlyon, Scotland as there is mention of an Archibald McNaughton (possibly his father) in church records at Scotch Presbyterian Church in Montréal, who was born in Callendar, Scotland but grew up near Saint-Eustache in suburban Montréal. However, “Archibald McNaughton” does appear infrequently as a name occurring in early Montréal.

He helped Montréal win a junior championship in 1881 and then turned senior the following year. Macnaughton was widely regarded as one of the best home fielders (attack midfielders in modern language) and one of the fastest sprinters to play the game in his day, with phenomenal speed. He possessed a deadly and dangerous shot, usually taken on a dead run and the ball’s velocity was reported to be stronger in force than that of a baseball player fielding the ball home.

He was the fourth-best goal scorer in the 1886 National Lacrosse Union season with 7 goals in 10 games for the Montréal Amateur Athletic Association. The following season however he was held scoreless in 7 games played. In 1888, Montréal AAA dropped out of the NLU and the league barely staggered to the finish. When Montréal AAA returned to the NLU in 1889, they lost Macnaughton to a twisted ankle in the pre-season. On his return to play, after missing two matches, he still managed to make up for goals to finish second in league scoring with 8 goals in 6 matches.

Archie Macnaughton with Montréal in 1889.

His final season with Montréal Amateur Athletic Association saw him playing the role of Atlas, shouldering the team’s goal-scoring in the wake of the retirements of Tom Paton and W. Hodgson, the two other leading players with the ‘Winged Wheelers’. He once again finished in second-place for goals with 8 scored in 8 games. Montréal AAA would drop out of the National Lacrosse Union again in 1891.

He moved to the Pacific Coast in 1892 and joined the Victoria Lacrosse Club. He played in 3 matches that year, held scoreless in his first two appearances and then scoring 3 goals in his third outing for Victoria. He also refereed two senior league games that same season.

Archie Macnaughton married Miss EM Bishop of Montréal in a ceremony held at First Presbyterian Church in Vancouver on August 11, 1892. They left Vancouver that same day and took up residence in Victoria.

In 1893, as a member of the Victoria club, he helped lead the Capital City crew in victory over his former team, the Montréal Amateur Athletic Association, 6-0 during their tour of the Eastern clubs. The team’s return to their home town that October was met by the city band and a midnight reception which followed at the Driard Hotel. During the senior league season that year, he played in 6 matches and scored 3 goals.

Archie Macnaughton had his best campaign for Victoria in 1894, when he scored 11 goals in 10 matches – finishing off the regular season by scoring 5 of Victoria Capitals’ 6 goals in their rout over Vancouver Lacrosse Club on September 29, 1894. He then bagged another 2 goals in the Capitals’ playoff match played at Brockton Point the following month versus New Westminster. That playoff meeting ended in dispute as Victoria was leading the championship game 3 goals to 2 when the game was called due to darkness. Claiming the championship, the Victoria Capitals then withdrew from the British Columbia Amateur Lacrosse Association on November 2, 1894 in protest of referee indecision in the playoff game and due to New Westminster arriving at Brockton Point an hour and a half late which resulted in the late start.

Macnaughton made only a single appearance for the Victoria Triangles in the 1895 season, which saw him scrape through Victoria’s fifth goal in a 6-2 rout over Vancouver to close out the final game of the season.

AE Macnaughton's signature, showing how he spelt his surname
AE Macnaughton’s signature, showing how he spelt his surname

He played ice hockey for Montréal Amateur Athletic Association of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada from 1887 to 1892, appearing in 19 games and scoring 21 goals. Macnaughton was the leading goal scorer in the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada in 1890.

In 1888 he had to testify in a libel lawsuit which involved accusations of lacrosse players match-fixing a game.

In the first week of April 1894, he was part of a British Columbia ‘Mainland’ team that traveled to San Francisco, California to participate in exhibition matches versus a British Columbia ‘Island’ team as well as a San Francisco team a few days later. These were the first lacrosse games played in that city and attracted considerable attention from the locals.

Archie Macnaughton managed the New Westminster Salmonbellies in 1900 and he took his team back east on tour. He was later the manager of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club in 1908 and 1910.

(PHOTO SOURCES: provided by Eric Zweig; CLHOF X994.15 excerpt; CLHOF X994.29 excerpt)

Canadian Lacrosse Almanac 2017 Edition

Click this link to view and download: CANADIAN LACROSSE ALMANAC 1867-2017

2016-almanac-coverFirst compiled in 2002 as a 102-page softcover book with a print-run of 200 copies, the Canadian Lacrosse Almanac was inspired by Jim Hendy and his pioneering work The Hockey Guide which first hit the shelves in 1933 and remained in yearly production until 1951.

The almanac’s initial focus was primarily on the statistical history of British Columbia lacrosse leagues – namely, annual league standings along with post-season play. It was the first publication to research and examine the pre-1932 era in British Columbia which until that time had never been documented at a statistical level.

Over time, further research uncovered new data and new material was made available to the author. Cost and production issues made the author switch from a print format to releasing it in a PDF format – made available for free – when he completed a second edition in 2005.

With the current 2017 edition now at 592 pages (with 26 more pages of new content compared to the 2016 edition), the almanac has expanded to cover the rest of Canada as well as American NCAA collegiate, professional leagues, international competitions, and foreign domestic leagues where information is available.

The Earliest Lacrosse Action Photograph?

first lacrosse photo
This photograph, in the collection of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, was apparently taken of a lacrosse game in action, played in Montréal, Québec in August 1864 – and as you can read, the caption claims it was the “first instantaneous snapshot ever taken”.

It is unknown whether the description implies it was the first-ever snapshot in photographic history – or just the first-ever photograph of a lacrosse game. On the back of the photo is the signature of AE Macnaughton (d.1937), who seems to be describing and verifying the nature of the print and its date. The author of Old School Lacrosse has frequently come across Archie Macnaughton’s name in his research from the 1890s to 1920s, a well-known individual involved in the game – first as a player in the 1890s for the Victoria Lacrosse Club and then later as manager of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club, as well as a referee and an association executive.

It is suspected the print copy in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame collection is a re-print that dates from before the 1930s and certainly not an original print from the 1860s.

However, based on what little the author knows of photography history, there are some serious doubts whether this photo actually does date from 1864.

The clearness and lack of blur of the players in motion in the image is unusual for photography of the era. The earliest snapshot cameras did not come along until 1888 with the introduction of the Kodak No.1 camera. The next latest occurrence of actions shots of lacrosse matches does not happen until the first five or so years of the 1900s.

Therefore, Old School Lacrosse suspects the photograph’s origins are likely three decades later, say 1880-1890s range. Perhaps 1864 is a typographical error for 1894?

(PHOTO SOURCE: CLHOF X994.29(1))

Lacrosse in Victorian popular music

our national game sheet musicAs strange as it may seem to modern audiences of both popular music and the game of lacrosse, almost as soon as lacrosse took hold over the young Dominion of Canada in the late 1860s, composers were inspired to write music whose melodies were deemed reflective of the qualities exemplified by its game play.

Clearly the best known music composition would be the song La Crosse, Our National Game, words by James Hughes and the music arranged by Toronto teacher and choirmaster Henry Francis Sefton (ca.1808-1892) in the mid-1870s. Various dates of publication have been given for the piece, with 1872 being the most common.

While the song would predate the birth the game in British Columbia by a decade or more, when the game did gain traction on the Pacific Coast, this song too made the journey west as well and was not unknown to lacrosse fans here. In the 1890s, one of the local newspapers published its lyrics in the form of a poem.

La Crosse, Our National Game was dedicated to Lord Dufferin, the Governor General of Canada, with its typical Victorian-era ‘huzzah’ lyrics inspired no doubt by the extolling of Dr. William G. Beers, the ‘Father of Modern Lacrosse’ in Canada. Himself an adroit voice for the young Dominion of Canada, the song mirrors Beers in proclaiming the various merits of ‘the national game’ played up at the expense of the British and American sporting pursuits which would have also been on the minds of many Canadians in the 1870s and later years of the 19th century. With ice hockey years away from being organised, lacrosse was viewed as the one athletic pastime unique to Canada and the new nation established in 1867, in contrast to imported sports such as cricket and rugby from the Old Country or baseball from America.

Canadian opera soprano and comedian Mary Lou Fallis recorded a modern rendition of the song for her 1997 album Primadona on a Moose, a collection of early Canadian songs. The album and related show tour was inspired by old song recordings unearthed by her and McGill University researchers in the mid-1970s.

The Library and Archives of Canada has this modern vocal recording of La Crosse, Our National Game.

There are at least three other known pieces of music composed in Canada for “lacrosse” audiences:

La Crosse Galop or The Lacrosse Gallop composed by J. Holt and “dedicated to the La Crosse Clubs of Canada”. Inspired by the sudden popularity of the sport in Toronto, this dance piece was composed in 1867 or 1868 and was the first song written with lacrosse in mind. A galop is a lively dance forerunner of the polka in 2/4 time; often it would be performed as the final dance of an evening.
– The piano piece Lacrosse Jersey (for Piano), written in 1892 by Nellie Smith and dedicated to the Toronto Lacrosse Club.
Lacrosse Polka (For Piano) written by L. Fred Clarry of Millbrook, Ontario.

None of these three compositions had lyrics written so it is unknown what exactly inspired their composition – apart from perhaps the need for appropriate music and performance pieces on hand at lacrosse club social functions in an era when the dancehall would be the primary venue.

(MUSIC & PHOTO SOURCES: Library and Archives Canada)

Second edition of “Old School Lacrosse” now in print

pro lax book coverIn February 2012, after ten years of research, the author of Old School Lacrosse self-published his pioneering work Professional Field Lacrosse in British Columbia 1909-1924 which thoroughly detailed the statistical aspect of the pro game from the days when lacrosse – and not hockey – captivated the attention and won the hearts and minds of sports fans in the Lower Mainland.

An in-depth statistical history of professional-level lacrosse played in Vancouver and New Westminster between 1909 and 1924, it goes back to the original newspaper reports and game summaries for its sources. The original 184-page book contained complete box scores assembled and cross-referenced for accuracy, featuring each and every match played, listing starting rosters, goal-scoring summaries, detailed player career statistics listing every match, and historical photographs from the hey-day of lacrosse on the West Coast.

The first edition was limited to a print run of 25 copies, while updated digital versions were made available as free PDFs to provide the reader of Old School Lacrosse with all the game statistics behind the photographs found on the site.

A second, revised printed edition was completed in November 2014 with 50 copies printed. For the second edition, the book was renamed Old School Lacrosse – Professional Lacrosse in British Columbia 1909-1924 to keep it consistent with this associated Old School Lacrosse website. It was expanded to 229 pages incorporating the original statistical material along with the player biographies and articles from Old School Lacrosse – as well as more photographs.

Copies of the second print edition are currently available for $10.00 CDN each +$10.00 CDN shipping and handling via Canada Post parcel service to anywhere in British Columbia. All other Canadian addresses are +$12.00 CDN for shipping. American orders are $30.00 CDN which includes shipping to anywhere in the continental United States of America. Payment for all shipped orders to be made via PayPal or prior arrangement.

To order, contact the author at davidjsc@gmail.com

All-Stars of the Pacific Coast

There were never any official all-star teams named during the early pro lacrosse era on the Pacific Coast, although occasionally newspapers would concoct various all-star team lists for their curious readers.

The fact that there were only two clubs – New Westminster and Vancouver – to select players from, probably made choosing all-star teams a somewhat pointless and trivial activity – especially in those seasons when play was abandoned or one club, usually New Westminster Salmonbellies, dominated over the other and competition on the field was not even close.

1909 VANCOUVER NEWS-ADVERTISER TEAM

George Rennie; 120 games played and 18 goals in 10 pro seasons between 1909 and 1920
George Rennie; 120 games played and 18 goals in 10 pro seasons between 1909 and 1920.

On October 22, 1909, the Vancouver News-Advertiser published its suggestions for an all-star team for the recently-completed 1909 season:

GOAL: Dave Gibbons (Vancouver)
POINT: none named
COVERPOINT: Lionel ‘Toots’ Clarkson (Vancouver)
FIRST DEFENSE: Jimmy Gifford (New Westminster)
SECOND DEFENSE: George Rennie (New Westminster)
THIRD DEFENSE: George Matheson (Vancouver)
CENTRE: Tom Rennie (New Westminster)
THIRD HOME: Bill Turnbull (New Westminster)
SECOND HOME: Cliff ‘Doughy’ Spring (New Westminster)
FIRST HOME: Ernie Murray (Vancouver)
OUTSIDE HOME: Len Turnbull (New Westminster)
INSIDE HOME: Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde (Vancouver)
SPARE (DEFENSE): Waldo Matheson (Vancouver)
SPARE (OFFENSE): Gordon ‘Grumpy’ Spring (New Westminster)

No point player was named – most likely an oversight omission. Charlie Galbraith (New Westminster) or Johnny Howard (Vancouver) would have been the logical choices that season for that particular position.

By and large, a sound list of names with 10 future hall-of-famers although one must still nevertheless question how much homer favouritism was put into the selections by the News-Advertiser when seeing names such as Clarkson and Gibbons making the grade.

‘Toots’ Clarkson only played in 4 matches in his named position that season (Tommy Gifford of New Westminster would have been the wiser choice here) while Gibbons was peppered with more goals than his Salmonbellies opposite ‘Sandy’ Gray and only won 3 of Vancouver’s 10 games.

That said, with no visual references such as film, the news reporters of the day are certainly the closest source to the action for the modern fan. Statistics do not always paint an accurate picture, certainly in regards to defensive players, so perhaps the reporter or reporters who made up the list saw superior aspects of Clarkson’s and Gibbons’ play that has now since been lost to us, the modern reader, from our distant vantage point over a hundred years later.

Dave Gibbons, the Vancouver goaltender for 7 pro seasons between 1909 and 1921.
Dave Gibbons was the Vancouver goaltender for 7 pro seasons between 1909 and 1921.

This is especially true with Dave Gibbons. The Vancouver goalkeeper seems to have been regarded highly enough that he eventually saw himself inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a charter member in 1965 – however his playing numbers during the professional era just do not seem to back up that acclaim and greatness compared to other contemporary goalkeepers of his day. How he managed to beat out ‘Sandy’ Gray in the News-Advertiser’s list that season is anyone’s guess. Gibbons could very well have been similar to Cory Hess: his best years occurred before the professional game took off – so a sentimental choice. Or perhaps a case of a great goalie in front of a not-so-great team?

1937 ‘NEWSY’ LALONDE TEAM & 1964 INTERVIEW

An interesting all-star team was published by the Calgary Herald in their September 11, 1937 edition. It was chosen by none other than the legend himself, Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, listing off his all-time greats: (Players who played lacrosse on the Coast have been marked with an *asterisk)

GOAL: Cory Hess*
POINT: Joe Cattaranich
COVERPOINT: Jim Kavanaugh
FIRST DEFENSE: Mickey Ion*
SECOND DEFENSE: Harry Pickering*
THIRD DEFENSE: Cliff “Doughy” Spring*
CENTRE: Gene “Daredevil” Gauthier
FIRST HOME : Henry Scott
SECOND HOME: Billy Fitzgerald*
THIRD HOME: Albert Dade
OUTSIDE HOME: Henry Hoobin
INSIDE HOME: Gordon “Grumpy” Spring*

Leaning heavy towards Ontario players, ‘Newsy’ Lalonde’s all-star team nevertheless gives great insight as Newsy played both in the West and the East and he himself could be openly critical of teammates who didn’t pull their weight. In other words: there are no slouches here. Looking at these names, this is definitely a pre-Great War team as well as a pre-Coast pro team, as many of these players were plying their trade in the decade prior to professionalism on the Pacific Coast.

As a footnote to this list, pointman Joe Cattaranich would be one of the pioneers who proposed moving the game indoors in 1930 and devised box lacrosse.

During a July 4, 1964 interview with The Montreal Star newspaper, ‘Newsy’ Lalonde listed off Fred ‘Cyclone’ Taylor and Tom Phillips as “fine lacrosse players” and Archie Macnaughton, William ‘Spike’ Hennessy, Weldy Clark, ‘Grumpy’ Spring, Alex Turnbull, Len Turnbull, the Gifford Brothers Tommy and Jimmy, and Fred ‘Mickey’ Ion as other players he rated being “at the top” of the game.

His 1964 list includes some rather interesting and intriguing names: Archie Macnaughton played with Montréal Amateur Athletic Association before coming west in the 1890s – he had retired as a player long before ‘Newsy’ started playing senior ball. In fact, Lalonde would have been too young to remember having even seen Macnaughton play. In reading Weldy Clark’s name, one has to wonder if Lalonde’s memory was fading a notch, mistaking Weldy Clark a half-century later for the great ‘Bun’ Clark – as Weldy’s playing career was short and unremarkable. By including Jim Gifford’s name, Lalonde shows – perhaps grudgingly – his respect towards a fine lacrosse player in an otherwise heated and nasty personal rivalry between the two men that in Gifford’s case still hadn’t passed at the time of the interview. ‘Mickey’ Ion was a tough lacrosse player in his day but ‘Newsy’ was probably much more familiar with Ion from his time as a referee in the National Hockey League.

JOE LALLY’S ‘FIFTY YEARS OF THE BEST’ IN 1944

The famous referee, Mann Cup trustee, Canadian Lacrosse Association founder, and stick manufacturer from Cornwall, Joseph ‘Joe’ Lally, named his all-time Canadian team in a 1944 list he called ‘Fifty years of the best’. Of the twelve players selected by Lally, five of them were Westerners or had played in the West as imports:

‘Bun’ Clark (Toronto Tecumsehs)
Tommy Gifford (New Westminster)
Gordon ‘Grumpy’ Spring (New Westminster)
Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde (Montréal Nationals & Vancouver Lacrosse Club)
Billy Fitzgerald (St. Catharines Athletics)

The remaining players picked were Albert Lewis, Jim Kavanaugh, Hugh Carson, Roddy Finlayson, Charlie Querrie, John Powers, and Henry Hoobin.

1949 TURNBULL-GIFFORD ALL-STARS

In his November 2, 1949 British Columbian newspaper column entitled “The Old-Timer Says…”, sports-writer Vic E Andrew talked about a discussion he had with former greats Len Turnbull and Hugh Gifford regarding all-stars teams for New Westminster and Vancouver. Observing that baseball had Cooperstown and ice hockey would soon have its own hall-of-fame based in Kingston, Ontario (today known as the International Hockey Hall of Fame), Andrew put forth the question “What about lacrosse?”. In response, these were the teams they came up with: (Players associated primarily with the years prior to the professional era are marked with an *asterisk)

NEW WESTMINSTER ALL-STARS
GOAL: Alban ‘Bun’ Clark
POINT: Johnny Howard
COVERPOINT: Tom Gifford
FIRST DEFENCE: Dave ‘Buck’ Marshall
SECOND DEFENCE: Hugh Gifford
THIRD DEFENCE: Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart
CENTREMAN: James ‘Pat’ Feeney
FIRST HOME: Alex ‘Dad’ Turnbull
SECOND HOME: Jack Bryson*
THIRD HOME: Bill Turnbull
OUTSIDE HOME: Len Turnbull
INSIDE HOME: Cliff ‘Doughy’ Spring
ALTERNATES: Barlow Galbraith*, Stan Peele*, Jim Gifford, Gordon ‘Grumpy’ Sprung, and Bob Cheyne*

VANCOUVER ALL-STARS
GOAL: Dave Gibbons
POINT: Harry Griffiths
COVERPOINT: Harry Pickering
FIRST DEFENCE: Harry ‘Fat’ Painter
SECOND DEFENCE: George Matheson
THIRD DEFENCE: Everett McLaren
CENTREMAN: Bob Cameron
FIRST HOME: Angus ‘Angie’ MacDonald
SECOND HOME: Ralph Ravey*
THIRD HOME: Nick Carter
OUTSIDE HOME: John ‘Dot’ Crookall
INSIDE HOME: Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde
ALTERNATES: Billy West and ‘Dot’ Phelan

The two teams are quite interesting as they do originate from first-hand sources – two players, Len Turnball and Hugh Gifford, who actually played with and played against – or were very familiar with – all of their careers. It seems the three decades of time which passed may have affected some of the selections. For example, home midfielder Cliff Spring somehow took his brother Gordon’s spot at inside home, while on the Vancouver team the complete absence of Angus ‘Bones’ Allen on the midfield and the inclusion of coverpoint defenceman Bob Cameron, who played just one season on the Coast, as the centreman seems just downright strange.

1950 CANADIAN PRESS GREATEST PLAYER VOTE

Henry Hoobin, the Montréal Shamrocks legend
Henry Hoobin, the Montréal Shamrocks legend and one of the game’s greatest forwards.

In 1950, a group of Canadian Press journalists voted on the greatest lacrosse player of the first half of the 20th Century.

The list they came up with is less an all-star team and more like a potential wishlist for a future hall-of-fame. In fact, the American authors Alexander Weyand and Milton Roberts outright refer to these selections as being voted for “a Lacrosse Hall of Fame” in their 1965 book “The Lacrosse Story”, the first complete history researched and written about the sport.

Three players with Pacific Coast playing experience received votes: (Players who played lacrosse on the Coast have been marked with an *asterisk)

Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde* – 13 votes
Billy Fitzgerald* – 6 votes
Herry Hoobin – 5 votes
Lionel Conacher – 1 vote
Alex ‘Dad’ Turnbull* – 1 vote
Joe Lally – 1 vote
Lance Isaacs – 1 vote
Didier Pitre – 1 vote

All the players that received votes were born in Eastern Canada – although as we all know, Lalonde did spend almost half his career in Vancouver while ‘Dad’ Turnbull relocated permanently to British Columbia and was so loved and respected by the Coast fans that he can be considered one of our own sons.

Joe Lally’s claim to fame was less as a player and more as a club official and organisational figure – so his lone vote was likely sentimental or political – while Lance Isaacs, who died from a heart-attack during a game in 1937, was notably both the only box lacrosse player and only aboriginal player to receive a vote.

2002 PAUL WHITESIDE ‘ALL-NATIONAL’ TEAM

In Donald M. Fisher’s book Lacrosse: A History of the Game, the author gives five lists of all-time great lacrosse players in the book’s appendix section. In a work heavily devoted to the United States collegiate game, only one of the lists overlaps the same time period of the Pacific Coast pro game, or the “All-National Game Era” of 1880-1920 as it is referred by Ontario lacrosse historian Paul Whiteside.

Unfortunately, the list drawn up by Whiteside for Fisher’s book is centered around Eastern players and only one “Westerner”, ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, makes an appearance on it. This is understandable as at the time of Fisher’s publication (2002), there was scant factual information about the game played on the Pacific Coast. As well, Whiteside’s area of expertise is researching and documenting the Eastern game – a true pioneer in his own right in preserving the early days of the game in that part of the country. Due to geographical distance, he would have had little to no access to western sources for historical data at the time when he compiled his all-star team.

2014 OLD SCHOOL LACROSSE PACIFIC COAST PRO ALL-STAR TEAMS

Len Turnbull, the Salmonbellies’ best scorer after the Spring Brothers.
Len Turnbull, the Salmonbellies’ most prolific goal-scorer after the Spring Brothers.

So, for what it is academically worth, Old School Lacrosse has now sat down, looked over the statistics and the history of the era, and come up with two all-star teams to cover the pre- and post-Great War divide in the pro game on the Pacific Coast.

Using the First World War as a division point in the Coast game, to create two all-stars teams, conveniently mirrors the two-year break by organised lacrosse in British Columbia which occurred in 1916-1917. As well, it also conveniently accounts for the changes in team compositions (player reduction from 12 runners to 10 starting in 1919) and the reduction in field-size in 1915.

There were some truly great legends that briefly played as imports on Coast teams (thinking here those brought west by Con Jones and his money) but their peak of greatness happened elsewhere or they had little impact beyond a season or so while playing out west – which is why someone like Billy Fitzgerald (one of the greatest Eastern players) or Cory Hess were left off these teams. Likewise with Salmonbellies legends such as Alex ‘Dad’ Turnbull or Tommy Gifford whose glory days with New Westminster were firmly in the years prior to professionalism.

OLD SCHOOL LACROSSE 1909-1915 PACIFIC COAST PRO ALL-STARS
GOAL: Alban ‘Bun’ Clark (Vancouver/New Westminster)
POINT: Johnny Howard (Vancouver/New Westminster)
COVERPOINT: Dave ‘Buck’ Marshall (New Westminster)
DEFENSE (3): George Rennie (New Westminster); Jimmy Gifford (New Westminster); George Matheson (Vancouver) – honourable mentions: Tom Rennie (New Westminster), Hugh Gifford (New Westminster), and Harry Pickering (Vancouver)
CENTREMAN: Cliff ‘Doughy’ Spring (New Westminster)
MIDFIELD/HOME (3): Angus ‘Bones’ Allen (Vancouver); Bill Turnbull (New Westminster); James ‘Pat’ Feeney (New Westminster)
OUTSIDE HOME: Len Turnbull (New Westminster)
INSIDE HOME: Gordon ‘Grumpy’ Spring (New Westminster) – honourable mention: ‘Newsy’ Lalonde (Vancouver)

OLD SCHOOL LACROSSE 1918-1924 PACIFIC COAST PRO ALL-STARS
GOAL: Bernie Feedham (New Westminster)
POINT: Dave ‘Buck’ Marshall (New Westminster) – honourable mention: Harry ‘Fat’ Painter (Vancouver)
COVERPOINT: Willis Patchell (Mew Westminster)
DEFENSE (2): Hugh Gifford (New Westminster); Laurie Nelson (New Westminster) – honourable mention: Eustace Gillanders (Vancouver)
CENTREMAN: Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart (New Westminster)
MIDFIELD/HOME (2); Angus ‘Angie’ McDonald (Vancouver); George Feeney (New Westminster) – honourable mention: Cliff ‘Doughy’ Spring (New Westminster)
OUTSIDE HOME: Jack Gifford (New Westminster)
INSIDE HOME: John ‘Dot’ Crookall (Vancouver)

Looking over and comparing these two teams, what is most interesting is the differences in talent between some positions. For example the defensive line: the 1909-1915 team is chock full of quality, future hall-of-famers to choose from while in the post-Great War era, even with the reduction by one defenseman, this is probably the weakest position for making selections. Apart from Hugh Gifford, an excellent player whose career spanned across both of these teams, the second defensive spot has no clear-cut player to claim it. Nelson and Gillanders were competent players but both can be regarded a few notches below in talent compared to everyone else on these two teams; Nelson gets the nod here simply due to bagging a few more goals and having better team success.

In goal, Bernie Feedham was statistically by far the best of the post-war goaltenders – which says something about the other goalies of those years when a transplanted outfield player can step in and excel in that position and in the process lead his team to championships.

Not counting honourable mentions, there are 11 hall-of-famers on the 1909-1915 team but just 6 on the 1918-1924 team – and one of those, ‘Buck’ Marshall, also pulls duty on the 1909-1915 team.

In almost all positions, it is fairly safe to say the 1909-15 players would overshadow their 1918-24 counterparts. Only in the point and coverpoint positions would there be an even battle for supremacy. Both of ‘Buck’ Marshall’s line-mates on these two teams, Howard and Patchell, were players famed for one very important playing ability: knowing how to shut down ‘Newsy’ Lalonde.

Bill Turnbull, one of the best pro midfielders from 1909 to 1915.
Bill Turnbull, one of the best pro midfielders from 1906 to 1915.

This imbalance does not detract from the personal accomplishments of such greats as Jack Gifford, ‘Dot’ Crookall, or ‘Angie’ McDonald – as all were obviously capable, star players who would have found their marks in the earlier era. But the depth of talent of the post-Great War period does seem to be thinner going through the ranks when in comparison to the pre-war glory years.

Looking back at Newsy Lalonde’s all-star team from 1937, even though his career spanned into the post-Great War era, everyone he chose for it starred before the war. Whether there was an actual weakening of talent post-war is unknown. It could just be a matter of perspective mirroring the weakening of the sport’s attention on the minds of the post-war fans, in that the accomplishments of those who played during the pre-war years are simply inflated from receiving greater fan and press recognition. For the players who followed and made their name after the Great War, with the game dying in the early to mid-1920s there was probably less interest in their heroics as well as less fans to remember their names.

One final note: while ‘Grumpy’ Spring is listed here ahead of ‘Newsy’ Lalonde as the best inside home of 1909-1915, this author believes that ‘Newsy’ Lalonde was, overall and nationwide, the greatest field lacrosse player of the pre-box lacrosse era. ‘Grumpy’ edges out ‘Newsy’ here due to playing his entire career on the Pacific Coast and finishing his career as the greatest pro goal scorer on the Coast. Lalonde’s greatness over Spring on a national scale is buttressed by his solid eastern career first with Cornwall and then later with the Montréal Nationals.

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)