JOHN ‘JOCKO’ VINSON
(December 5, 1882 – April 15, 1916)
An Australian by birth, when John ‘Jocko’ Vinson arrived in Vancouver and became associated with the Vancouver Athletic Club and their championship lacrosse team is unknown as facts about his life prior to the outbreak of the First World War are scant and fleeting. Barely out of his teens, he stowed away on a transport ship leaving Australia and ended up fighting in the Second Boer War in South Africa.
As the trainer for a sports team, very little press would have been written about his role with the Vancouver Athletic Club except it is clear that Vinson was very well-regarded and known in both local and national sporting circles. ‘Jocko’ Vinson was involved with the Vancouver Athletic Club lacrosse team during their hold over the Mann Cup as national senior amateur lacrosse champions from 1911 through 1913 and into 1914.
An interesting and rare detail on his lacrosse career, it was reported he talked Bill Peacock into signing with VAC, beating out Con Jones and his professional Vancouver Lacrosse Club outfit for the services of the player. His occupation on his military records on enlistment in 1914 state he was a farrier, a specialist in horseshoeing. He appears to have been a bachelor as his brother is listed as next-of-kin.
Described as an “all-round good fellow, always bright and cheerful and immensely popular”, ‘Jocko’ Vinson appears in all lacrosse team photographs for the Vancouver Athletic Club during their championship years – often wearing his trademark white sweater and suspenders and sporting a tweed cap.
When the Great War broke out, with enthusiasm Vinson once again answered the call to arms. He enlisted as a member of the first contingent of the 11th Irish Fusiliers that departed from Vancouver for the front lines in Western Europe. He would serve in Belgium with the 7th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regiment).
Corporal John Vinson fought in the Ypres campaign and was seriously wounded in April 1915 during the Battle of St. Julien. His heroic exploits saw him fighting off enemy attackers with bayonet and in the process leading his men in seizing a farmhouse and gun position. Wounded and begging to be left behind with a gun, to pick off German soldiers before they got to him, he had to be dragged back under protest to the safety of a shelter. News of his actions in combat reached back home in Vancouver and his heroics were reported in the local press while his gallantry earnt him special mention in military dispatches.
While convalescing from his wounds, Vinson wrote poetry about his experiences and observations in the war. In August 1915, a small collection of five poems was published in England. After ten months of recuperation, he returned once again to the front lines.
Ypres would become Vinson’s final resting place when he was killed in action on April 15, 1916, a day before the final German push convinced the divisional headquarters the hopelessness of their situation and declared an end to the engagement.
The Battle of St. Eloi Craters ended in a German victory as half the Canadian contingent surrendered and the other half crawled away in retreat. More than 1,370 Canadian soldiers, Corporal Vinson amongst them, stood their ground and gave their lives on the muddy, cratered quagmire that was the battlefield at Ypres. Newspapers in Vancouver and Victoria printed special tributes about the beloved ‘Jocko’ Vinson when news of his death reached home two weeks later in the first days of May 1916.
Corporal John Vinson is buried at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground located a few kilometres south of Ypres/Iepers in Belgium.
EDWARD (ED) ‘COTTON’ BRYNJOLFSON
(March 11, 1891 – April 17, 1967) Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1915)
Vancouver ‘Greenshirts’ (1918)
Born as Eggert Thorarini but known to all as ‘Cotton’, Ed Brynjolfson was regarded as the best known and most talented lacrosse player originating from Victoria in the pre-box lacrosse era – his fellow Icelander teammate ‘Boss’ Johnson perhaps the only other Island player from that era who could challenge him for ability and fame in the game.
‘Cotton’ generally played third defense (a midfield position) where he would set up many of his team’s offensive plays. During his short professional career, however, he was usually slotted into the inside home position on the attack as a replacement for ‘Newsy’ Lalonde. When Lalonde returned to the Coast in 1918 to play with Vancouver, ‘Cotton’ shifted back to his familiar place on the midfield defense.
In his brief career as a professional, ‘Cotton’ Brynjolfson played in 21 matches for Vancouver over the course of three seasons. He scored 12 goals, good enough for a midfielder but not particularly high numbers for his role as a crease attackman. In just one game did he manage to score a pair of goals.
It is intriguing why a rookie, defensive midfielder such as Brynjolfson would have been used up front as an attackman when there were already better suited players on the Vancouver squads who could have stepped into the role – such as ‘Dot’ Crookall in 1914, and then in 1915, the veteran legend ‘Bones’ Allen as well. Granted those 1914 and 1915 Vancouver teams were thinner for talent compared to most years in the professional era, but both the Athletics management and then Con Jones the following year must have seen or known something of ‘Cotton’ Brynjolfson’s ability which is subsequently lost amongst the stats, as his scoring numbers are on the low side for an inside home player.
Brynjolfson served in the Canadian Navy during the Great War and his military service automatically reinstated his amateur status when he was discharged.
He joined the Foundation Shipyards Company and helped organise and manage a senior lacrosse team sponsored the same company. The Victoria Foundation Shipyards club won the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association league, brushing aside both the New Westminster Salmonbellies and Vancouver Athletic Club in the process with a 6-win, 1-loss record. The Foundation club then routed the Edmonton Eskimos 28-5 in a two-game, total-goals series before dispatching the Winnipegs 17-7 in the championship game for the Mann Cup – Victoria’s first Mann Cup championship.
In May 1921, he was close to returning to professional lacrosse and signing with the Vancouver Terminals. He later would play four years of field lacrosse with the Sons of Canada club before he retired as a player around 1928.
At the age of 40, Brynjolfson was approached in 1931 to sign as a player in the brand-new International Professional Lacrosse League but he declined all offers, believing himself done as a player. He would later become a referee when the game went indoors, and in the war years of the 1940s he refereed senior games in the Greater Victoria Box Lacrosse Association.
Outside of lacrosse, he was an avid rugby player with the James Bay Athletic Association for eleven years. He also played some soccer with local teams in Victoria.
One of ten children, Ed Brynjolfson later became related to the family of his former Vancouver lacrosse manager, Con Jones, when one of his sisters married Jones’s second son, Dill Jones, in 1960.
While ‘Cotton’ was well known in Victoria for his lacrosse exploits, two of his brothers also gained some fame in the realm of sports: His brother Harold was the 1931 amateur golf champion of British Columbia while Walter scored Canada’s only points, a drop goal, against the famous New Zealand All Blacks rugby team during their 1925 tour.
(PHOTO SOURCE: courtesy of John Fuller family collection; Victoria Daily Colonist August 19, 1931)
Special thanks to John Fuller (Brynjolfson’s grand-nephew) for providing biographical information and photograph.
WILLIAM (BILL) PEACOCK, JNR.
(birth and death dates unknown) Vancouver Athletic Club (1910-1913)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1915; 1921)
Vancouver ‘Greenshirts’ (1918)
Vancouver Terminals (1919-1920; 1923)
One of the many obscure and now-forgotten players that made up the various Vancouver professional lacrosse teams in the post-Great War period, there are but just a few facts known about Bill Peacock.
His father, Bill Peacock, Senior was quoted in the Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper as his son having “the earmarks of a great home fielder”.
He played intermediate for Vancouver as early at 1908 and was playing senior by 1910, when the Vancouver Athletic Club managed to outmaneuver Con Jones in signing Peacock when VAC club secretary Hec Fowler and trainer Jocko Vinson managed to convince the youngster to sign with their club.
Bob Murray and Peacock would battle between themselves for the second home spot on the midfield line for two years running in 1912 and 1913, although Peacock was capable of playing in all the various home midfield positions. Later in his professional career, Peacock mostly played as a substitute in his last three seasons.
Outside of lacrosse, the only mention of him is that he may have played juvenile field hockey in 1905 for Nanaimo – or, at least, someone with the same name as his.
In total, Bill Peacock played in 62 professional matches and scored 35 goals in the course of 8 seasons – which puts him in 16th place for career scoring during the professional era on the Coast and ahead of Canadian lacrosse hall-of-fame midfielders Ernie Murray and Hugh Gifford. He was on the (contested) 1918 and 1920 Minto Cup championship teams for Vancouver and he may have as many as three or four Mann Cup championships to his name with the Vancouver Athletic Club.
His best season was in 1921 when he bagged 8 goals playing in the brief, rival Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association and was sitting in second place for goals with Vancouver Lacrosse Club and in the league at the time it folded in mid-season. When playing in his prime years in the pro British Columbia Lacrosse Association, he would usually finish anywhere between second and fifth in goal-scoring for Vancouver.
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.
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.
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.
HARRY JOHN ‘FAT’ PAINTER
(February 10, 1890 – August 5, 1940) Vancouver Athletic Club (1911; 1913)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1915; 1921)
Vancouver ‘Greenshirts’ (1918)
Vancouver Terminals (1919-1920; 1921-1924)
Harry ‘Fat’ Painter was a defensive mainstay for Vancouver lacrosse teams for 10 seasons. He broke into the professional game when the Vancouver Athletic Club, three-time Mann Cup champions, made their jump from the senior amateurs to challenge New Westminster Salmonbellies for the Minto Cup in 1913. His usual playing spot was at point although he did fill in at coverpoint and first defence for parts of a few seasons.
After the demise of the Vancouver Athletics, Con Jones signed him in 1915 for his resurrected Vancouver Lacrosse Club. Like all lacrosse players in British Columbia, he was inactive in 1916 and 1917 when organised play in the province was suspended due to the Great War.
He played a couple games for Vancouver during the 1918 revival involving the Mainland Lacrosse Association before becoming a fixture on the Vancouver Terminals from 1919 until the end of the professional game in 1924. In 1921, ‘Fat’ Painter was part of the Vancouver player exodus who followed Con Jones into his short-lived, rival Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association. Painter would return to the Terminals for a couple of games in 1921 and then resume on a full-time basis with them a year later in July 1922.
His younger brother, Joseph Painter, a midfielder, became a team-mate of his with the PCLA’s Vancouver Lacrosse Club in 1921 and then followed him over to the Terminals in 1922.
‘Fat’ Painter played in 81 professional games for the various teams that represented Vancouver in professional lacrosse and Minto Cup play. He never scored any goals but chalked up 28 penalties and 155 in penalty minutes.
His father, HJ Painter, had been the city assessor in Vancouver. Harry Painter attended Fairview and King Edward high-schools in his youth and later attended the University of British Columbia. As a sixteen year-old he played lacrosse for a Fairview team in what was most likely a local, Vancouver junior league.
Harry Painter passed away suddenly on August 5, 1940 when he was found dead at his home by his brother-in-law. At the time of his death, he had been working as acting assistant superintendent at the post office, his employer for 29 years. He was survived by his wife and two children, William and Daphne.
CHARLES (CHARLIE) ‘SMILER’ McCUAIG
(birth and death dates unknown) Vancouver Athletic Club (1910-1913)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1915; 1921)
Vancouver ‘Greenshirts’ (1918)
Vancouver Terminals (1919; 1922)
One of the many now-forgotten Vancouver lacrosse players who plied their trade in the post-Great War professional game, Charlie ‘Smiler’ McCuaig played in 55 games over 7 seasons with an assortment of Vancouver teams in the British Columbia Lacrosse Association, Mainland Lacrosse Association, and Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association.
Prior to turning professional, he played at the senior amateur level for the Mann Cup champion Vancouver Athletic Club for three seasons from 1910 through to 1912. McCuaig seems to be have been absent from the 1913 Mann Cup team (or at least absent from the club’s portrait-collage photograph commemorating their three Mann Cup titles) even though he was a member of the squad that challenged the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the professional Minto Cup in 1913. He played at least one season of intermediate lacrosse with the Vancouver Maple Leafs in 1908.
He was a defensive midfielder who could also cover the coverpoint and point defensive positions when required. He scored 5 goals and had 12 penalties for 77 penalty minutes to his name. There is not much press about Charlie McCuaig, except about getting beaten flatfooted by speedster ‘Pat’ Feeney in one match in the early-1920s. Another article, from May 1915 in the Vancouver Daily World, mentioned that McCuaig and fellow teammate Everett McLaren were in Kansas City and on their way back to re-join the Vancouver team for the 1915 season – their business for being in Kansas City is completely unknown.
Charlie McCuaig seems to have been replaced by former Vancouver Athletic Club team-mate Eustace Gillanders in 1920 – whether he was edged out of the roster for the spot or simply quit the game is unknown – but he returned the following year to play for Con Jones’s Vancouver entry in his brand-new Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association. When the PCLA folded a month or so later after 5 games played in its schedule, McCuaig once again found himself sitting on the sidelines.
He was picked up by the Vancouver Terminals for the 1922 season when defensive spots opened up with the retirement of the legendary Johnny Howard and the departure of Eastern import D. Langevin. By the following season, Everett McLaren had been moved back to his comfortable place at coverpoint after a one-season sojourn spent playing in the midfield and ‘Smiler’ McCuaig disappeared from the professional scene for good.
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.
(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.”
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)
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.
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.
HARRY ROWELL GODFREY
(1880/1881 – April 12, 1941) Vancouver Lacrosse Club (ca.1904-1913)
One of the most prevalent and – at the same time, for the modern historian – most daunting and frustrating aspects of researching lacrosse history in Canada is the sport’s heavy reliance on oral history. Stories and anecdotes that 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 all the inconsistencies that then arise when these stories do not match.
Visual references such as film footage of lacrosse is essentially non-existent, with only a single-known, brief, blurry clip dating from before the 1920s, so we are forced to rely on the words of newspaper reports, photographs, and reminiscences of those who were there at the matches. While granted that photographs are visual references, they are however but a singular instant captured in time and generally do not shed any clues as to the actual playing ability of the subjects in them.
With so many of the great lacrosse players from yesterday, while it has been passed along in generalised terms 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. The inevitable passing of time ensured that 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, those memories grow old and fade and often start to diverge and contradict with the hard facts that do remain and can be confirmed.
When it comes to many of the early inductees in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, we know perhaps two or three sentences about them – and nothing more. In regard to 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 serious, sad state of affairs but one we must grudgingly live with because 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 once acknowledging and honouring these individuals, practically no effort was then made to preserve the actual documentation and facts to keep their history alive and tell their unique stories to the generations to come.
The passing of time has created a whole collection of “he was one of the greatest…” players with their distinctions blurred, lost, and forgotten. The subsequent piecing together their stories from the various contradictory sources becomes a broken and misplaced jigsaw at times.
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-plus 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 and other sources are cobbled together, in the case of Harry Godfrey, the puzzle creates more contradictions and questions than it does assemble a clear picture. For such a well-known and well-regarded player in his day, the factual information about him is all over the place when it comes to the details.
Harry Rowell Godfrey was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba – and already starting with his birth we have contradictions with personal information, as there are at least three birthdates associated with him: March 21, 1880, August 14, 1880, and March 13, 1881. His gravestone at Mountainview cemetery in Vancouver shows just “1880-1941” and cemetery records list March 21, but the 1911 edition of C.W. Parker’s Who’s Who in Western Canada directory lists the latter of the three birthdate dates in the entry for Harry Godfrey.
We know nothing of him prior to his arrival in Vancouver in 1888 or 1900 – as, once again, sources vary on the year of that occurrence as well. His obituary in the newspaper quoted 1900 while Parker’s Who’s Who indicates he moved west as a child in 1888.
Godfrey did not start playing lacrosse, it is reported, until his arrival in the Terminal City and 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. This seems incredulous if he did arrive in Vancouver in 1900 with no playing experience.
Even more interesting, in May 1904, he was unanimously elected the club captain of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club – an impressive feat for a player with possibly only four years’ playing experience under his belt, and an event which earnt him mention in the press. These two events make one suspect whether he did have some exposure or playing experience prior to his relocation to Vancouver or whether 1888 is an accurate year for when he left Winnipeg.
We know he ran a sporting goods store, Harry R. Godfrey Gunsmiths & Sporting Goods, which was located first on Cordova Street and then later moved to 123 West Hastings. His business opened in 1902 or 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.” Meanwhile 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”.
Outside of lacrosse, he excelled in basketball and had a keen interest in the YMCA organisation. In 1907 he married Viroqua E. Bonser and had at least one daughter and possibly more children.
Then there are the questionable facts which were later preserved but probably never verified – this is part of the oral history regarding Godfrey that was passed along 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.” Reading these words, what has happened, is a blurring of facts and dates due to the passage of time and memories.
Based on more recent newspaper investigation, his playing career spanned a period starting no later than 1902 and ending no later than 1913. 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. Assuming he did regain his reinstatement as an amateur player, his name does not appear in game reports nor are there any photographs of him with the Vancouver Athletic Club, the senior amateur team of the day nor any other team for that matter. Both the VLC professional team and the VAC amateur team disbanded in 1915 and there was no organised or sanctioned 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 career, it is difficult to determine when this would have occurred if he did not play any lacrosse prior to moving to Vancouver or if he did not move to Vancouver as a child. Since sources vary when he arrived in Vancouver, if it were the latter age of 20, in ca.1900, he would have been too old for the junior or scholastic leagues of the time. If he arrived on the Coast as a boy, then playing the game in his youth become much more feasible and probable.
Harry Godfrey passed away in 1941 and was interred at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, memorialised on a Godfrey family headstone. He was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1970.