History of the A's
Frank Dixon Wins Gold At Olympics
Goaltender Frank "Tony" Dixon of the St. Catharines Athletics would be selected along with future Canadian Hall-of-Fame inductees Patrick Brennan, Henry Hoobin, George Rennie and Alex Turnbull for the national team to represent Canada at the 1908 Olympics in London, England. After playing for Hamilton and Buffalo as well as his hometown Athletics, there were some that questioned Dixon's true amateur status and eligibility for the Olympic games. But a signed affidavit just before their ship set sail from Quebec City on October 2nd seemed to put that matter to rest. And considering the National Lacrosse Union luminaries on this team, the question of these Olympic "lacrossists" being entirely "simon-pure" amateurs may easily have extended beyond their plucky goalie from St. Catharines.
The 1908 Olympic tournament was to feature four countries, but after South Africa and Australia pulled out just before the start, it left just England and Canada to battle it out for the gold medal. And battle they did as the Englanders proved to be very worthy opponents for the confident Canucks. The Canadians would come home with their gold medals, but also carry with them an ample amount of respect for their English opponents.
And the rest is history.
Frank Dixon - back row, far right
FRANK DIXON ARRIVES HOME
BY A STANDARD
REPORTER – MR.
November 11, 1908
Dixon, St. Catharines representative on the Olympic lacrosse team, arrived
home on Friday night looking fine after his trip to and from the Old
Country. He tells that after landing in Liverpool, he with a party of ten
took a trip through Ireland, visiting Dublin and other points of interest
in the south of the island. He was greatly impressed with the scenery and
had a grand time.
London, he says, “we put up at the Ivanhoe Hotel, Bloomsburg, and every
night were taken out to some theatre. We were at Drury Lane the night the
King was there. We were shown through the King’s stable at Buckingham
a dinner given in Manchester, letters were read from Hon. Mr. Balfour and
Lord Roberts, telling of the pleasure the lacrosse game had given them and
saying that with 22 countries competing in the Olympic games, the greatest
events they had the pleasure of witnessing were the Marathon race and the
lacrosse match between Canada and the United Kingdom.”
the city of Stockport where we played, we were shown through Battenby’s
bat factory, where 700 people are employed, and each member of the team
was presented with a bat. We were given a dinner in Stockport that night.
We found the English players and those at the head of the game the
greatest sportsmen we ever met, both on and off the field. During the
three games we played, there was not a man called off.”
hundred sat down to a banquet in King’s Hall, Holburn. After the toast
to Canada, the lacrosse team rose and sang “The Maple Leaf” and
Manager Foran responded in a brilliant speech.
visited the Franco-British Exposition, just outside the Stadium. The
Canada building was one of the finest on the grounds and one of the
biggest exhibitions in it was that of fruit in which the Niagara District was
member of the team brought back three medals – a gold one representing
the Olympic championship, and two silver medals, and in addition they each
got two diplomas, one for the player and one for the club from which he
left Liverpool on Friday Oct. 30 on the Empress of Ireland, which won the
blue ribbon for the quickest passage across the Atlantic.”
Mr. Dixon says it is a mistake to imagine that the English lacrosse players are easy. He refers to Frank Nelson’s account of the Olympic game written for the Toronto Globe after his return with the team as a fair estimate.
It is here reproduced:
Old England was splendidly represented
and made a gallant effort. Indeed it may be said at the outset that so
close did England come and so keen the contest that at one stage defeat
for Canada was staring in the face of the enthusiasts who occupied a
sector of the great Stadium and cheered for the Maple Leaf. From a score
of 5 to 1 against them at the end of the first quarter, the Englishmen ran
the figures up to 9 all early in the fourth quarter and were going so
strong that the hitherto undreamed-of defeat of Canada looked far from
impossible. The rally came then, though, and Canada put in the next five
goals in rapid order. England made it 14 to 10, and just before the
whistle blew, Gorman put the ball once more in the nets but as he was
within the crease the goal was disallowed, and the final score was Canada
14, United Kingdom 10.
weather was pretty good – for London at this time of the year – the
Canadians were told. That is, it only rained a little and the ground was
not as slippery as it might have been. The temperature was low. Though the
attendance looked to be very small in the enormous stadium, it really
amounted to some seven thousand persons. The spectators included Lord
Desborough, President of the Olympic Council: Lord Roberts, and Mr. A. J.
Balfour, the ex-Premier, The Lord Mayor of London, Sir James Truscott,
with the Lady Mayor, and the High Sheriffs attended in great state, with
all the pomp that accompanies the official appearances of the Chief
Magistrate of London town. After the games the lacrosse and football
players received their medals and diplomas from the Lord Mayor.
teams, lined out according to the English formation and titles, were –
– Mr. A. Norris
– Messrs. Barker and Allingham
reserves on the Canadian side were: Andy Mara of the Young Torontos, D.
McLeod of Calgary and C. Lyon of the Shamrocks. It is always easier to see
things afterwards, but as the game was played the Canadian side would have
been strengthened by the inclusion of Mara and McLeod in place of Hamilton
and Broderick or Duckett.
began well with the opening score. England replied with one that Buckland
put in from the side in the way most of the English goals eventually came,
the Canadian defense backing away from the attack, and more than once
impeding their own goalkeeper. Canada reeled off four more, and the
figures were 5 to 1 at the end of the first period. The Englishmen were
not playing their game, but after the first period they were quite at
only one while the United Kingdom got two, the score was 6 to 3 at
half-time. The Canadian home was not working just right now either, and
Hoobin was continually and uselessly shooting from long range. Scott, the
custodian of the English goals, is a first-class man and can hold his own
in the best company anywhere.
third period saw more scoring and a reduction of the Canadian lead, the
figures being 9 to 7.
the fourth, the United Kingdom players set off with great dash, and
electrified the crowd by equaling the score at 9 all in less than four
minutes. Then Turnbull and Gorman and Hoobin and Brennan put in their very
best licks. For a while the fate of the world’s lacrosse championship
hung in the balance, but the brilliancy and persistency of the Canadian
attack at last prevailed and the score was taken up to 14 before the final
tally was made up by the United Kingdom, leaving the victory with Canada
by 14 to 10.
the most dashing and useful display on either side was the work of the
“grand old man,” Alex Turnbull. Originally playing centre, he was
moved to the home when it was apparent that some improvement was needed
there. And never did a change produce better results. It is not too much
to say of him that he saved the day, and but for him the lacrosse
championship would probably have fallen to the United Kingdom. Tommy
Gorman was another exceedingly serviceable and “handy” player. Hoobin
and Brennan worked in their famous combination many a time, but it was
very frequently ineffective on account of their selfishness in holding the
ball. Dixon was a great success in goal, and made some wonderful stops and
saves. Dillon, McKerrow and Rennie were the stars of a rather uneven defense.
United Kingdom players were a strong team. They knew the game and are fine
individual athletes of great speed. The game was quite free from
roughness, and only twice in the whole match was the whistle blown for
fouls, one on either side. The Canadian instructions were – “Win by as
many goals as you can. Break no rules and play fair. If it is not possible
to win honorably, the committee does not want you to win at all.”
soon as the game was over, Lord Roberts expressed his delight at the
exciting and generously contested spectacle, and his desire to meet the
Canadians. He and Lord Desborough were accompanied by Messrs. Wm. Foran
and Francis Nelson, the Canadian committee, to the dressing room where the
team and many other Canadian visitors were presented. “I particularly
wish to meet the gentleman with the bald head,” said “Bobs” on his
way to the dressing room. That was Turnbull.
all doubt the Olympic competition will do a vast amount of good for
lacrosse in Britain, and all of the lacrosse people here were delighted
with the brilliancy and interest of the match. Everybody, even the
football men, agreed that the Association football final between the
United Kingdom and Denmark, which came after the lacrosse, was slow and
dull when contrasted with the lacrosse.
congratulations from Earl Grey and from the Canadian committee were
received after the result was known.
Dixon also endorsed the remarks of Lawrence Soloman, President of the
Tecumseh Lacrosse Club, who says: “The Englishmen played first-class
lacrosse and in the Stadium contest showed at their best. They are big,
fast men, much better runners than the Canadians, can pass and check
well, but lack the necessary finesse at critical moments. They need the
services of a good coach, like Charlie Querrie or Jimmy Murphy. They
don’t work the odd man. That’s where they fail principally. In the
game in the Stadium, things looked pretty shaky for the Canadians when the
score was a tie, 9 all, and Manager Foran himself was not any too
optimistic at that point. The team played three games on the tour and won
“Lacrosse has made great strides in England. They are playing Canada’s national game in all the colleges. Joe Lally got an order for 1,500 ladies lacrosse sticks for use in the colleges.”