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 SHERMAN PICKERING
(February 18, 1881 – October 8, 1936) Toronto Tecumsehs (1906-1908)
Ottawa Capitals (1909)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1910-1913; 1915)
Vancouver Athletics (1914)
Vancouver Greenshirts (1918)
Vancouver Terminals (1919-1920)
Born in Mount Forest, a small community located in Wellington County, Ontario, Harry Pickering played seven years of lacrosse as a youngster with the Mount Forest teams.
The Vancouver Daily Province remarked at the time of his passing, in 1936, that Pickering – “who will go down in history as one of the smoothest, toughest defencemen that game has known” – had honed his skills while playing in the sandlots of Toronto and was then spotted by Toronto Tecumsehs manager Charlie Querrie. However, this conflicts with more contemporary knowledge about him, as this embellished story in his obituary takes no account of his experience in Mount Forest and he played a year with Chatham in the intermediate series before the Toronto Tecumsehs signed him in 1906 to play third defence.
On September 22, 1906, he married 19-year-old Mary Colquhoun in York, Ontario.
After three seasons with the Tecumsehs and winning the National Lacrosse Union championship with them in 1906 and 1908, Pickering was playing at his peak. He changed teams in 1909 when he signed with the Ottawa Capitals – trading in three winning seasons for an atrocious, last-place finish. Regina Capitals tried unsuccessfully to sign him that same year for their ensemble challenge against the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the Minto Cup.
Pickering was signed by Con Jones in September 1909 to play for Vancouver Lacrosse Club in exhibition matches played during the BC Provincial Exhibition held the following month. He would remain on the Pacific Coast with Vancouver for the next dozen years – first as a leading veteran player with Vancouver and then later in a player-manager capacity when Con Jones bowed out of the game.
He was reported by the Ottawa Citizen to be the highest paid player with Vancouver in 1910 however other newspaper sources state that he received the same $50 per week wage as the other Eastern imports that same season.
There were rumours of him returning to Ottawa in 1911 for business reasons however he remained on the Pacific Coast. The following season Pickering was rumoured to be signing with a Toronto team.
Con Jones pulled the plug on his Vancouver Lacrosse Club team and withdrew from the league in July 1913 after a dispute over scheduling with the Salmonbellies. Harry Pickering was a member of a four-player committee along with ‘Newsy’ Lalonde, Harry Griffiths, and Harry Godfrey who then took control over the team when Jones quit but the quartet were unable to keep the club running nor resume the season.
When the Vancouver Athletic Club made the move to the professional ranks the following year, as a replacement for Jones’s club, Pickering was one of a handful of ex-VLC players who joined up with VAC. Sadly the Athletics’ season fared just as poorly on the field and at the gate as their predecessors had the year before, as the 1914 professional campaign collapsed after just 6 games.
With the Vancouver teams, he played the position of what would, in the modern game, be regarded as a defensive midfielder. He appeared in 78 games for Vancouver in his 9 playing seasons on the Coast. After Con Jones quit the professional game (once again) after the 1918 season, Harry Pickering took over as manager for the Vancouver Terminals for three seasons from 1919 to 1921. He won three Minto Cup championships – all with Vancouver – in 1911, the disputed 1918 series, and in 1920.
In April 1915, Pickering made an interesting statement which appeared in the Montréal Journal of Commerce, observing the climatic differences that Eastern and Western players faced and the bearing on their game. While not expressly pointing out what those differences were, Pickering stated that “a team going to the coast should either play the day after their arrival, or wait a couple of weeks. The difference in climate makes the players sleepy.”
He retired after the 1920 season due to shoulder problems and moved into the referee ranks. He refereed in the 1923 Mann Cup series between Victoria Capitals and New Westminster Salmonbellies as the two divisional champions of the British Columbia Coast Lacrosse Association met for the gold trophy.
Pickering passed away at the general hospital in New Westminster on October 8, 1936 after a prolonged illness. He had been coach of the Richmond Farmers in the Inter-City Lacrosse League in the 1936 season until poor health forced him out of the game.
Harry Pickering was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a charter member in the Field category in 1965.
MICHAEL JOHN (JOHNNY) HOWARD (March 3, 1880 – December 16, 1937) Montréal Shamrocks (1899-1908)
Regina Capitals (1909)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1910)
New Westminster Salmonbellies (1911-1913; 1915; 1918)
Québec Irish-Canadians (1914)
Vancouver Terminals (1920-1921)
One of a handful of players to transcend the hated West Coast rivalry to suit up for both Vancouver and New Westminster squads, Michael John Howard – better known to fans as Johnny or ‘Mose’ Howard – was an Easterner lured west by Con Jones who then settled down on the coast.
He broke into the senior game with the Montréal Shamrocks mid-way into his teens in 1899 and became part of their dynasty of championship teams in both National Lacrosse Union league play and Minto Cup challenges. The Montréal Gazette noted in May 1907 that Howard was “considered by many to be the best point player in the country”. In total, he would win 6 Minto Cup championships during his 10 seasons spent with the Shamrocks.
In 1909, Howard was recruited by the talent-stacked Regina Capitals in their losing attempt to pry the Minto Cup away from the Salmonbellies. The Capitals originally offered $250 and all expenses paid to the Easterner – but they had to double their offer before he would agree to suit up with Regina for the series.
While watching the two-game series, Con Jones saw something in the defensemen to recruit him the following year for his own Vancouver team. Howard played one season with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club before signing with his redshirt opponents the following year.
New Westminster wanted him to counter ‘Newsy’ Lalonde as Howard was one of the very few players with the defensive ability and know-how to shut down Vancouver’s star goal-scorer. He replaced the point spot on the defense vacated by veteran Charlie Galbraith. Howard’s value to the Salmonbellies in 1911 was instrumental – unlike the rest of the team who were paid from a divided pool of the gate receipts at the end of the season, Howard received a $1500 contract paid by “a private individual” in lieu of Howard’s share of the gate.
In 1914, Howard was lured to the Ancient City to play for the Québec Irish-Canadians in the Dominion Lacrosse Union after the club had relocated from Montréal. After the resignation of manager Arthur Delorme a month or so into the season, and not long after his arrival, Howard was named the replacement manager and team captain. Both the team and the league would be gone by the following season – which then found Howard back playing with the Salmonbellies in New Westminster.
His final two seasons saw him return to Vancouver – retiring after the 1921 season and then becoming a referee in the professional league. He called the first 10 games of the 1922 campaign before being replaced by Harry Pickering and Gordon Spring for the remainder of the 16-game season.
A fairly clean defensive player respected for his consistent and solid play, however never backing down when the fisticuffs were involved, he appeared in 93 matches while with Vancouver and New Westminster. He played 5 seasons and 48 games with the Salmonbellies and 3 seasons and 45 games for Vancouver teams. Howard was a big and rugged defender who never let up – yet still a genuine sportsman who was admired by all, an idol to the youth who followed the game and extremely popular with the fans during the heyday of lacrosse.
Adding to his 6 Minto Cups won with the Montréal Shamrocks, he would add another two Minto Cup championships won with New Westminster, in 1912 and 1913, and his final one with Vancouver in 1920 for an impressive total of 9 Minto Cup championships.
Although never managing to score any goals due to his deep defensive positioning as the point man – which back then had a completely different meaning, being the very last line of defense before the goaltender – he clocked up a total of 93 pro games on the Pacific Coast, ironically tying him with his on-field nemesis ‘Newsy’ Lalonde in 10th place for career games played.
He was sent off 24 times for a total of 156 penalty minutes – ranking him 15th and 17th respectively amongst the professionals on the Coast – although perhaps his lengthy career contributing more to a higher placement than would be expected from his manner of play.
In this author’s opinion, Howard is the best player from the Pacific Coast’s field era so far not inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Johnny Howard passed away suddenly from a probable heart-attack at his home in Marpole in 1937. At his funeral, former New Westminster teammates Cliff Spring and James ‘Pat’ Feeney along with Vancouver teammate Archie Adamson acted as his pallbearers.
For such a major figure in the early Vancouver sports scene, the details are few and far between on Con Jones. Nothing is known of his early life except that he was born on August 13, 1869 and originally hailed from the Woollahra suburb of Sydney in New South Wales. Some accounts say Jones had been a bookie in his native Australia – others say that he later became a bookie here.
What is known for certain is that he arrived in Vancouver in November 1903 and in the years that followed, he opened up a tobacconist’s, the Brunswick pool hall, some bowling alleys, and a café.
Jones marketed his tobacco under the brand name of “Don’t Argue”, which had one of the most unique business logos ever: a guy in a bowler hat confidently muffling another man in the face. The store motto was “Don’t Argue, Con Jones Sells Fresh Tobacco” and it may have featured the first neon sign in Vancouver – sporting his famous “Don’t Argue” logo. There is strong evidence hinting that Jones surreptitiously “borrowed” the slogan and imagery which was also used by Hutton’s Hams & Bacons in his native Australia.
Within two years of his arrival he became one of Vancouver’s leading sports promoters. Jones started out with billiards; one of his first promotions was offering up a trophy for the BC Amateur Championship in May 1904 – but his first loves would become soccer and lacrosse, and he would spend big bucks to promote them both.
His association with lacrosse begun around 1907, possibly sooner, and Con Jones was a key influence in the formation of the British Columbia Lacrosse Association pro league in 1909 (no relation whatsoever to the modern BCLA provincial organisation). Two years later he lured lacrosse star ‘Newsy’ Lalonde to Vancouver in 1911 by offering him $3,500 to $5,000 for a single season, an astronomical sum for its day. (The actual amount Newsy earnt varies depending on sources).
Jones loved sports so much he built his own stadium on the two-block Hastings athletic grounds that were located on Renfrew Street across from the PNE grounds. His lacrosse team vacated Recreation Park downtown and moved to the athletic grounds in 1913, and Jones would later construct a grandstand, which soon acquired the name ‘Con Jones Park’. Today the site is called Callister Park – although his wooden stadium is long gone (demolished in 1971). As well as benefiting the professional game, he helped build the amateur game at a local level by donating sticks and equipment to youngsters in the public schools.
After running into a scheduling dispute with New Westminster in July 1913, the Salmonbellies walked off the field in protest. Jones pulled the plug on his Vancouver team, refunding $5,000 in ticket revenue to disappointed fans as the sport skidded into the doldrums.
He would return to lacrosse in 1915, after the Vancouver Athletics had floundered the year before as a replacement for his old club. However, Jones himself would soon fall into financial difficulties. With the Vancouver club mired in debt to the amount of $2,300 just two months into the season, Jones showed his accounting books to the Vancouver players and stated he would not be paying them for the rest of the season. The three Easterners that he had imported in for the 1915 season packed up and left for home the following week.
The Great War would then make the 1916 and 1917 lacrosse seasons two of its many casualties as play was suspended due to the war effort.
By the time pro lacrosse was revived in 1918, it had lost its primacy in the hearts of Vancouver’s sports fans. Jones’ own interest in the pro game would sour again after the 1918 season when his Vancouver team won the Mainland Lacrosse Association and claimed the Minto Cup. However, the New Westminster Salmonbellies then claimed the following year – conveniently after they had lost the cup series – that they had never fielded a team and rejected Vancouver’s claims for the Minto Cup.
While the early 1920s would see the game regain some traction amongst fans, it never flourished at the same dizzying level as it did under Jones’ heyday during the decade prior. In the meantime, out of disgust with the recent situation with New Westminster, Jones turned his attention to supporting the amateur game.
In late September and October of 1920, Jones met with his former star-player Billy Fitzgerald to lay out some plans to field a team to play against a Vancouver team involving Jones. Although never progressing beyond talk, conflicting and muddled news reports hinted that Fitzgerald would either organise and manage an unidentified eastern team to play a twelve-game schedule versus Vancouver or he would organise a Seattle lacrosse team to play in an ‘international league’ involving Vancouver and Montréal. Whether the failure of this international league bankrolled by Con Jones later lent weight to his Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association venture the following year involving Vancouver and Victoria (of which Billy Fitzgerald was a member) is unknown.
When he returned to the professional game in 1921, what seemed like a repeated occurrence over the years, constant disputes with the Salmonbellies, struck yet again. New Westminster refused to play against a Jones team, so this time Jones simply walked with his players and formed his own new league, the Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association, with Victoria as the token opposition. But his new venture was short-lived and floundered after just 5 games. Despite importing easterners to stock the teams, Victoria was hopelessly outclassed and the PCLA quickly proved futile.
The following year saw Con Jones return to the senior amateur ranks as “the man behind the gun” for Vancouver Lacrosse Club in the British Columbia Amateur Lacrosse Association’s senior league. Vancouver won the BCALA league on July 31, 1922 and were awarded the Mann Cup a week later. This would be Jones’s first and only Mann Cup championship however it would also be brief.
Just over a month later, Vancouver Lacrosse Club and New Westminster (champions of the Pacific Coast Amateur Lacrosse Association) met in a three-game, total goals series in the first half of September 1922 with both the Mann Cup and provincial champion Kilmarnock Cup on the line. After Vancouver were up 7-6 in goals after two games, they then defaulted their third game after a brawl broke out and the team refused to return to the field. The score was 1-1, so New Westminster lined up and they then went through the formal motions of scoring two unopposed goals into the empty net to take the series and the silverware back by 9 goals to 8.
If you look on the Mann Cup plaques today, there is no reference to Vancouver Lacrosse Club as one of two champions in 1922, which they were under the challenge cup rules of the day. In those days, the cups were often engraved by the teams but Vancouver likely did not have enough time to put their name on it in the month they had the cup. When the Canadian Lacrosse Association took permanent possession in 1926, their list of champions was obviously based on whatever was engraved on the cup so the 1922 Vancouver Lacrosse Club championship was lost and soon forgotten. Much like his 1918 Minto Cup title which was taken away from him thanks to off-field actions, his lone Mann Cup title would be written out from history until rediscovered, buried away in the newspapers, some 80-years later.
Jones found himself returning to the British Columbia Lacrosse Association in 1924 after coming to an agreement with New Westminster over organisation for the upcoming season. (It is unknown whether Jones was involved with the professional club the previous season – and if so, to what extent.)
Sadly, just as Con Jones had a hand in building up the professional game in Vancouver, he would have a hand in its demise in that city, and ultimately in Canada – as its last bastion was on the Pacific Coast.
In June 1924, four games into the season, Jones suddenly and without warning threw in the towel.
Like a “bolt from the blue”, as one newspaper commented, Jones was forced to quit the game on his doctor’s orders. When local baseball legend Bob Brown then offered to step in and take Jones’s place leading the Vancouver club, the rescue attempt was quickly quashed when Jones flatly refused to allow his park to be used free of charge to help keep the national game alive.
As the Vancouver Province stated: “And that’s that. Con Jones is through.” – and so died the last remnants of the pro lacrosse game in Canada.
Jones was watching a soccer game at Con Jones Park when he suffered a stroke. Five days later, he suffered another attack and passed away at nine o’clock in the morning of June 3, 1929 at the age of 59. He was survived by his wife, four sons, and a daughter. His mausoleum is located at Ocean View Cemetery in Burnaby, British Columbia.
In 1965, in recognition of his status as a builder of the game, Con Jones was named one of the charter inductees in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.