Category Archives: Goaltender

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 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 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.

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 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; author’s photograph)

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Andrew Jack

Andrew Jack playing with the ILA Squamish Indians in 1922, winning the Vancouver City Senior League championship.
Andrew Jack playing with the ILA Squamish Indians in 1922, winning the Vancouver City Senior League championship.

ANDREW JACK
(birth and death dates unknown)

Vancouver Terminals (1923-1924)

Andrew Jack, a member of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Nation, was the second aboriginal player ever to play professional lacrosse in British Columbia when he became the goalkeeper for the Vancouver Terminals in the final weeks of the 1923 season.

Replacing five-year veteran Jake Davis between the posts, Andrew Jack – or “Jacks”, as the press erroneously referred to him – appeared in Vancouver’s last two matches of 1923. He helped lead the Terminals to 9-8 and 10-2 victories as Vancouver finished up with a 7-9 win-loss record versus the champion New Westminster Salmonbellies.

Jacks Puts Indian Sign On Royal Scorers” proclaimed the Vancouver Daily Province in the leading sports story after the 10-2 rout of the New Westminster Salmonbellies (who were sometimes also nicknamed the Royals on account of New Westminster being known as the Royal City).

With the reporter stating Vancouver had “…not played better lacrosse in years”, primary credit was given to the rookie Squamish goalkeeper. The Terminals had been suffering some morale problems on and off the field in previous weeks, and Andrew Jack’s play that afternoon was just the tonic required by players and fans to get over that slump.

In the typical reporting style and language of the day, “A swarthy redskin, whose forebearers may have swung a mean tomahawk in tribal wars swung a meaner lacrosse stick on Saturday and proved to be the undoing of the Redshirts at Athletic Park.

Whatever branch of sportive endeavor his ancestors may have pursued, they assuredly never worked to greater advantage than their copper-coloured descendant did when he stepped into goal for the troubled Vancouver lacrosse team and halted every shot but two in a torrent of sharp-shooting launched by the Salmonbellies when they saw the game slowly but surely slipping away.

Andrew Jack in the 1930s
Andrew Jack in the 1930s.

While reporters from that era saw nothing wrong in exploiting and embellishing the ‘savage Indian’ motif to spice up their articles, it is also clear that the media and fans back then were also genuinely enthusiastic and excited about the addition of Andrew Jack and his fellow Squamish team-mate Louie Lewis to the Vancouver roster. Regardless of skin colour and the prejudices of the day, anyone leading Vancouver to an embarrassing result over the hated Salmonbellies would have quickly won over many admirers in the Terminal City.

Con Jones re-signed him as the Vancouver Terminals goalkeeper for the 1924 season.

Despite his minutely short professional career, just 6 games played before pro lacrosse died suddenly, Andrew Jack clearly held his own against the world’s best with a 3-2-1 record and a fairly impressive 5.33 goals against – allowing a total of 10 goals in 1923 and 22 goals in 1924.

Prior to joining the Vancouver Terminals in September 1923, he played for the North Vancouver-based Squamish Indians senior teams managed by the legendary Andy Paull. In 1922 the ILA Squamish Indians won the Vancouver City Senior League championship with a 12-1-2 record.

(PHOTO SOURCE: courtesy of Carol Joseph and Gail Lewis family collection)

andrew jack 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)

Bernie Feedham

Bernie Feedham, 1922
Bernie Feedham, 1922

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

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1921-1924)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bernie feedham stats

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

Alex ‘Sandy’ Gray

‘Sandy’ Gray keeping ‘Dot’ Phelan at bay, 1911
‘Sandy’ Gray keeping Vancouver’s ‘Dot’ Phelan at bay, 1911

ALEXANDER BAIRD (ALEX) ‘SANDY’ GRAY
(June 24, 1884 – June 28, 1966)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1903-1911)

A stalwart wall in goal for the New Westminster Salmonbellies at the start of their Minto Cup championship run, Alex ‘Sandy’ Gray was the best goalie on the Coast during the three seasons (1909, 1910, and 1911) in which he played professional lacrosse for the Salmonbellies.

Prior to the advent of the professional game, he had played senior amateur lacrosse for New Westminster since 1903 when he made his debut at the age of 18. He took over from the great Bob Cheyne, who was forced to retire to due failing eyesight. Early in his career, he occasionally played at defensive coverpoint when Dick Eickhoff went in goal.

Alex Gray was the brother of Arthur Wellesley ‘Wells’ Gray, a lacrosse player in his own right and later – as an elected official and provincial cabinet minister – the man responsible for creating some of British Columbia’s earliest provincial parks such as Tweedsmuir and Manning Parks as well as the provincial park in the Cariboo which bears his name.

‘Sandy’ Gray, ca.1908
‘Sandy’ Gray, ca.1908

In action photographs, ‘Sandy’ is unmistakably identifiable with his dark peaked cap, lanky build, skinny legs, and gangly posture while parked in front of the goal.

Gray played a total of 40 pro games and won 27 of them – 2 of them with shutouts. He had a .675 winning record and 4.63 goals-against average, statistics that would lead all Coast pro goalkeepers in both of those categories. He was also the most penalised goalkeeper in the Coast pro game with 9 penalties and 65 minutes to his name – most of those accumulated during his final campaign.

‘Sandy’ Gray retired after the 1911 season, in which New Westminster lost hold of the Minto Cup to the greenshirts of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club. He would then be replaced in goal by ‘Bun’ Clark, lured away from the champions to suit up for the redshirts of the Royal City.

He passed away while at Royal Columbian Hospital, four days after celebrating his 82nd birthday, convalescing from a broken hip he had suffered on May 3, 1966. Outside of lacrosse, ‘Sandy’ Gray worked for 34 years as the provincial government agent at the New Westminster courthouse until his retirement in 1949. He was survived by his unmarried daughter Merle, who resided at the same home as him located at 1821 Nanaimo Street near Grimston Park, and his two sons Alexander Lloyd Gray and Alastair Anton Gray.

sandy gray stats

(PHOTO SOURCES: NWMA IHP1726; CVA 371-602)

Byron ‘Boss’ Johnson

Byron ‘Boss’ Johnson as the Premier of British Columbia
Byron ‘Boss’ Johnson as the Premier of British Columbia

BYRON INGEMAR ‘BOSS’ JOHNSON (BJÖRN “BJÖSSI” JÓNSSON)
(December 10, 1890 – January 12, 1964)

Victoria Capitals (1910-1911)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1913; 1915)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)

Although now remembered as British Columbia’s 24th Premier from 1947 to 1952, in his younger days ‘Boss’ Johnson also had a brief stint as a pro lacrosse goalkeeper for Vancouver.

Born in Victoria to Icelandic parents, his nickname ‘Boss’ was not reflective of his personality temperament but rather stemmed from his heritage with the anglicisation of his original Icelandic birth-name, “Björn” – or “Bjössi”, which is roughly translated as ‘Little Björn’ – or in English: ‘Little Byron’.

Neighbourhood children couldn’t pronounce Bjössi; the closest to it they could get was Boss. So ‘Boss’ he became.

Johnson was an extremely good athlete as a boy and he was eager to excel in all forms of sports he played – for example, rugby is noted as one of his interests – but it was lacrosse that became his primary focus and first love on the playing field. After playing lacrosse for various teams at the scholastic level, he turned senior with Victoria Capitals in the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association before then making the jump to professional in 1913, playing parts of three seasons for an assortment of Vancouver squads.

The signing of ‘Boss’ Johnson in 1913 was big news in his hometown of Victoria. Here he appears in the Victoria Daily Colonist.
The signing of ‘Boss’ Johnson in 1913 was big news in his hometown of Victoria. Here he appears in the Victoria Daily Colonist.

He signed with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club late in the 1913 season as a replacement for the future hall-of-fame goalkeeper Cory Hess. Con Jones was keen on the Victorian youngster and spent the better part of two months pursuing the reluctant keeper. Johnson tried out for Vancouver at the end of June and won unanimous praise from the likes of national stars such as ‘Newsy’ Lalonde and Nick Carter, in their opinion harder to beat than ‘Bun’ Clark, one of the best in the land at the time.

Finally Jones managed to induce him to sign when he offered him a 10-game contract paying $1200, but ‘Boss’ only managed to play in 2 matches before league play collapsed and folded for that year.

Whether by coincidence or by design, Johnson made his debut in the first professional match ever played in his hometown of Victoria – narrowly losing 5-4 to the New Westminster Salmonbellies at Oak Bay.

When Johnson signed to play professional lacrosse, he was one of the most prominent and popular sports figures in Victoria and it was a major blow to the Victoria senior lacrosse team and its hopes in fielding a team that year capable enough to challenge for the Mann Cup. As well, the local rugby team would suffer on the field from the loss of its star fullback now that ‘Boss’ was prevented from participating in amateur sports of any sort.

‘Boss’ Johnson then switched ships in 1914, debunking rumours in the process that he would go East to play for the Québec Irish-Canadians of the Dominion Lacrosse Union, when he signed with the Vancouver Athletic Club. The 1913 Mann Cup champions decided to take their game to the next level, departing the senior ranks for the professional game as a replacement for the now-defunct Vancouver Lacrosse Club – with ‘Boss’ Johnson replacing yet another future hall-of-fame goalkeeper, Dave Gibbons, in the process.

‘Boss’ would make a return to Victoria when the Vancouver Athletic Club and New Westminster scheduled their June 13, 1914 match to be played at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. Johnson and fellow Islander (and Icelander) teammate Ed ‘Cotton’ Brynjolfson both played prominent roles in front of their fellow Victorians as they helped lead the Athletics in defeating the Salmonbellies by a score of 8-7 that day.

During the 1915 season, back again with Con Jones and his revived Vancouver Lacrosse Club, ‘Boss’ found himself replaced in late June 1915 by Dave Gibbons. Johnson’s final game for Vancouver, on June 26, 1915, ended on a decidedly sour note as he was ejected from the game after a second-quarter bout with Bill Turnbull of New Westminster – with 50 minutes in penalties accumulated against him.

Very rare image of Boss Johnson and Dave Gibbons, 1915
Very rare image of Boss Johnson (left) and Dave Gibbons (right) as team-mates in 1915

As his lacrosse career ended, his military career in the Field Ambulance Corps then began. There is no mention regarding his transition away from the playing field and it is unknown whether Gibbons replaced him because of impending enlistment or due to his heated scrap with Turnbull.

In all, ‘Boss’ Johnson appeared in 13 matches during his short professional career. He managed to defeat the Salmonbellies in 5 of those games to give him a .385 winning record – no mean feat considering the chaotic organisational nature of the Vancouver squads during those immediate years. He would let in 97 goals for a 7.46 goals-against average.

Later in life, during the 1930s as his political career began to take off, he became Commissioner of Lacrosse and worked to provide playing fields and equipment for youngsters throughout British Columbia. In his final year as president of the British Columbia Lacrosse Association, 3,600 sticks and 36 sets of goal nets were distributed in 1936 under Johnson’s promotion committee.

On the playing fields of politics, Johnson led a Liberal-Conservative coalition government for five years and is primarily remembered for introducing mandatory health insurance in British Columbia and the first provincial sales tax to pay for that coverage. His government also began construction on the diking network in the Fraser Valley in the wake of the devastating 1948 floods.

Just as his stint as Premier of British Columbia would be remembered, ‘Boss’ Johnson was a transitional figure also in the game of lacrosse – a reliable player who excelled well during his time but nevertheless found himself book-ended and overshadowed by greatness that came both before and after him.

boss johnson stats

Alban ‘Bun’ Clark

A clash of titans, as diminutive goalkeeper ‘Bun’ Clark comes up for the save against Vancouver in 1912 - the player in white shorts leading the Greenshirts’ charge is Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, Canada’s greatest lacrosse player from 1900-1950.
A clash of titans, as diminutive goalkeeper ‘Bun’ Clark comes up for the save against Vancouver in 1912 – the player in white shorts leading the Greenshirts’ is Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, Canada’s greatest lacrosse player from 1900-1950.

ALBAN ‘BUN’ CLARK
(born June 5, 1883 – deceased)

Fergus Intermediates (1899-1904)
Toronto Tecumsehs (1905-1908)
Regina Capitals (1909)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1910-1911)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1912-1915; 1918-1921)

For such a famous and well-regarded goalkeeper during the game’s height of popularity on the Pacific Coast, practically nothing is known about the man except some fleeting details.

Even the exact spelling of his name is somewhat of a mystery as he was universally referred by all as ‘Bun Clark’ or ‘Bun Clarke’. His given name, in the couple of instances when it appeared in the press of the day, was rendered either as Alban or Alvan – with Alban Clark assumed to be the correct spelling based on census information from 1901. Alban came from a large Scottish Presbyterian family; he was the fourth of eleven children of Forbes and Jane Clark.

An Easterner who hailed from Fergus in Wellington County, Ontario, ‘Bun’ Clark spent four seasons playing with the Toronto Tecumsehs in the Canada Lacrosse Association in 1905 and in the National Lacrosse Union from 1906 until 1908. In his three NLU seasons in goal for the ‘Indians’, he had 26 wins and 13 losses and finished in succession third, second, and first for wins in the NLU (information on his 1905 campaign in the CLA is unknown). Prior to joining the Tecumsehs, he played for his hometown team for six years and won the intermediate championship in 1902 and 1903.

‘Bun’ Clark with the Toronto Tecumsehs in 1907
‘Bun’ Clark with the Toronto Tecumsehs in 1907

In 1905, he went west with the Ottawa Capitals on their tour to British Columbia. The manager of the Capitals noted that his life on the farm while growing up in Fergus had become so ingrained in him that ‘Bun’ would go to bed at six o’clock and wake up at dawn. This farming background appears on his 1901 census where his occupation is listed as “eggpacker”.

During his tenure with the Tecumsehs, Clark was reported by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper to be “one of best” but his weakness was “an unhappy faculty to get too good natured at times” after a strong performance between the posts.

Charlie Querrie, manager of the Toronto Tecumsehs, informed Clark in 1908 that his services would not be required the following season, on account of “trouble” that had arose between the Toronto management and the goalkeeper. Clark then headed to the prairies in 1909 and made a brief stop in Saskatchewan, playing as a hired-hand for the Regina Capitals in their challenge for the Minto Cup. Traveling west with the Capitals to face the New Westminster Salmonbellies, ‘Bun’ then stayed on the coast. Due to rules made by the Minto Cup trustee related to the Regina Capitals challenge, Clark was unable to sign with another team that year that were in competition for the Minto Cup.

The following season, Con Jones, impressed by what he had seen watching the Regina matches, signed ‘Bun’ Clark for his Vancouver Lacrosse Club and the goalkeeper made his coast debut on Dominion Day of 1910. Clark had been sitting out and away from the game, at home in Walkerton, Ontario, when Jones telegrammed him with an offer in early June 1910. In the wake of Dave Gibbons (along with some other local players) going on strike for more money, Con Jones was left scrambling to find a replacement. He had given a try-out to the former Fairview Lacrosse Club intermediate champion goalkeeper G McDonald but the promising netminder was injured at the end of the practise when ‘Dude’ Sumner, another former Fairview team-mate of McDonald’s, accidentally knocked the keeper senseless with a “wicked shot” to his nose – making him unavailable for Vancouver Lacrosse Club’s next start.

Clark would play 2 seasons and 21 matches for Con Jones and the Greenshirts before signing with the Salmonbellies in 1912 as a replacement for ‘Sandy’ Gray.

‘Bun’ Clark with Vancouver, ca.1910-11
‘Bun’ Clark with Vancouver, ca.1910-11

On May 24, 1911, in the opening game of the season, he had a shutout against the Salmonbellies at Queens Park. Later that same season on June 24, during the second of the two Coronation Medals exhibition matches, he shutout New Westminster again. He would get his third shutout of 1911 when he stonewalled his former Toronto Tecumseh club in their lacklustre 5-0 loss to Vancouver Lacrosse Club in the opening game of the Minto Cup playoffs. He would later pick up his third competitive shutout – this time playing for the New Westminster Salmonbellies – in the final game of the 1919 season.

‘Bun’ Clark retired after the 1921 season when personal business took him back home to Ontario for good – by that time, he had chalked up 96 games with New Westminster over 8 seasons. His career played out over a 24 year period from 1898 to 1921 with Toronto Tecumsehs, Regina Capitals, Vancouver Lacrosse Club, and New Westminster Salmonbellies and he was the oldest pro player in the game when he left British Columbia in 1921.

During his time on the West Coast, he also attended training camps (as a goalkeeper) for the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in the 1911-12 and 1915-16 seasons but never appeared in any league games.

‘Bun’ Clark, 1912
‘Bun’ Clark at Recreation Park – from the same 1912 game as the photo above.

He played in a total of 117 games in his 10 seasons spent out west with Vancouver and New Westminster – by far the most of any goalkeeper and more than double the number of the next closest challenger. Clark had 67 wins and 2 ties to his credit which gave him a .581 winning percentage. He saw 570 goals scored against him, which resulted in a 4.87 goals-against average. While goalkeepers such as Alex ‘Sandy’ Gray and Bernie Feedham (who succeeded him on New Westminster in 1922) may have had better winning records and goals-against averages, neither them nor any other goalkeeper in the Coast pro game had the durability of ‘Bun’ Clark.

Alban Clark married Mary Thornton in Toronto on October 17, 1927 – his occupation was listed as “grocer” on their marriage license. His marriage is the last documentation of ‘Bun’ Clark as the old, great goalkeeper then disappeared into history.

Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers – if not the greatest – on the Pacific Coast during the field lacrosse era, ‘Bun’ Clark would become one of the inaugural inductees into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965.

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(PHOTO SOURCES: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-585; CVA 371-607; Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame CLHOF X979.132.1c2; CVA 371-595)