Tag Archives: New Westminster Salmonbellies

Tom Rennie

CVA Sp P91 Tom Rennie
There are not many good photographs existing for Tom Rennie. This one dates from 1910.

TOM RENNIE
(1883/84 – November 21, 1960)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1903-1915)

Tom Rennie was born in Newcastle, New Brunswick. He moved to New Westminster with his family in 1889 by way of Seattle.

He played for Sapperton in the city intermediate league and went east with the Salmonbellies in 1901 as a spare. He was a reserve for the seniors in 1902 and joined the New Westminster Salmonbellies fulltime in the following year at the tender age of 19. Even before turning senior, Tom and his brother George were decent enough junior players that the Vancouver Daily World observed on October 4, 1901 that “the Rennie boys showed up much better than several of the older players” in New Westminster’s losing effort that day versus the Vancouver YMCA team.

Rennie started out at inside home but as the Montreal Gazette observed, this was “…a mistake as his position is farther out” in the midfield, and he played like a midfielder out of position as he moved the ball outside to work it around instead of driving at the net.

He missed six weeks of the season in 1910 when he ran into a hard body check by Johnny Howard and fractured his shoulder blade as a result. He then injured himself again during a practice in August after returning, missing yet several more weeks.

He moved to the United States in 1913 and worked as a lineman on large construction projects – leaving the Royal City on a bad note when striking electricians were replaced by outsiders. “Never again,” he exclaimed to the attendant media as he boarded the train south.

Tom Rennie played seven seasons during the professional era in New Westminster – scoring 13 goals during the course of 73 games. He generally played on the defensive side of the midfield, although in 1914 and parts of the 1909 and 1912 seasons he covered the role of the team’s centerman.  His career 38 penalties and 235 minutes placed him in the top-ten list for most penalised professional players on the Pacific Coast.

tom rennie 1912 game
Rare photograph of Tom Rennie in action during a 1912 game at Recreation Park.

He was discharged from the United States Army in August 1919 and took a train from Philadelphia back to New Westminster, sparking rumours he may be returning to the field for the Salmonbellies. He discounted such rumours in correspondence with his old home town, stating “I am one of the few who quit while they were still champions”.

He became seriously ill with smallpox in January 1924 while living in Los Angeles, but a month later he make a suitable enough recovery to be involved, along with his brother-in-law Gordon ‘Dode’ Sinclair, and such ex-Vancouver players as Jake Davis, Vernon Green (the central figure involved in the 1908 gunshot riot at Queens Park), and Charlie ‘Smiler’ McCuaig, with the introduction of the sport to Southern California.

Although a four-team league was planned, ultimately a two-team championship was played between the Long Beach and Los Angeles Canadian-Californian teams, with Tom Rennie as the referee.

He was residing in Southgate, California at the time of his father’s passing in early January 1941.

Tom Rennie passed away in Seattle, his home for the last twenty years of his life, on November 21, 1960 after a long illness. He was survived by his wife Gertrude and his son Robert.

(PHOTO SOURCE: CVA Sp P91 excerpt; CVA 371-585 excerpt)

tom rennie stats

Gordon ‘Dode’ Sinclair

‘Dode’ Sinclair as a pro Salmonbellies player in 1922.

VICTOR GORDON ‘DODE’ SINCLAIR
(July 18, 1898 – June 22, 1958)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1920; 1922)
Long Beach (1924)

Victor Gordon Sinclair – better known in New Westminster sporting circles by his nickname ‘Dode’ Sinclair – was born on Mayne Island, British Columbia in 1898. His parents were James William Sinclair and Annie Isabel Irving. His father was born in Washington Territory and had moved to New Westminster in 1875, becoming a teacher in the Fraser Valley school district for twenty-five years, then later employed on steamboats and finally the British Columbia Electric Railway as an accountant.

Young Gordon moved to New Westminster at a very early age and in his youth he played on the John Robson Elementary School lacrosse team in 1913. Along with lacrosse, he was also known in the Royal City as an amateur basketball and football player.

His older brother was Irving Sinclair [1893-1969], who became famous as one of San Francisco’s best-known commercial artists from the mid-1920s into the 1960s. ‘Dode’ also had five sisters, two of whom ended up marrying the brothers George and Tom Rennie, of New Westminster Salmonbellies fame from a decade or so prior. When Sinclair joined the professional Salmonbellies in 1920, he found himself team-mates with his brother-in-law George in what was Dode’s rookie season as a professional while Rennie making his final curtain-call in a 20-year career.

‘Dode’ served in the Canadian military during the Great War, and in October 1917 Private Sinclair was awarded the Military Medal for gallant conduct as a battalion runner on the front lines with the 47th Battalion. He had been serving at the front lines for several months and during combat near Lens in France, his company had come under fire and every sergeant was killed in the fighting, with the sergeant-major and two officers wounded and put out of action. Sinclair and one other soldier were the only remaining runners after four other runners had either been killed, wounded by snipers, or incapacitated by shell shock. Along with the medal and ribbon, he received a letter of commendation from the company’s brigadier general.

Sinclair signed with the professional New Westminster outfit in July 1920 and it immediately caused a major rift with the Royal City amateurs, as the pros had been raiding the amateur side that year for new blood. George Feeney and Harold ‘Haddie’ Stoddart had already been scooped by Manager Tom Gifford – and when Sinclair then backpedaled his commitment to the amateurs and jumped to the pros, the fortunes of the amateur Salmonbellies in their pursuit of the Mann Cup were put in some serious doubt. At the time of his departure from the amateur squad, Sinclair had been tied second on the goal-scoring list for the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association, and second-place for his team.

The war hero ‘Dode’ Sinclair in 1917.

He missed out the 1921 season when he found himself stuck in Australia due to a shipping strike which prevented him finding passage back home. Sinclair returned for the 1922 season but did not seem to have the impact or promise he had shown in 1920. His short professional career of two seasons spanned 25 games and he chalked up 3 goals to his name, from playing in almost all matches as a substitute and a half-dozen starts.

Sinclair left New Westminster in 1923 and began working in California when he gained employment sinking oil wells for Standard Oil and this proved more profitable than what his lacrosse career could ever provide. The following year or so he owned and operated an appliance store in Los Angeles. Then around 1942 he made a career change once more and became an orchard farmer, running an orange grove in Los Angeles County prior to acquiring his own grove, a year prior to his death, in the city of Exeter in Tulare County.

Despite departing the lacrosse hot-bed of British Columbia for greener pastures down south, he never forgot his old love for the game. In 1924, along with his brother-in-law Tom Rennie and ex-Vancouver pro Charlie ‘Smiler’ McCuaig, they helped introduce lacrosse in the Long Beach area and a 1924 lacrosse championship was played between Long Beach and Los Angeles Canadian-Californian teams. In 1938 when the Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association started play in Southern California and raided the Canadian box leagues for players, ‘Dode’ Sinclair became the manager for the Los Angeles Canucks entry in the four-team league, which was made up of star-players from the New Westminster Adanacs and a sprinkling of Richmond Farmers and Vancouver Burrards talent. The PCLA lasted around a month before it folded in mid-season after games on January 29, 1939 due to poor arena conditions.

Victor Gordon Sinclair passed away on June 22, 1958 at his home located southeast of Exeter, California. He was survived by his wife Edna but there is no mention of any surviving children in his obituaries. While long-forgotten today as one of the many obscure, fringe players who have come and gone throughout the sport’s history, ‘Dode’ Sinclair’s short career is proof enough that all players great and not-so-great, superstar or bench-warming substitute, all have stories to tell from their lives lived.

(PHOTO SOURCES: Vancouver Province October 16, 1917; Vancouver Sun April 11, 1922)

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

Bill Turnbull

Bill Turnbull, May 1911

WILLIAM (BILL) INNES TURNBULL
(February 1, 1886 – August 4, 1933)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1906-1915)

The older brother of Canadian lacrosse hall-of-famer Len Turnbull, Bill Turnbull was born in New Westminster, British Columbia on February 1, 1886 to William, Snr. and Jessie Turnbull.

Both brothers joined the New Westminster senior team in the 1906 season. While Len played up front as a scoring threat on the crease, ‘Long Bill’ was almost always found slotted in as the third-home, an offensive-minded midfield position who would have supported the centreman and been involved in the loose-ball battles for possession after the draw. In the 1909 campaign, Bill Turnbull filled in as the Salmonbellies’ centreman for half the season while ‘Pat’ Feeney was forced to sit out due to rheumatism. During the course of his seven professional seasons with the Salmonbellies, between 1909 and 1915, Turnbull appeared in 75 games and scored 66 goals.

When looking at his career numbers, Bill Turnbull is ranked eighth overall for goals, ninth for penalties, and fourth for penalty minutes. His 324 minutes spent ‘sent to the fence’ are inflated by two games where he chalked up around an hour each game due to fighting and expulsions – otherwise by and large he never had the reputation of being a particularly dirty or nasty player. His best seasons were the two shortened campaigns in 1913 and 1914 when he finished 2nd and 1st respectively in goal-scoring for the Salmonbellies.

Bill Turnbull was reported in the Ottawa Citizen to have moved to the Cariboo region of British Columbia but returned to New Westminster in May 1913 after having previously considered a permanent move there.

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

Like his brother Len, Bill Turnbull served in the armed forces during the Great War. He enlisted in the 131st Battalion and went overseas to England. He soon transferred to the transports and was sent over to France. After the conclusion of the war, unlike Len, however, Bill did not return to the playing field. July 10, 1915 was the date of his final lacrosse match – finishing on the sidelines after he was given an early boot by the referee in the fourth quarter for fighting. He would then be absent from the last four remaining games of the 1915 season, probably due to enlistment commitments.

Outside of lacrosse, Turnbull held down a wide assortment of jobs for employment. He worked for the Canadian Customs Service in Abbotsford. After his resignation, he then went into farming. He also worked as a cashier for the Vancouver Harbour Board at Ballantyne Pier and later entered the insurance business as an agent for Travelers’ Insurance Company. Prior to his illness, which caused him to stop working, he held interest in a peat company in Pitt Meadows. Bill was married to Jean Turnbull but there is no record or mention of the couple having any children.

Bill Turnbull passed away at the age of 47, from stomach cancer, after three weeks spent at Royal Columbian Hospital. He had been seriously ill for around six months prior to his admittance. He was interred at the family plot at the International Order of Old Fellows cemetery within Fraser Cemetery in New Westminster, British Columbia.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 99-41; IHP1182)

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)

Charlie Galbraith

charlie galbraith
Charlie Galbraith in May 1911.

CHARLES (CHARLIE) GALBRAITH
(August 28, 1881 – November 10, 1924)

New Westminster Salmonbellies (1905-1911)

One of the seven children of Hugh and Jane Galbraith, Charles was born in New Brunswick but then moved west with his family.

Young Galbraith played lacrosse with the New Westminster intermediate club in 1902, winning a provincial championship that year with the team. He played with the West End Club in the Royal City until around 1905 or 1906 when he graduated to the senior amateur New Westminster Salmonbellies. His older brothers William (known better by his nickname ‘Barlow’) and Robert both played intermediate lacrosse before him – Barlow with the New Westminster club in 1900 and Robert won the intermediate title in 1899 with the Maple Leaf club. Charlie would play alongside brother ‘Barlow’ in his first years with the senior Salmonbellies.

In the aftermath of the infamous gunshot incident at Queens Park that occurred on Saturday, September 26, 1908, Charlie Galbraith’s name was brought up in the British Columbia Amateur Lacrosse Association inquiry into the events with talk of levying suspensions against Galbraith (amongst others) whose role in the disturbance is otherwise completely unknown and unreported.

Galbraith as he appeared in a 1902 photo collage.
Galbraith as he appeared in a 1902 photo collage.

His professional career was short: just two full seasons in 1909 and 1910 followed by a couple of games in 1911, by which time he had been edged out of his defensive point position by Eastern import Johnny Howard. Charlie Galbraith would make an appearance in the New Westminster team photographs taken in May 1911 and was still deemed prominent enough a player, most likely on account of his membership on the 1908 Minto Cup championship team, to warrant inclusion on a cigarette card in the Imperial Tobacco lacrosse card set of 1911.

In the final match of the 1910 season, during the Minto Cup series against the Montréal Nationals, ‘Newsy’ Lalonde electrified spectators with an impressive goal all the while Galbraith was checking tight on him, twisting through the air past the Salmonbellies defender to bury the ball past goalkeeper Sandy Gray. Galbraith may have still been smarting bitter the following year – as when the two players faced off again and ‘Newsy’ this time now leading the Vancouver Lacrosse Club in the quest for the cherished silverware, Charlie was sent off for the final twenty-five minutes of the gritty match after walloping Lalonde.

In total, Charlie Galbraith played in 29 professional games with 10 penalties and 75 penalty minutes to his name; his prime playing days came in the decade of amateur, senior lacrosse which preceded the pro game.

galbraith 1908 minto
Galbraith (L) holding the Minto Cup in 1908.

Away from the lacrosse field, he was employed by Galbraith & Sons, who were lumber manufacturers based in New Westminster and Langley. A member of the New Westminster family associated with the famous Galbraith House located on the corner of Sixth Street and Queens Avenue, Charlie Galbraith had called the Murrayville community in Langley Township his home for the last twenty years or so of his life.

And, it was in Langley where a horrific tragedy would take Charles Galbraith’s life, at the age of 43, and leave behind a widow and three young children.

In the early hours of November 10, 1924, Charlie Galbraith was driving along Glover Trunk Road between Langley Prairie and Milner. He was returning to Fort Langley to drop off his five passengers after volunteering to drive for an impromptu evening excursion which had ended up in New Westminster. At around two o’clock in the morning, his automobile suddenly skidded, probably on account of loose gravel on the road. Two of its wheels made contact with slippery grass at the side of the road and as Galbraith tried to regain control, the front wheels jack-knifed and his vehicle flipped over into the ditch.

His fellow occupants managed to make their escape but Galbraith was pinned down, with only his head clear of the now burning automobile. Because the gasoline tank in his automobile was located directly underneath the driver’s seat, with the automobile now inverted upside-down, gasoline poured down all over on him.

According to the report in The Columbian newspaper, he would have died quickly in the flames which engulfed him and the automobile – but at the investigation held the following day in Murrayville, the coroner’s jury believed Charlie Galbraith could have been saved if one of his fellow travelers had stayed on the scene to render assistance instead of leaving the scene of the accident to obtain help from a nearby farm.

(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA 99-41; CLHOF X979.180.1b; NWMA IHP0567)

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.