Category Archives: CLHOF Inductee

Dave Gibbons

Dave Gibbons, ca. 1909-1910
Dave Gibbons, ca. 1909-1910

DAVID WALTER (DAVE) GIBBONS
(February 22, 1884 – October 6, 1966)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1904-1910; 1915)
North Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1911)
Toronto Lacrosse Club (1912)
Vancouver Athletic Club (1913)
Vancouver ‘Greenshirts’ (1918)
Vancouver Terminals (1919; 1921)

Dave Gibbons was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father was born in Ireland while his mother was an American and his family moved to Canada when he was a youngster around 1890, ending up in Burnaby, British Columbia. Regardless his background, he was readily accepted as a local product by the Vancouver fans.

Gibbons made his senior lacrosse debut in 1904 and became a mainstay with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club as the senior amateur game transitioned into the early professional years. While well-regarded as a goaltender, his career during the professional era appears more as being stuck with the role of the perennial, stop-gap replacement that Vancouver teams would fall back on during rough times when their prime, starting keepers became unavailable.

During the 1910 season, a group of local players consisting of Dave Gibbons, George Matheson, Ernie Murray, and ‘Toots’ Clarkson quit the team in early June after they went to Con Jones with demands for more money. Eastern imports Johnny Howard, ‘Bones’ Allen, Harry Griffith, and Harry Pickering were all rumoured to be receiving $50 per week while the four upshots ‘held up Jones’ for more pay because they were only getting half that amount per week – but felt they were doing the lion’s share of the hard while the imports reaped all the benefits. Despite the hold-outs having a lot of sympathy from the local fans, Jones refused their demand of $40 per week. Gibbons, Murray, and Clarkson quit the team for the rest of the season while Matheson eventually re-joined the team in August. Ernie Murray would sign with cross-town rivals New Westminster in 1911. Con Jones quickly replaced Gibbons with Eastern import Alban ‘Bun’ Clark.

Dave Gibbons in 1905.
Dave Gibbons in 1905.

Gibbons would resurface the following year playing for the North Vancouver Lacrosse Club entry trying to gain admittance into the professional league. Two lopsided losses in test matches against New Westminster and Vancouver, in which Gibbons conceded a total of 25 goals, sealed the fate of the would-be third team in the British Columbia Lacrosse Association and their application was quickly rejected.

Dave Gibbons married Bertha Burnett, of Tacoma, Washington, on April 11, 1912 in Vancouver. He then left for Ontario when the Toronto Lacrosse Club signed Gibbons for the 1912 Dominion Lacrosse Union season, but his fortunes played out no better in the East as the ‘Torontos’ ended up mired in last-place in the four-team league.

He would return to the Coast the following year and found himself picked up by the Vancouver Athletic Club when the Mann Cup champions made their jump to the professional ranks and challenged the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the Minto Cup. Dave Gibbons and his opposite Alban ‘Bun’ Clark hold the distinction of being the two goalkeepers in the only meeting ever played between current Mann Cup and Minto Cup champions. Gibbons’s team would go down in defeat 9-1 and 5-3.

In 1914, the Athletics would join the professional league full-time but went with Byron ‘Boss’ Johnson as their keeper in lieu of Gibbons. He would resurface the following year when ‘Boss’ Johnson, now with the resuscitated Vancouver Lacrosse Club under Con Jones, dropped out mid-season and Jones had Gibbons held in reserve as a replacement. The 1915 team photograph for Vancouver shows a very rare occurrence in those field lacrosse days: a team carrying two goalkeepers at once.

The closest Gibbons ever saw himself winning a national championship occurred in 1918 when he helped lead the Vancouver Greenshirts to a 6-2 win/loss record over New Westminster, easily his best season during the professional era, in the Mainland Lacrosse Association series. The team won the Minto Cup and was regarded as champions when the season ended but the title was stripped the following year by the BCLA when the New Westminster Salmonbellies claimed – conveniently after they had lost the cup series – that they had never fielded a team and rejected Vancouver’s claims over the Minto Cup.

Dave Gibbons prior to a game at Athletic Park in 1921, his final season.

Dave Gibbons would play two more seasons of professional lacrosse, in 1919 and 1921, which book-ended the Vancouver Terminals 1920 Minto Cup championship when they went with Jake Davis as their goaltender. On June 14, 1919, the second game of the season, Dave Gibbons had his only professional shutout as the Terminals defeated the Salmonbellies 4-0. In his final season, he signed with the Terminals after their keeper Davis had bolted for Con Jones’s team in his upstart, rival Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association. Gibbons’s final pro lacrosse match was on July 29, 1921 – to be replaced by Jake Davis for the remainder of the season when the PCLA folded the previous month and Davis was once more available.

His long career, with hindsight and with what is known, is an interesting study in both longevity and misfortune. His statistics from the professional era show a player who was mediocre at best, apart from his strong 1918 campaign. The fact that he was well-regarded by many, both during his playing years as well as many years later by his contemporaries and opponents, must lend some serious credence that he had the misfortune to have played for some rather poor performing Vancouver teams in front of him. A weak or terrible goaltender would not have lasted an impressive 17 years in the game, so one has to wonder whether he was often a bright spot on some not-so-bright teams. That said, the fact that the more successful Vancouver teams generally did not go with him, gives the impression that perhaps he was not regarded to have been a clutch, ‘go to’ goaltender – perhaps a player who was well beyond dependable in a pinch, but not one who was going to push the team over the top towards greatness.

It is a sad irony that when Vancouver won their Minto Cup titles in 1911 and 1920, he was not a member of the team – and when Gibbons finally did manage to win a championship in 1918, it was later denied to him and his team.

Outside of lacrosse, his occupation was listed on the 1921 Canadian census as a customs officer. In 1965, Dave Gibbons was named one of the inaugural, charter inductees for the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He passed away the following year and was interred at Ocean View Cemetery in Burnaby. His wife passed away in her one-hundredth year in 1989.

(PHOTO SOURCES: source unknown; CLHOF X994.204 excerpt; CVA 99-905 excerpt)

Tom Gifford

Tom Gifford, ca.1900-1905
Tom Gifford, ca.1900-1905

THOMAS STUART (TOM) GIFFORD
(June 5, 1880 – May 4, 1966)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1898-1912)

One of the greatest New Westminster defensive players in the first decade of the Twentieth Century and the captain of the New Westminster Salmonbellies during their early professional years, Tommy Gifford was born in Lockerbie, Scotland. At the age of seven, in 1887, he moved to Canada with his parents and younger siblings. He was the eldest of the four Gifford brothers who all eventually played professional lacrosse with the Salmonbellies. Two other brothers would play at the senior level for the redshirts.

Gifford played his first games with the Salmonbellies in 1898 at the tender age of 18 as an intermediate pick-up. The following year, he won the provincial intermediate championship with the Maple Leaf club of New Westminster. Soon afterwards making his move full-time to the seniors, his presence on the field was so impressive that by 1903, at the still youthful age of 23, he was already recognised across Canada as one of the leading, veteran defenders of the Salmonbellies. He played the coverpoint position, marking the opposing outside home attacker – except in 1911, when he split time playing at point defense.

On March 14, 1903, his lacrosse career was almost cut short when Gifford was nearly killed while working as a lineman on one of the city telephone and lighting poles in New Westminster. The rotted-out pole toppled over after he had reached the top and came crashing down on a pile of lumber. He escaped with his life – as well as bumps and bruises to his hip and shoulder.

July 1905 saw Gifford out with a tendon injury, incurred during a rough match versus Vancouver, putting his left arm into a sling.

Rare action image of Tom Gifford at Recreation Park in 1911.
Rare action image of Tom Gifford at Recreation Park in 1911.

1907 was a difficult year for Tom Gifford, who had the young intermediate Cliff ‘Doughy’ Spring chasing him for his spot on the team that June. The following month then saw him on the sidelines with his left arm once again in a sling after a particular rough match versus Vancouver Lacrosse Club on July 12.

He was a central figure in the infamous gunshot incident at Queens Park in 1908 and his leadership presence over the rioting participants to help quell the situation is testimony to the respect he had with lacrosse fans and players alike.

Tom Gifford, like most defenders of the day, played hard both dealing out the hits and taking them for his team. In 1957, sports writer and former National Hockey League manager Tommy Gorman recalled in the Ottawa Citizen an incident with Gifford when he was playing for Regina in 1909 versus New Westminster:

In the second period Tom Gifford hit me so hard he broke my jaw, cracked my nose and knocked out four teeth. I woke up in hospital with Sport [Henry] Murton and Jack Shea beside my bed. There was a terrible moan from the next room. “What happened? I said. “What’s that moaning?” “Ssssssshhh,” said Sport, “That’s the guy who hit you.

Tom Gifford, 1911
Tom Gifford, 1911

Prior to the Minto Cup series against the Regina Capitals, Gifford had been under the weather for a couple weeks with “la grippe” – as the flu was referred to back in the day. With the press reporting he was thus out of shape, Gifford must have found his game feet in time to lay out Gorman.

One incident, on Dominion Day of 1911, sparked by Tommy Gifford, showed just what a brazen character he could be at times in contrast to his calm manner during the gunshot incident three years before:

Having played what was described as “a strenuous sort of game all afternoon”, Gifford decided to take a crack at Vancouver enforcer (and future NHL hall-of-fame referee) Fred ‘Mickey’ Ion. With Referee WD Ditchburn in pursuit, Gifford then ran amok on the field at Recreation Park trying to avoid the fine cheque being issued by Ditchburn. He was eventually cornered by the other referee, TD Cusack, and was ordered out of the game after Cusack had stuffed the fine down Gifford’s sweater.

The game then resumed – but as Tommy Gifford was heading off the playing field to the Salmonbellies’ clubhouse, he changed his mind and instead made for the Vancouver goal and hung out around there while play continued in the New Westminster end. Neither official seemed to notice him to stop play – so when the action made its way down the field towards the Vancouver goal, Gifford decided to take a run and charge Vancouver point defender and team captain Harry Griffiths from behind. Griffiths then turned around and struck back at the New Westminster captain, chopping the side of his head with his stick. Now sporting a big gash, Gifford then swung back at the three Vancouver offensive players, Archie Adamson, Billy Fitzgerald, and Newsy Lalonde – who had entered the fray and all walloped back at the now-outnumbered Gifford.

Tommy Gifford, ca.1908
Tommy Gifford, ca.1908

Gifford was finally escorted off the field by a friend of his – but not before another fight broke out between ‘Pat’ Feeney and Nick Carter and spectators then streamed out on the field, many engaged in their own dust-ups with opposing fans. Police and park officials managed to corral the fans and clear off the field so the remainder of the match could continue.

When he retired from the game after the 1912 season, in four professional seasons Gifford had played in 51 games with 1 goal to his name. He was sent off for 26 penalties for a total of 171 penalty minutes. 1911 was his most feisty season with 12 penalties and 82 minutes – a complete turnaround from the previous season when he was sent off for only 10 minutes from 2 penalties. He was 16th in overall career penalty minutes. When looking back at his entire senior and professional career, Tom Gifford was probably the best defenseman to suit up for New Westminster during the first two decades of the club’s existence.

Gifford became the manager of the New Westminster Salmonbellies professionals in 1913 but his debut season came to an abrupt halt on July 5 when he led his team off the field in protest five minutes prior to the start of the match. On the advice of two lawyers, Gifford refused to face the Vancouver Lacrosse Club on account of suspensions to ‘Mickey’ Ion and Harry Griffiths – (haven’t we seen these two names before?). Both players were still in Con Jones’s line-up when New Westminster arrived at Hastings Park. Jones refused to budge so the Redshirts walked off to their dressing rooms. Referee Fred Cullin then placed the ball near centreman Ernie Murray’s stick and blew his whistle. The Vancouver players then passed the ball around a dozen times before bagging an unopposed goal. After two more goals were scored in similar manner, the “game” ended and the angry crowd of 5,000 went home.

Manager Tom Gifford in 1921
Manager Tom Gifford in 1921

Unbeknownst to most folks in attendance that day, they had witnessed the first nail in the coffin of the professional game on the Coast. It would be another 11 years before that lid was nailed tightly shut, but the newspapers of the day were nevertheless aware and observant that the sudden, acrimonious end of the 1913 BCLA season would become a serious obstacle for the sport to overcome.

He would return as manager in 1921 – between which time the post was occupied by AE Kellington and former teammate Gordon Spring. Away from the game, Gifford worked as the superintendent for the Fraser River Bridge until his retirement in 1946 after 42 years of service.

Thomas Stuart Gifford passed away in Seattle on May 4, 1966; he had moved to that city four years prior. Later that year, he was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a field player. His brother and former team-mate Jim Gifford accepted the induction in his memory.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CLHOF X979.217.1; CVA 371-584; CVA 99-41; NWMA IHP1724; CLHOF X979.150.1)

George Rennie

George Rennie, 1911
George Rennie, 1911

GEORGE HADDOW RENNIE
(March 11, 1883 – December 13, 1966)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1901-1915; 1918-1920)

Like many accolades given to the old greats, his long-time friend and defensive team-mate Jim Gifford said that George Rennie was “one of the finest players in the world in his day”.

A defensive midfielder by trade, playing in the second defense and third defense positions, George Rennie turned senior in 1901 with the New Westminster Salmonbellies.

During the professional era, he played in 120 games and scored 18 goals. He was sent off for 38 penalty infractions for a total of 188 penalty minutes. Late in the 1919 season, he took on a substitute role as youngster Laurie Nelson took over his place on the field. Rennie would then continue in a substitute capacity throughout the 1920 campaign – his last as an active player. After the conclusion of the final match of the 1920 season, George Rennie closed the book on his two decades of playing when announced his retirement in the Salmonbellies dressing room, quoted by the newspapers as saying that: “youth must be served, and this is my last appearance in a uniform”.

Rennie was one of two New Westminster players who were members of the 1908 Canadian Olympic lacrosse team that traveled to London, England to compete in the Fourth Olympiad. Canada won the gold medal when they defeated Great Britain by a score of 14-10 on October 24, 1908. In a tournament which featured just two nations and a single match, it would be the last appearance of lacrosse at the Olympics as a fully recognised, non-demonstration sport.

He was born in either Douglastown or Newcastle, New Brunswick – both which are now parts of the modern city of Miramichi. Away from the game, Rennie worked as the superintendent of the Lulu Island Swing Bridge between Richmond and Vancouver until his retirement in the mid-1940s.

George Rennie was a charter inductee, as a field player, into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965.

(PHOTO SOURCE: CVA 99-41)

Willis Patchell

Willis Patchell with New Westminster in 1921.
Willis Patchell with New Westminster in 1921.

WILSON DOUGLAS (WILLIS) PATCHELL
(April 22, 1893 – February 24, 1973)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1914; 1918-1921; 1924)
Vancouver Terminals (1923)

One of the few players who could match up and effectively shut down the great ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, Willis Patchell was perhaps best remembered back in his day for his incredible and inspiring comeback effort after being wounded during the First World War.

He made his professional debut in 1914 with the New Westminster Salmonbellies and played in 6 games that season alternating between coverpoint and first defence. The coverpoint, the second deepest defender on the field, would be his usual position although he could fill in at first defence and point when occasion required.

The First World War would then take him away from the playing field for the next three or so years. It almost took him away from the game permanently.

A member of the 29th Battalion from British Columbia, Patchell suffered a broken right leg during the intense fighting on the Western Front in 1916. Doctors said that he would never play lacrosse again, yet he persevered and returned to the playing field two years later when lacrosse action resumed on the Pacific Coast in 1918 – the long, jagged scars on his leg the only evidence on the field of his wounds.

From 1918 onward, Patchell would play in six of the following seven professional seasons between 1918 and 1924. He was absent completely from the 1922 season and he then signed with Vancouver late in the 1923 season. The Terminals were having roster problems with some absentee bodies in their defensive zone and were desperate for help. While he showed some rust in his first game, no doubt on account of his long lay-off, it was felt Patchell could nevertheless provide some needed veteran experience to the Vancouver squad. He played the month of September 1923, suiting up three times for the Vancouver Terminals. He then returned to the Salmonbellies the next year, in what turned out to be the final professional season played on the Pacific Coast.

His professional field lacrosse career would see him play in 62 games – all but 3 of them played with New Westminster Salmonbellies. He managed to score one lone goal – which came on July 25, 1921. His 18 penalty infractions clocked up 81 minutes to his name. Willis Patchell would win four Minto Cup professional championships, although two of them – in 1914 and 1924, his first and last professional seasons – were won by New Westminster through defaults.

Patchell would regain his amateur status in 1927 and return to play for New Westminster Senior ‘A’ teams – first the Salmonbellies, and then later, the Adanacs – to extend his lengthy career which would span 20 years. He then followed up with another 11 years during when he would intermittently suit up in what must have been emergency situations. During that time he witnessed the transition from the old field game to the faster box version. His final 2 games were played in 1945, at the age of 52 for the New Westminster Adanacs, to book-end a senior career which had begun its first chapter some 31 years previous. Not a bad career for someone who was told he was done in 1917.

Willis Patchell played on the 1928 New Westminster Salmonbellies senior team that traveled to the Amsterdam Summer Olympics for the lacrosse demonstration. His brother Bill Patchell was the coach of the team – himself unable to play in the Olympics on account of his former professional status not yet rescinded like his younger brother.

A fireman by trade, he retired as assistant chief of the New Westminster Fire Department in 1953. Three years after his passing in 1973, Willis Patchell was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in the field player category.

(PHOTO SOURCE: CLHOF X979.150.1)

willis patchell stats

Jimmy Gifford

Jim Gifford as he appeared on a 1912 tobacco card.
Jim Gifford as he appeared on a 1912 tobacco card.

JAMES STODDART (JIM) GIFFORD
(September 26, 1886 – November 9, 1976)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1905-1912)

Jimmy Gifford was born in Scotland (his family hailed from Lockerbie) and moved to North America with his parents nine months later, first to St. Paul, Minnesota and then later to New Westminster where his father opened a jewellery business. The patriarch of the famous, lacrosse-playing Gifford brothers was Thomas Gifford; his father served as a provincial MLA for fourteen years under Premier Richard McBride.

His lacrosse career at the senior and professional level would be relatively short – just eight seasons in total – before he suddenly took ill on July 12, 1912, was rushed to hospital, and an abscess operation effectively forced him to retire. By the time the professional game came along in 1909, Gifford had already earnt the reputation for being one of the hardest and toughest players to take to the field. During the professional era his heated rivalry with ‘Newsy’ Lalonde of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club was legendary, nasty, and relentless. Even in old age Gifford continued to hold a grudge and could not bear being in the presence of Lalonde.

Outside of lacrosse, Gifford was employed in a partnership with Webb & Gifford Machine Works. Later in his life, he was instrumental in establishing the rival New Westminster Adanacs lacrosse club in 1933. He helped coach them to their first Mann Cup finals in 1938 and then won the cherished golden trophy the following season.

In 1965, Jim Gifford was named one the charter Field Player inductees into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Passing away in 1976 at the age of 90, he was last of the five Gifford brothers (Tom, Hugh, Jack, and Bill – along with himself) as well as the last remaining member of the legendary New Westminster Salmonbellies 1908 Minto Cup championship team.

Hugh Gifford

Hugh Gifford, 1911
Hugh Gifford, 1911

HUGH WILSON GIFFORD
(May 29, 1892 – March 22, 1966)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1910-1915; 1919-1924)

Hugh Gifford played in more seasons than any professional player on the Pacific Coast save for New Westminster team-mates ‘Pat’ Feeney and ‘Buck’ Marshall. He made his debut in 1910, the second year of open professionalism in the British Columbia Lacrosse Association and would remain in the professional ranks for 12 playing seasons until the game died in 1924 – absent only from the 1918 Mainland Lacrosse Association campaign.

Of the four Gifford brothers who played professional lacrosse for the Salmonbellies, he was the last one still playing in that final season on the Pacific Coast and in Canada – his younger brother Jack Gifford missing from the four games that were played in the aborted 1924 season. He was also the first of the Gifford family to be born in New Westminster; his older brothers having been born in Scotland prior to the family leaving for North America in 1887.

Hugh Gifford, 1921
Hugh Gifford, 1921

Like his older brothers Tom and Jim Gifford, Hugh was a defensive player – although more as a midfield defender in the modern sense than a pure defenceman as the aforementioned two. Hugh Gifford was recalled as “a powerful, colourful player, an outstanding athlete,” and “a stalwart on defence”. However when required, he could play in any position in his team’s own half of the field. He pulled duty as a centreman in the second half of the 1915 season while he played a handful of games in 1919 and 1921 in point and coverpoint roles back near his own crease. He even started a game between the goal posts in one instance – in just his second game after joining the Salmonbellies – on August 27, 1910, in which he filled in for ‘Sandy’ Gray. The youthful Gifford allowed just 3 goals to get past him in helping lead New Westminster to a narrow victory over the home side in Vancouver.

Not a plentiful goal scorer, he generally finished in the middle-third of the pack in his team’s scoring each season but still managed a couple games in his career where he bagged 2 goals in one game whilst playing in his usual defensive midfield role. Overall, and most likely due to his lengthy career, Gifford still managed to finish ranked 18th in career scoring with 29 goals and 1 assist, which are the best goal totals for any ‘defensive-minded’ player on the Coast.

Hugh Gifford, ca.1910-1912
Hugh Gifford, ca.1910-1912

Where he would have made a name for himself statistically – if career statistics had been kept back then – would be penalties and minutes. His 54 penalty infractions place him fourth overall in the professional game on the Pacific Coast while his 342 penalty minutes make him the most penalised New Westminster player in terms of minutes sat out – and edge him up to third overall in that category behind Vancouver’s Harry Griffith and ‘Newsy’ Lalonde for career totals. Despite these high numbers, Hugh Gifford is not noted for being a particularly nasty or pugilistic player. He only had 6 games out of his career 124 played where he had more than 10 minutes in a game; this being an age where 5 minutes was generally the minimum handed out for a penalty.

After his retirement from the game, he became a junior-level referee. He later officiated in one of the Mann Cup series. Hugh Gifford passed away at Royal Columbian Hospital from complications which aggravated his chronic asthma condition. He was inducted posthumously as a field player into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1969.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 99-41; CLHOF X979.150.1; CLHOF induction photo)

hugh gifford stats

Jimmy Gunn

Jimmy Gunn with the New Westminster senior amateurs, 1921
Jimmy Gunn with the New Westminster senior amateurs, 1921

JAMES (JIMMY) ALEXANDER GUNN
(October 25, 1898 – January 13, 1987)

Vancouver Terminals (1922-1923)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1924)

With his brief and youthful career, Jimmy Gunn was a rising star in the last days of professional lacrosse. The Vancouver Daily Province observed that Young Gunn, in his professional debut match in 1922, was “…one of the fastest fielders seen on the home [midfield] in many moons”, who possessed an accurate outlet in moving the ball near the vicinity of the opposing goalkeeper.

Gunn played 30 games over two seasons with the Vancouver Terminals before signing with his hometown team in 1924. He played in all 4 of the New Westminster Salmonbellies’ games that last season before professional lacrosse died in June 1924. He scored a career total of 17 goals and 2 assists for 19 points; he was penalised 7 times for a total of 41 minutes.

Prior to his three years as a professional player, Jimmy Gunn played with the New Westminster seniors between 1919 and 1921 and winning the Mann Cup twice during his tenure with the Royal City amateurs. One can only guess what kind of star on the midfield he would have become if the professional game hadn’t died so suddenly – when Jimmy Gunn was still 26 years young.

Jimmy Gunn
Jimmy Gunn

He was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a field player in 1972 although at the end of his day he probably had more fame as a referee – officiating for 32 years and writing a referee manual for the Canadian Lacrosse Association which saw widespread distribution. He was also at some point, during his time around the game, the president of women’s lacrosse.

In 1969 the British Columbia Lacrosse Association named their outstanding referee achievement award after him – with awards handed out on an annual basis to the top senior and minor referees with field referees added to the class starting in 1998. Candidates for the Jimmy Gunn Merit Award are judged on their achievements toward promoting sportsmanship and the image of the game.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CLHOF X979.148.1b; CLHOF inductee collection)

jimmy gunn stats

Harry Godfrey

CVA 99-35 harry godfrey (1913)
Harry Godfrey, 1913

HARRY ROWELL GODFREY
(August 14, 1880 – April 12, 1941)

Vancouver Lacrosse Club (ca.1904-1913)

One of the most prevalent – and at the same time, for the modern historian, one of the most daunting and frustrating – aspects of researching lacrosse history in Canada is the sport’s heavy reliance on oral history. Stories which have been passed down word-of-mouth between the generations which are then later documented to paper as ‘fact’ – and then trying to sort out the inconsistencies that then arise when these stories don’t match.

Film footage of lacrosse is almost non-existent with only a single-known, brief, blurry clip dating from before the 1920s. Otherwise we are forced to rely on the words of newspaper reports, photographs, and reminiscences of those who were there. Photographs are a singular instant in time which don’t generally shed any clues as to the actual playing ability of the subjects on them.

With so many of the great lacrosse players from yesterday, while it’s been passed along that such and such player was a great star or a fan favourite, we have very little factual data today as to show why they were so regarded – especially with the inevitable passing of time, when a player obituary was written with little regard for accuracy and more focus on memorialising the deceased in the very best light. First-hand reminiscence and observations do have value when documented at the time of occurrence, but as time marches on, memories grow old and fade and often those memories start to diverge and contradict with the hard facts that do remain and can be confirmed.

With many of the early inductees in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, we know perhaps two or three sentences about them – and nothing more. With many players and people involved in the game a hundred years ago, we don’t even know when they were born nor in many cases when they died. It’s a sad state of affairs but one we must grudgingly live with, as historical preservation had different priorities and criteria decades ago. Obviously the powers that be, in their day, viewed (and in many cases, knew firsthand) that these players had incredible, outstanding merits – but practically no effort was then made to preserve the actual documentation and facts to keep their history alive and tell their stories to the generations to come.

X979.145.1 harry godfrey (1912)
Harry Godfrey, 1912

One such player is Harry Godfrey.

We are told he was a great player; the people in the lacrosse community who came before us saw him worthy enough to be inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1970, just five years after the hall was established. Today, however, forty-five years after his induction and over a century since he played his last game, we now do not know very much about him nor what drove his greatness. And when those scraps of facts which can be gleaned from newspapers are cobbled together, in the case of Harry Godfrey, the puzzle creates more contradictions and questions than it does assemble a clear picture.

Harry Rowell Godfrey was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1880. We know nothing of him prior to his arrival in Vancouver in 1900. He did not start playing lacrosse, it is reported, until his arrival in the Terminal City – yet within a year of appearing on the Coast, it has also been said that he was on the Vancouver YMCA senior team that traveled east in 1901 to challenge for the Minto Cup. Even more incredibly, in May 1904, he was unanimously elected the club captain of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club – an impressive feat for a player with only four years’ playing experience under his belt, and an event which earnt him mention in the press. These two events make one wonder if he did have some exposure or playing experience prior to his relocation to Vancouver.

We know he ran a sporting goods store, Harry R. Godfrey Gunsmiths and Sporting Goods, which was located first on Cordova Street and then later moved to West Hastings. His business opened in 1903 but had closed up shop by 1916. Amongst other items, his store sold lacrosse sticks to players of all ages and ability.

As for his playing ability, according to a newspaper article written at the time of his death in 1941, Godfrey was “…a big and wiry man,” who “…starred at home [i.e. midfield], and, later, defense. He was greatly respected by teammates and opposition both. After his playing days were over he was in the sporting goods business for many years, and later operated a mink farm in Burnaby.” The Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane, Washington specifically pointed him out in their review of the on-going 1907 Canadian lacrosse season him as Vancouver’s “husky inside home player”.

Then there are the questionable facts which were later preserved but probably never verified at the time – this is part of the oral history regarding Godfrey that was probably created or passed from second- and third-hand sources. The classic but unsubstantiated ‘I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew or saw him play, and he said…’

According the biography written for Godfrey’s induction in the hall of fame, he played for “a number of school and junior teams” and that “he completed his field lacrosse career by playing ten years of senior lacrosse from 1907 to 1917 until the team disbanded because of the war.” But, what seems to have happened, is a blurring of facts and dates due to the passage of time and memories.

Victoria Daily Colonist, (May 21, 1904)
Victoria Daily Colonist, (May 21, 1904)

Based on more recent newspaper investigation, his playing career spanned a period starting no later than 1902 to ending in 1913 no earlier. He played professional lacrosse from 1909 through 1913 with Vancouver Lacrosse Club – and due to the regulations at the time, there would have been no way Godfrey could have then been permitted to play senior (amateur) lacrosse after his professional career ended. His name does not appear in game reports nor photographs of him with the Vancouver Athletic Club, the senior amateur team of the day. Vancouver’s professional team (and VAC) disbanded in 1915 and there was no lacrosse played in British Columbia during the war years of 1916 and 1917.

As for his alleged junior and school career which came before his senior and professional career, it is really difficult to determine or comprehend when this would have occurred – if it actually did occur – if he didn’t play any lacrosse prior to moving to Vancouver. He arrived in Vancouver at age 20, a few years too old for the junior or scholastic leagues of the time.

Outside of lacrosse, he excelled in basketball and had a keen interest in the YMCA organisation.

Harry Godfrey passed away in 1941 and was buried in Mountainview Cemetery in Vancouver. He was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1970.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 99-35; CLHOF X979.145.1)

Harry Pickering

Harry Pickering, 1912
Harry Pickering, 1912

HARRY SHERMAN PICKERING
(February 18, 1881 – October 8, 1936)

Toronto Tecumsehs (1906-1908)
Ottawa Capitals (1909)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1910-1913; 1915)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Greenshirts (1918)
Vancouver Terminals (1919-1920)

Born in Mount Forest, a small community located in Wellington County, Ontario, Harry Pickering played seven years of lacrosse as a youngster with the Mount Forest teams.

The Vancouver Daily Province remarked at the time of his passing, in 1936, that Pickering – “who will go down in history as one of the smoothest, toughest defencemen that game has known” – had honed his skills while playing in the sandlots of Toronto and was then spotted by Toronto Tecumsehs manager Charlie Querrie. However, this conflicts with more contemporary knowledge about him, as this embellished story in his obituary takes no account of his experience in Mount Forest and he played a year with Chatham in the intermediate series before the Toronto Tecumsehs signed him in 1906 to play third defence.

On September 22, 1906, he married 19-year-old Mary Colquhoun in York, Ontario.

After three seasons with the Tecumsehs and winning the National Lacrosse Union championship with them in 1906 and 1908, Pickering was playing at his peak. He changed teams in 1909 when he signed with the Ottawa Capitals – trading in three winning seasons for an atrocious, last-place finish. Regina Capitals tried unsuccessfully to sign him that same year for their ensemble challenge against the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the Minto Cup.

Pickering was signed by Con Jones in September 1909 to play for Vancouver Lacrosse Club in exhibition matches played during the BC Provincial Exhibition held the following month. He would remain on the Pacific Coast with Vancouver for the next dozen years – first as a leading veteran player with Vancouver and then later in a player-manager capacity when Con Jones bowed out of the game.

He was reported by the Ottawa Citizen to be the highest paid player with Vancouver in 1910 however other newspaper sources state that he received the same $50 per week wage as the other Eastern imports that same season.

There were rumours of him returning to Ottawa in 1911 for business reasons however he remained on the Pacific Coast. The following season Pickering was rumoured to be signing with a Toronto team.

Con Jones pulled the plug on his Vancouver Lacrosse Club team and withdrew from the league in July 1913 after a dispute over scheduling with the Salmonbellies. Harry Pickering was a member of a four-player committee along with ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, Harry Griffiths, and Harry Godfrey who then took control over the team when Jones quit but the quartet were unable to keep the club running nor resume the season.

When the Vancouver Athletic Club made the move to the professional ranks the following year, as a replacement for Jones’s club, Pickering was one of a handful of ex-VLC players who joined up with VAC. Sadly the Athletics’ season fared just as poorly on the field and at the gate as their predecessors had the year before, as the 1914 professional campaign collapsed after just 6 games.

With the Vancouver teams, he played the position of what would, in the modern game, be regarded as a defensive midfielder. He appeared in 78 games for Vancouver in his 9 playing seasons on the Coast. After Con Jones quit the professional game (once again) after the 1918 season, Harry Pickering took over as manager for the Vancouver Terminals for three seasons from 1919 to 1921. He won three Minto Cup championships – all with Vancouver – in 1911, the disputed 1918 series, and in 1920.

In April 1915, Pickering made an interesting statement which appeared in the Montréal Journal of Commerce, observing the climatic differences that Eastern and Western players faced and the bearing on their game. While not expressly pointing out what those differences were, Pickering stated that “a team going to the coast should either play the day after their arrival, or wait a couple of weeks. The difference in climate makes the players sleepy.

He retired after the 1920 season due to shoulder problems and moved into the referee ranks. He refereed in the 1923 Mann Cup series between Victoria Capitals and New Westminster Salmonbellies as the two divisional champions of the British Columbia Coast Lacrosse Association met for the gold trophy.

Pickering passed away at the general hospital in New Westminster on October 8, 1936 after a prolonged illness. He had been coach of the Richmond Farmers in the Inter-City Lacrosse League in the 1936 season until poor health forced him out of the game.

Harry Pickering was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a charter member in the Field category in 1965.

(PHOTO SOURCE: detail from CVA99-43)

harry pickering stats

Cory Hess

Cory Hess making a save against New Westminster at Hastings Park on May 31, 1913
Cory Hess making a save against New Westminster at Hastings Park
on May 31, 1913

CORIDON (CORY) HESS
(July 3, 1880 – November 27, 1948)

Cornwall Colts (1897-1901; 1911)
St. Catharines Athletics (1905-1907)
Hamilton Tigers (1908)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1912-1913)

Coridon (or Corydon) Ashton Hess (or Hesse) started out in senior lacrosse in 1897 with his hometown Cornwall Colts of the National Lacrosse Union, when he appeared in 1 game that season.

The following season, at the tender age of 18, he became the starting goalkeeper for the Colts when he replaced James Broderick in between the posts. In 1898, he led the league in goals against average and was in a three-way tie for most victories with 9 wins from 13 games.

In 1901, he had a shutout against the Montréal Nationals when the Colts blanked the Frenchmen 6 goals to 0. As a member of the Cornwall Colts, he was the losing goaltender in the first challenge game for the brand-new Minto Cup, a 3-2 decision in favour of the Ottawa Capitals. Hess departed the Colts after the 1901 season when he relocated to Woodstock – replaced by Jack Hunter, who would become the mainstay in the Cornwall crease until the arrival of a local youngster by the name of ‘Newsy’ Lalonde in 1905.

In the 1905-1907 period, Hess played for the St. Catharines Athletics of the Canadian Lacrosse Association. The 1905 season was notable for Hess on a personal level as St. Catharines found themselves on the losing end of the first Minto Cup challenge series to feature open professionals. After helping lead the Athletics to the championship of the Canadian Lacrosse Association, they lost in their attempt to dethrone the now-professional Montréal Shamrocks of the National Lacrosse Union. Cory Hess thus found himself with the distinction of having played for both the first senior amateur and first professional teams in Minto Cup play.

Hess was a hot commodity in his final season with St. Catharines, with both Toronto Lacrosse Club and Montréal Shamrocks both interested in acquiring his services. That year he helped lead the team to the league championship. The following season he played with the Hamilton Tigers in the same league. At some point after playing for Hamilton, he also played with a team in Brantford but his tenure there is unknown.

Cory Hess would return to the Cornwall Colts in 1911 but struggled to a 3-8 finish. In his debut match of the season, having entered the game as a substitute replacement for Mark Cummins, he took a ball in his right eye and had to leave the game.

Cory Hess, 1913
Cory Hess, 1913

After ‘Bun’ Clark was lured away by the New Westminster Salmonbellies, Con Jones brought Cory Hess out west as a replacement keeper for his Vancouver Lacrosse Club. Hess was part of a Cornwall exodus – consisting Angus ‘Bones’ Allen, Dalton ‘Dot’ Phelan, Don Cameron, Francis ‘Fid’ Cummins, and ‘Newsy’ Lalonde – that Jones had accumulated on his roster.

He arrived in Vancouver with a highly-regarded career in Ontario behind him; at his peak he was regarded as one of the great goalkeepers of his day with his skill both with his stick and his sharp eyes. Those who strayed too close to his crease did so at their own risk, as Hess was known to lay out the lumber on occasion. A rookie by the name of Fred ‘Cyclone’ Taylor learnt this all too well during a game with Oshawa, when Hess ‘combed’ Taylor’s head with his stick.

Hess played in 20 games for the Vancouver Lacrosse Club from May 1912 to June 1913 but by his second season on the Pacific Coast, he was showing his age. Con Jones became unhappy with his performance and looked to find a replacement after losing confidence in the struggling, 33-year-old keeper. Hess was dropped from the team after Vancouver‘s 7-3 loss to New Westminster on June 21, 1913.

At the time of his release from Vancouver Lacrosse Club, he had a record of 4 wins and 16 losses. He let in 116 goals for a 5.80 goals against average – which really isn’t that bad considering he had matching .200 win percentages in both seasons with Vancouver. His downfall in 1913 was inconsistent play where he (and many of his team-mates) would follow up a hard-fought win or a close loss with an inexplicable rout to the Salmonbellies. In his debut season with Vancouver, at least the losses were close games for the most part.

Later in life, his chief lament would become: “And I was never on a Dominion championship team.

Hess was inactive as a player from 1914 until 1918 when he was reinstated as an amateur player. He played in 1920 with the Vancouver Athletic Club. The Athletics had reformed the year before as a senior team and were now playing in the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association. He would later suit up for the North Shore Athletics in the British Columbia Coast Lacrosse Association.

Once his playing days were finally over after the 1925 season, Cory Hess then helped establish, along with Carl Grauer of Richmond, a women’s lacrosse league in 1926 for the Lower Mainland. Hess managed the Pirates team in the league, from 1926 until around 1939 – which only lost three games in their first five seasons of play. The Pirates won the Grauer Cup, which was emblematic of the British Columbia women’s provincial championship, in 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, and then later in 1939.

For two years he was president of the women’s league until he stepped down, feeling there was a conflict of interest as he sponsored one of the teams. He then took up the position of secretary-treasurer of the British Columbia Lacrosse Association (the provincial association, not the professional league).

While lacrosse was his primary sport, in his early years Hess excelled in scholastic sports. He was a baseball pitcher, played rugby, was a goalkeeper in soccer, and a basketball guard. In his later years, for over twenty years, he was the official timekeeper for ice hockey games at both the Denman Street Arena and Vancouver Forum.

In 1968, Hess was inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame in the Lacrosse category. He would be one of the last old-school field lacrosse players inducted to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1985.

cory hess stats

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 371-578; CVA 99-35)