Lacrosse


LACROSSE was first played in BC during the 1880s. In 1886 BEACON HILL PARK in VICTORIA hosted the first inter-city game, a 3–1 win for a team from VANCOUVER. Two years later KAMLOOPS was the site of the first provincial championships, and in 1890 the BC Amateur Lacrosse Assoc was incorporated, marking the official beginning of organized lacrosse in the province. The game was played outdoors, by professionals, and contests between Vancouver, NEW WESTMINSTER and Victoria drew huge crowds. Con JONES, a sports promoter, built a park for field lacrosse in Vancouver and started professional lacrosse in the city. The Minto Cup was established in 1901 for the top senior lacrosse team in the country, and the NEW WESTMINSTER SALMONBELLIES won it for the first time in 1908. Jones engineered a Vancouver Minto Cup win in 1911 by importing Ontario stars Newsy Lalonde and Billy Fitzgerald, and Vancouver won again in 1920. Otherwise the 'Bellies won the Cup every year it was competed for between 1908 and 1934, the year it was turned over to the Canadian Lacrosse Association. The amateur Salmonbellies represented Canada when lacrosse was a demonstration sport at the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. Players such as Alex "Dad" Turnbull and brothers Cliff "Doughy" and Gordon "Grumpy" Spring starred for the Salmonbellies in the early field lacrosse days. At the time, lacrosse offered the highest salaries and attracted the largest crowds, regularly drawing 15,000 people out of a Lower Mainland population of 60,000 for New Westminster–Vancouver matches. In 1925 the first organized women's league started up, consisting of 4 Lower Mainland clubs including the RICHMOND Milkmaids; the team lasted 15 years, until World War II. Wishing to return the game to its amateur roots, the CLA repackaged the trophy as a junior championship in 1937. The Mann Cup, which had rewarded Canadian amateur supremacy since the railway tycoon Donald Mann inaugurated it in 1910, had by then become the most-coveted trophy.

Men's field lacrosse died out in 1920s but was revived as amateur box lacrosse, an indoor version, in 1933. The 1930s represented BC's golden age of lacrosse: amateur games were played at Queens Park Arena in New Westminster and at the PNE Forum in Vancouver and were broadcast live on radio by Leo Nicholson and Jim Cox until 1954. Merv Ferguson, a tireless sports administrator, led the BC Lacrosse Association out of debt, served as president of the Canadian Lacrosse Association in 1969 and was later inducted to the Canadian Lacrosse and BC SPORTS HALLS OF FAME. Along with the Salmonbellies, teams in the Senior A Inter-City League included the North Shore Indians, Vancouver Burrards, Richmond Farmers, New Westminster Adanacs and Bluebirds in the formative years; Army, Navy and Wallaces during the war years; and after 1950, the Victoria Shamrocks, NANAIMO Timbermen and COQUITLAM Adanacs. The Indians, led by coach Andy PAULL, the Baker brothers, Stan Joseph Sr. and many other Native stars from across the country such as Hubie Smith, Russell Smith and Stu Bomberry, were the most exciting and colourful team of the 1930s but never won the Mann Cup. Since the Mann Cup began play in 1910, the Salmonbellies have captured the national title 24 times (3 times under the "O'Keefes" name), and the Adanacs were champions twice. In Vancouver, the legendary Dot Crookall and the Athletic Club took the trophy from 1911 to 1914 in the early field lacrosse days, the Coughlans held it in 1918, the box-lacrosse Burrards earned it in 1945, 1949, 1975 and 1977, and 4 more times in the 1960s under the "Carlings" name. VANCOUVER ISLAND boasts several Mann Cup champions: the 1919 Victoria Foundation Club, 1956 Nanaimo Timbermen, and the 1955, 1957, 1979, 1983 (under the name Payless) and 1997 Victoria Shamrocks. In 1980 a world championship tournament between box lacrosse teams from Australia, the USA and Canada was initiated by the International Federation of Amateur Lacrosse and the Coquitlam Adanacs won the right to represent western Canada. Led by Don Wilson's MVP performance, they swept 4 round-robin games and then defeated the North American Warriors Native all-star side at PACIFIC COLISEUM in Vancouver to claim the world championship.

Great box lacrosse players in BC have included Bill Dickinson, Jim Douglas, Jack BIONDA, Fred "Whitey" Severson, Archie Browning, Arnie Ferguson, speedy brothers Ranjit and Nirmal Dillon, Paul Parnell (the all-time leading goals scorer among BC players with 921 goals in 587 games), Cliff Sepka, Dave Durante, Kevin Alexander, Geordie Dean, Wayne GOSS (BC's career points leader), and the fabulous twins Gary and Paul GAIT. Lacrosse has dwindled in popularity with the rise of professional sport franchises in Vancouver, but it continues to attract a loyal following; along with southern Ontario, BC remains a hotbed of the sport. From 2001 to 2004 the Vancouver Ravens played in the National Lacrosse League, an 11-team semi-professional league that includes 3 Canadian and 8 American clubs. The CANADIAN LACROSSE HALL OF FAME is located in New Westminster.