Category Archives: CLHOF Inductee

Jake Davis

Jake Davis with the Victoria Foundation club in 1919.

JAKE DAVIS
(born ca.1893 – deceased)

Vancouver East End (1909-1911)
Vancouver Athletic Club (1912-1914)
Victoria Foundation Club (1919)
Vancouver Terminals (1920; 1921-1923)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1921)

Jake Davis was born in Toronto but moved to Vancouver when he was just a tiny child. He played junior lacrosse for two years with the East End club before turning senior with the Vancouver Athletic Club in 1912.

The Athletics had won their Mann Cup challenge the year before when they had defeated cup holders Young Torontos in a two-game, total goal series 9-3. The young rookie Jake Davis soon found himself part of the new senior amateur dynasty team taking root in Vancouver, defending their hold over the cup against all challenges in 1912 and 1913 – and gaining a reputation as an outstanding, young lacrosse goalkeeper. His older brother Bill Davis also played for the Vancouver Athletic Club, up front as a midfielder, during their Mann Cup years.

In the 1914, the core group of VAC players felt there was nothing else to achieve by remaining in the senior amateur game, so the team joined the professional ranks in the British Columbia Lacrosse Association league with their desire to step up to the next challenge and wrestle the Minto Cup away from the New Westminster Salmonbellies. However, the club refused to let Jake Davis turn pro as they still wanted to defend the Mann Cup and required his services in goal. During the defense of their Mann Cup challenges that year, he played with cracked ribs – tearing off bandages during a game when they began to interfere and hinder his play.

Mann Cup play that year would become bogged down by disputes. The Athletics had defeated the Calgary Chinooks and Brampton Excelsiors in challenge matches but then the Mann Cup trustees disputed the status of one of the Vancouver players in the series versus Brampton.

Despite the views of British Columbia lacrosse, national lacrosse and amateur athletic organisations that supported Vancouver’s position, the trustees instead awarded the cup to the Calgary Chinooks on September 29, 1914. Vancouver however held on to the gold trophy and refused to turn it over to either the trustees or the Chinooks. Finally, resolution to the issue came on December 7, 1914, when the Canadian Amateur Lacrosse Association overruled Mann Cup trustee Joseph Lally and awarded the cup to the Vancouver Athletic Club.

Jake Davis married at a young age around 1913 and the couple would later have four sons. As well as lacrosse, he also played soccer and ice hockey, both in goal, and was a shortstop in baseball.

Formal portrait taken in 1913 for Vancouver Athletic Club photo-montage.

The Great War would put a hold over Jake Davis’s lacrosse career, although he did participate in some of the patriotic charity fund-raising matches organised during the war years. When formal play resumed in 1918, Davis joined the Vancouver Coughlans Shipyards team in the Vancouver Amateur Lacrosse Association. After besting the cup-holders New Westminster Salmonbellies in league play and defeating the North Vancouver Squamish Indians 6-4 in a single-game playoff, the Coughlans then won (or retained) the Mann Cup by defeating the Winnipeg Argonauts.

The following year he joined the Foundation Lacrosse Club founded by ‘Cotton’ Brynjolfson in April 1919 to represent the Victoria Shipyards – and Davis would add his final Mann Cup crown, won with his third team, to his name that season.

1920 saw Jake Davis finally turn professional and sign with the Vancouver Terminals, in the process pushing out veteran keeper Dave Gibbons in what could be viewed as a changing of the guard. Unlike their Salmonbellies rivals, the various Vancouver teams did not boast the same numerical depth of local trained talent in goal. In lieu of Eastern imports, Gibbons and Davis were by far the best goaltenders to come up through the ranks of Vancouver organisations for the first-quarter of the 20th century – and Gibbons’s best years were now behind him when Jake made the step up to the pro game in 1920.

When Con Jones started up the rival Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association, he recruited Jake Davis for his Vancouver Lacrosse Club. When the second league folded a few weeks into its season, Davis then jumped back to his former Terminals club – and for a second time, pushed out Dave Gibbons from the starting spot between the pipes.

During the 1922 season he missed some games from an abdomen injury when he was butt-ended by a stick on the sly during a game versus New Westminster. The following year Jake Davis went “South” in August 1923 and quit the Vancouver Terminals in mid-season, moving to California along with his father and becoming a carpenter there.

The relocation became permanent in 1930 when he was hired by Mobil Oil. He worked for the oil company for 31 years and retried as the plant yard foreman in 1961. He lived in Berkeley until retirement and then moved to Richmond Heights a year later. At the time of his hall of fame induction in 1977 he was residing in Long Beach, California.

In November 1946, Davis wrote to the Vancouver Sun asking for contact information for ‘Newsy’ Lalonde as well as for any lacrosse films available to show in California. He also wrote a letter to the Victoria Colonist newspaper in October 1969, asking “to find out if any of the [Foundation] boys are still living”. Otherwise, he had disappeared off the radar of the old lacrosse fans and the press, so much so it was not even known if he were still alive or not by the time he finally returned to Vancouver around 1973-74, visiting the city for the first time since moving to California in the 1930s. His arrival and subsequent meeting with one of the local sports reporters sparked the move to get him finally inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1977 – although with hindsight and the benefit of research, it appears his legacy and his legend had become misreported, blurred, and more so, embellished over time.

Eight straight Canadian championship teams between 1912-1920”, as reported in the Vancouver Sun in 1977 at the time of his induction, is a falsehood, along with the claims of “seven Mann Cup winning teams” and “first Minto Cup shutout in 1912”.

Jake Davis with the Vancouver Athletic Club in 1912.

So much emphasis was placed in 1977 on this lone shutout that he was even bestowed the nickname “Mr. Zero”. This moniker is completely unwarranted. While shutouts were rare during the professional field era, they were not unique nor unheard of – with 8 shutouts occurring in professional play on the Pacific Coast: 2 each by Alban ‘Bun’ Clark, Alex ‘Sandy’ Gray, and Bernie Feedham, and one each by Dave Gibbons and Jake Davis (in 1923 – not 1912). It seems, however, with the benefit of time, the passing of observers, and the complete lack of statistical information in 1977, Jake Davis became the only goalkeeper who was remembered by such a performance and his career subsequently became memorialised by it.

When examining his championship wins, there is much more factual truth there. In the challenge era for the Mann Cup and Minto Cups, it can be quite difficult to determine and tabulate totals as some seasons did see multiple challengers as well as league play also factoring who the cup holders were. Jake Davis won, retained, or defended the Mann Cup during league play over the course of five seasons, to which can be added another six successful challenge victories. However, in 1915 the Athletic Club dynasty was finally broken when the Mann Cup was won by New Westminster. This and the two-year gap on account of the war broke the so-called succession of straight championships. His lone Minto Cup championship came in 1920, his last hurrah on a championship team. Despite the grand claim of “eight straight Canadian championship teams between 1912-1920”, his six years of championship seasons in less than a decade is nevertheless impressive.

Compared with other goaltenders from the professional era on the Coast, Davis would be ranked third for most career wins (27), tied fifth for career winning percentage (.500), and sixth for career goals against average (5.00) – with some of those placements ahead of him held by a few emergency players having to go in goal in one-off starts. At the professional level, he was certainly a very capable and reliable goalkeeper but nowhere near the outstanding figure that later press (or the hall of fame press) made him out to be – although to be fair, his performance during his senior years spent with the Vancouver Athletic Club seems to be by what he was remembered most for, and it can be argued that he was probably the best amateur keeper on the Pacific Coast in the 1910s. Over time, aged minds likely blurred his full career and results all together.

Just for the record: his ‘famous’ shutout occurred on June 9, 1923 in a 2-0 decision at Queens Park, coming two weeks after New Westminster goalkeeper Bernie Feedham himself had blanked the Terminals 1-0.

(PHOTO SOURCES: Victoria Colonist October 29, 1969; CLHOF X979.190.1 excerpt; CVA 99-1019 excerpt)

Ernie Murray

Ernie Murray with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club, 1912.

ERNIE MURRAY
(born ca. 1887 – possibly December 23, 1967 ?)

Mount Pleasant Maple Leafs (ca.1907-1908)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1909-1910; 1912-1913)
North Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1911)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1911; 1918)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Terminals (1919-1920)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1921)

Inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965 as a charter member in the field player category, Ernie Murray played 10 seasons of professional ball between 1909 and 1921.

Like many local home-brew Vancouver players from that era, no personal information is now known about him outside of the game. He played senior lacrosse in 1907 and 1908 for the Mount Pleasant Maple Leafs, alongside three of his four lacrosse-playing brothers. Con Jones would then sign “the speedy little home fielder” in 1909 for his Vancouver Lacrosse Club team when the professionals first became organised as a league under the British Columbia Lacrosse Association name that year.

In November 1907, he was suspended by the Canadian Amateur Athletic Union after travelling to California with the Vancouver Athletic Club rugby team for a match being played there versus McGill University. There appears to have been some protest made by McGill University regarding his playing status which would affect the collegians’ own playing status, so Murray chose instead to watch from the grandstands.

The majority of his lacrosse playing career was with the various Vancouver teams, although he did bolt to the New Westminster Salmobellies for the 1911 season after having a disagreement with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club president and money man, Con Jones.

Ernie Murray was one of a group of four local Vancouver players (along with goalkeeper Dave Gibbons, George Matheson, and ‘Toots’ Clarkson) who quit the team in early June 1910 after they went to Jones with demands for more money. With the Eastern imports that season earning $50 per week, 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 work while the imports reaped all the benefits.

Despite the hold-outs having a lot of sympathy from the local fans, Con Jones refused their demand of $40 per week. Along with Gibbons and Clarkson, Ernie Murray quit the team for the rest of the season while Matheson eventually caved in and re-joined the team in August. The following year, the cross-town rivals New Westminster Salmonbellies would approach Murray and sign him for one season – before seemingly making amends with Con Jones in time for the 1912 campaign and returning to the greenshirts.

When the Vancouver Lacrosse Club folded mid-season in July 1913, Ernie Murray found himself once again embroiled in a wage dispute with Con Jones. His November 1913 lawsuit filed against Jones was dismissed in county court after Murray tried to sue Jones for $650 which he alleged remained from a $1,000 contract. The judge ruled in Con Jones’s favour, as Jones stated he had promised $50 per week so long as play continued and had not guaranteed any contracts for 20 weeks of salary, as Murray claimed, due to uncertainly whether the 1913 season would be completed.

Ernie Murray would later get picked up by the replacement Vancouver Athletics in 1914. He would return to New Westminster in 1918 when ‘Grumpy’ Spring signed him to the Salmonbellies for the Mainland Lacrosse Association season.

Ernie Murray played in the midfield zone usually at third home or second home, occasionally slotted as the centreman. In 1920, he was primarily used in a substitute role, while the following season, his last as a player, he found himself moved up on the attack as the outside home, a position he had played back in his senior days with the Maple Leafs. His final season saw him in the role of player-manager for Vancouver in Con Jones’s rival Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association outfit. When that league folded in mid-season on June 13, 1921, after 5 games, Murray packed in his playing career.

He appeared in 69 professional games, scoring 31 goals – which places him 17th in career scoring for players during the pro field era.

(PHOTO SOURCE: CVA 99-43)

ernie murray stats

Len Turnbull

Len Turnbull, May 1911

LEONARD (LEN) TURNBULL
(May 31, 1889 – March 7, 1952)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1906-1913; 1915; 1918-1919; 1921-1923)
Toronto Lacrosse Club (1914)

The Turnbull brothers of New Westminster, Len and Bill, were two of the best offensive players of their day. The younger of the brothers, Leonard Turnbull was born on May 31, 1889. He grew up at the family residence at 1112 Sixth Avenue in New Westminster and was still living there at the time of the 1901 census. His parents were William and Jessie Turnbull. Apart from his brother Bill, he had no other siblings besides an older sister named Tryphina.

Although both his parents were born in England, the family was of Scottish descent. On his mother’s side, Len was a grandson of New Westminster pioneers Sergeant-Major John McMurphy and his wife, who arrived in 1858 with the rest of the Royal Engineers when the townsite was founded and built. Despite the shared surname, Len and Bill Turnbull had no family relationship whatsoever with their New Westminster teammate Alex Turnbull, whose origins were in Ontario.

Len Turnbull, the Salmonbellies’ best scorer after the Spring Brothers.

Len Turnbull played two seasons of intermediate lacrosse with the New Westminster West Ends before graduating to the senior squad in 1906, the same year the Salmonbellies began to utilise short passing, a new development taking root within the game. Starting in 1909, Len Turnbull would play 11 seasons of professional ball for the Salmonbellies, clocking up 105 appearances and bagging an even 100 goals for the redshirts.

His role on Salmonbellies team was the outside home position on the attacking line – paired up with the great ‘Grumpy’ Spring for most of his career until Spring’s retirement after the 1921 season. He gained fame for his ball-ragging ability to kill time on the clock. In his last two seasons of play, he usually found himself alongside Thure Storme whenever the injury-prone Scandinavian was healthy. For reasons unknown, Len was sometimes nicknamed ‘Tulip’ or the ‘Old Tulip’.

In October 1910, the two brothers both visited Spokane, Washington – their names well-known enough as lacrosse stars for their presence in the city to garner specific mention in the local newspaper.

Len Turnbull signed a contract with the Toronto Lacrosse Club in 1912 along with fellow teammates Cliff Spring and ‘Buck’ Marshall but then renegaded and handed back the advance money after Toronto’s failure to also sign Gordon Spring and Bill Fitzgerald – which was apparently part of the agreement. Cliff Spring and Len Turnbull finally did sign and play for Toronto of the Dominion Lacrosse Union in 1914, scoring 23 goals in 18 games in his lone season not wearing New Westminster colours.

Len Turnbull unsuccessful in beating ‘Bun’ Clark at Recreation Park in Vancouver, ca.1910-11

Turnbull was in the military at some time during the Great War but his length and nature of service is otherwise unknown.

In assessing his career numbers, he ranks eighth overall for number of games played during the professional era in British Columbia and fifth overall for goals scored. His 100 goals make him one of only five players who matched or surpassed the century mark during the Coast’s professional years and the third-highest goal-scorer for New Westminster after the two Spring brothers. His best campaign for goal production occurred in 1910 when he tied his linemate Gordon Spring with 22 goals.

Especially during the post-war ‘comeback’ part of his career, he was an impeccably clean player and accumulated only 19 penalties and 112 minutes to his name throughout his pro career. He was only one of two players who played a decade or more of professional ball under his belt on the Pacific Coast and didn’t finish in the top-twenty for penalty infractions and minutes.

The bulk of his pro career was compacted into 8 seasons – as he only played 4 games in parts of 3 years between 1915 and 1919, as well as completely missing out the 1920 season. However, from start to finish and adding his three seasons of senior ball with New Westminster prior to professionalization on the Coast, along with his season playing back east, in total Len Turnbull’s stellar lacrosse career spanned across 15 seasons played out over 18 years.

Teammate ‘Grumpy’ Spring celebrates as Len Turnbull puts the ball past ‘Bun’ Clark at Queens Park, ca.1910-11

At the time of his brother Bill’s untimely passing in 1933, he was residing in Penticton, British Columbia.

Len Turnbull worked as a mail clerk for the Pacific Great Eastern railroad. He retired at age 60, two years before he passed away in 1952 at his home (or his sister’s home) on Old Yale Road in Surrey, British Columbia from carcinoma of the colon.

At the time of his death, he was a widower, and, according to funeral records, it appears he had no living next of kin besides his sister Tryphina Olmstead and a cousin. Len Turnball was interred in the International Order of Old Fellows cemetery section located within the Fraser Cemetery in New Westminster, British Columbia. At his funeral, which was reported by the local press to have been well-attended, two of his old teammates from his glory days, Jim Gifford and George Rennie, were his pallbearers.

In 1971, Leonard Turnbull was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in the Field Player category.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 99-41; NWMA IHP1183; CVA 371-607; CVA 371-58)

Dave Gibbons

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

DAVID WALTER (DAVE) GIBBONS II
(February 22, 1884 – October 6, 1966)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1904-1910; 1915)
North Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1911)
Toronto Lacrosse Club (1912; 1914)
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.

He started out in Vancouver junior lacrosse around 1900 with the East End Crescents, spending around four years with that team before later going back east to play for the Argonauts team. Gibbons was back on the Coast when he made his senior lacrosse debut in 1904 for Vancouver Lacrosse Club as a call-up from the intermediate ranks, graduating to the seniors full-time in 1905. He then became a mainstay with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club as the senior amateur game transitioned into the early professional years.

While highly-regarded as a goaltender, his career during the professional era played out more as being stuck in the role of a perennial, stop-gap replacement that Vancouver teams would fall back on during rough times when their prime, starting keepers became unavailable. Despite the frequent accolades about his talent and ability, he often seemed eclipsed by other well-known goaltenders who were signed by Vancouver.

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 work 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. He amicably reconciled with Con Jones and spent the rest of the 1911 season watching from the sidelines as the spare goaltender for the Vancouver Lacrosse Club, although he saw no action during their successful Minto Cup championship run that year and did not appear in the team photograph.

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, having his most successful season in his career as the ‘Torontos’ ended up winning the league with 14 wins in 18 games.

Gibbons returned 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 meaningful 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. Gibbons decided to re-sign with the Toronto Lacrosse Club for the 1914 season after being offered $30 per week or $25 per week plus transportation expenses paid for him and his wife. The ‘Torontos’ seemed keen to re-sign Gibbons as they offered him better wages than had been paid to their players the previous season. He would find some familiar company from the Coast as the Toronto Lacrosse Club managed to pry Cliff Spring and Len Turnbull away from the New Westminster Salmonbellies and sign them along with Gibbons.

He resurfaced on the West Coast the following season 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.

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

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 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 generally mediocre, apart from his strong 1912 and 1918 campaigns. The fact that his ability was respected by many, both during his playing years as well as many years later by his contemporaries and opponents, must lend some 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 sometimes a bright spot on some not-so-bright teams. That said, the fact that the more successful Vancouver teams generally did not rely on him, gives the impression that perhaps he was not regarded to have been a clutch, ‘money’ goaltender – or rather, he was perhaps viewed as a keeper who was 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 an active 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 from a heart attack 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; author’s photograph)

dave gibbons stats

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 he 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.

Born in the Sapperton neighbourhood of New Westminster, British Columbia, the young Willis Patchell grew up along the banks of Brunette Creek and the Coquitlam River setting up mink and muskrat traps, a skill he learnt from his father, one of the wardens at the British Columbia Penitentiary, who had previously lived in New Brunswick and the Yukon. In his retirement years, Patchell would use his trapping experience to assist the city in eliminating its rat problems along the waterfront.

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 joined the department in June 1919 and first worked at the old No.2 Fire Hall located on Nanaimo and Tenth Streets. He was promoted to the rank of captain in June 1937 and he retired as assistant chief of the New Westminster Fire Department on May 1, 1953. In 1952, he coached the Burnaby-New Westminster firemen’s softball team to the championship that year.

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 – even refusing to attend his hall-of-fame induction because Lalonde would also be there receiving the same honour, over 50 years passing since their last bloody battles had been fought.

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 his 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.

During the Great War, Gifford had enlisted with the military engineers in 1917 but only made it as far as Montréal, when his ‘lacrosse knee’ gave out on him. After lengthy medical treatment, he was turned down and discharged by the medical board – returning home in November 1917.

After his retirement from the game, he became a junior-level referee. He later officiated in one of the Mann Cup series. In January 1950 he was elected to the parks board in New Westminster. When Queens Park Area instituted a no smoking rule, as the lone dissenting vote on the board, he became the first person to violate the new rule by showing up with the longest and ripest cigar he could find. On a positive note, he also was responsible for decorating Columbia Street with hanging flower baskets.

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 January 1939, Gunn was involved, along with Cliff Spring and Andy Paull, with the formation of the Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association, a four-team professional league based in Los Angeles, California. The league folded by the end of the month due to poor arena conditions.

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