History of the A's

 
 

An Interview With Jim McMahon

 

 

Being the younger sibling of a star in a sport can sometimes be difficult for any athlete. But Jimmy McMahon would emerge from the long shadow of his older brother Jack’s stellar career to become one of the premier goal scorers of his era and a bona fide Hall-of-Famer in his own right. 

At a playing weight of only 145 pounds, Jim would rely on his speed and “shiftiness” to drive an offence-oriented game that was the hallmark of the exciting brand of lacrosse played during the 1940’s. His scoring exploits would be a vital component of the Athletics last Mann Cup championship team in 1946 and in 2001 he would join “Wandy” in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.     

 

Gary: Were all of your family born in Scotland?

 

Jim: My two older sisters were born in Scotland, but “Wandy” (brother Jack) and I were born in St. Catharines. My dad was originally born in Ireland. That’s why our name is Mc and not Mac. His family moved to Dundee, Scotland and then his mother died when he was only two years old. His grandmother raised him. And his father died when he was seventeen.

I don’t know how they ended up in St. Catharines, but at first they lived right across from Edith Cavell School. Before I was born, there use to be a paper mill at the bottom of the hill where Rodman Hall is, McKinley’s Paper Mill. My dad worked there, and later on he had a bakery. He was at Ontario Bakery for a while before he left and started on his own.

 

Gary: At a time when lacrosse was reemerging as something special in St. Catharines, “Wandy” was playing senior and you were still pretty young. Did that make you a bit of a celebrity at school?

 

Jim: There was an eight and a half years age difference between Wandy and myself. We were close in one respect, but not that much because of the age difference. I was the youngest in our family. If "Wandy" were still alive, he’d be 92.

I went to school out here (West St. Catharines) and this was a township back then. This was really a rural area and I was brought up just two houses from where I live now. I’ve been in this area all my life.

So there wasn’t that much attention about being “Wandy’s” brother. The only advantage I had was that my mother and father took me to a lot of the games when he was playing at that time, the pre-war years. They would play their home games on Saturday night and not too many kids would get in unless they sneaked in. But my parents would take me. It was either take me or pay for a baby sitter.

In 1938, I was over at the Mann Cup games when the Athletics won at Maple Leaf Gardens. And I was also over in 1936 when my brother played for the Orillia Terriers. I was privileged because my parents would take me to see the games.

 

Gary: When did the McMahons get started in lacrosse?

 

Jim: I picked up a stick when I was about six and a half or seven years old. Wandy picked up a stick when he was in juvenile. Then we built the nets and stuff out here when we were only about eleven years old. And we played, and played, and played, and played.

Pat Smith and I grew up together. We were only two houses apart, and Pat and I were good friends. He is two years older than me and we played junior lacrosse and senior lacrosse together. There used to be a field right across the street where we played lacrosse. When we were maybe 11 years old, we used to swim across the creek, cut down trees, float them back across the creek, trimmed them, made post holes, got pieces of tin and chicken wire, we already had a net, and then we had our own field and everything right there across the street. We put a backstop there, maybe because we were lazy, but we were able to try to improve our shooting because we didn’t have to chase the ball. And then we had another net at the other end and we would have games. Even “Wandy” would come out and he was playing juvenile then.

We would have kids anywhere from 10 to 20 playing lacrosse every Sunday, and some of the kids that were 11 and 12 were better than the kids that were 18 and 19...outside of “Wandy”.

And for the younger ones, that’s all we did during the summer holidays. Go out there and play lacrosse in the morning, then throw our sticks into our yard or Pat’s yard, then run down to the creek and swim. Home for lunch and then out again. We used to even sleep out there sometimes, right across the road where there was an open field.

We just lived and breathed lacrosse.

 

Gary: A lot of good memories.

 

Jim: Yes, and nobody had any money. We would get 10 cents on a Saturday to go to a show, 8 cents for the movie and 2 cents for some candy. We’d walk way up to James Street and go to the Granada. And we had a great time.

I remember once about four or five years ago, I think we were playing cribbage or something, and I met this guy and he asked me what my name was. I thought he looked familiar and I said I remembered that we played lacrosse as kids out there. He said he remembered hitting this small kid with the stick and all of the other kids chased him all the way home. Well, guess who that small kid was. (laughs) 

There are five guys that came from the Pelham Road area where I grew up that are in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. They’re not all the same age, but there was “Wandy”, Doug Smith, Tony D’Amico, Pat Smith and myself.

 

Gary: Being involved in lacrosse at such an early age, would you have any recollections of the field game in St. Catharines?

 

Jim: I didn’t see too much field lacrosse but I did see some because my older brother “Wandy” played juvenile field lacrosse. I remember a player named Doucette taking a swing with his stick at a referee at a field lacrosse game. I think it was a game between the Shamrocks from West St. Catharines and the Tecumsehs. The Tecumsehs were a team that was based out of the area where the Haig Bowl would be built and the Athletics were based out of the area around where the St. Catharines Collegiate is. That was about the only field lacrosse that I ever saw and I was probably only about 8 or 9 years old then.

But, I played two exhibition games when I was in midget against the old-timers. We played down in Walkinshaw Park and it was against, I don’t know if you ever heard of them, Chuck Green, Willie Warburton and those guys.

The only other connection I had with field lacrosse was a game I refereed in 1967. It was the centennial and they had a field lacrosse game here at Club Heidelberg. They had a four-team tournament that year and they played games in Fergus, Toronto and here. The game I did was between England and Australia. I was a box referee at the time and I was picked along with a couple of American referees. Bobby Dobbie did the game in Fergus. Needless to say I didn’t blow my whistle because the rules were so much different.

 

Gary: This area of the city had its own lacrosse association and the teams were called the Shamrocks.

 

Jim: There were a lot of kids that played minor lacrosse then, and every kid and his brother had a lacrosse stick. The box was over at Lincoln Park and we played midget there but it didn’t last too long because people would steal the wood. People didn’t have too much money and they would burn the wood from the lacrosse box, they took some of the boards home for firewood.

 

Gary: Where were some of the other lacrosse boxes in the city then?

 

Jim: There was a lacrosse box down on Bartlett Street, off of Tasker. There used to be an old lacrosse box at the end of the Townline Road in Merritton at the top of the hill, out towards the canal. This was probably around 1934. We used to go over there just to play pick-up. I don’t know who organized it.

And we played a team in Thorold South. They had a box right there on Niagara Falls Road. It was actually a hockey rink. That was all before I started to play organized lacrosse.

We used to sneak into Lakeside Park in Port Dalhousie and that’s when they put up a temporary lacrosse box there. The Inglis brothers, the Pinder boys and different guys played for Port. My brother was playing then and I remember seeing “Wandy” getting into a fight with the goaltender, “Lick” McGregor.

 

Gary: What do you remember of your earliest organized lacrosse?

 

Jim: The lowest classification was midget when I started in 1936 and I was thirteen years old. There were four midget teams and four juvenile teams and we would take turns playing before the senior game, and before our game was over we would be playing in front of 3,500 people at the Haig Bowl. And then we would get to see the senior game. It was a good life back then.

We also used to go down to the Haig Bowl on a Saturday morning when we played midget and Alex MacKenzie was in charge of the bowl and he would let us in to play. That’s where we met Tommy Madsen. He lived on Queen Street near Montebello Park. There would be a lot of guys there and we would chose up sides and have a game there on Saturday mornings.

We used to get equipment given to us. In juvenile we had our shoes given to us, our gloves given to us, our sticks given to us. We didn’t have to pay for anything. And later on in ’39, Jack Dempsey’s clothing store sponsored the Shamrock junior team. I was on that team during the season but I dropped down to junior “B” for the playoffs as I was only 15 years old. That was when I was playing midget, juvenile and junior all in that one year. In 1939 we had four midget teams, four juvenile teams, and I think three junior teams right in the city. That was the year Dougie Favell won four medals and I won three. I was on the provincial champions in midget, juvenile and junior “B”, all in one year.

We would go down to Norwood, that is just the other side of Peterborough, and we used to play Cornwall there. We went down two years in a row. We didn’t have tournaments but we had playoffs and we played against Hamilton, Brampton, and Mimico. We would always seem to win, and then we would go down and compete against Cornwall in Norwood for two years in a row. They formed a bantam team out of the young guys on the midget team. I didn’t play bantam but Dougie Favell did and he got the extra medal.

As far as the Shamrock Junior “A’ team in 1939 was concerned, we had four fellows from Thorold that came down to play for us. And this was before Port Dalhousie had any kind of minor lacrosse, so Bill Mackie played. Bill Mackie wanted to play senior.

 

Gary: By 1940 the city junior league was ending and St. Catharines put one team into the Ontario league. Did you play on that team?

 

Jim: I was on the junior team that went into the O. L. A in 1940. There was also Pat Smith, Tommy Madsen, Doug Favell, and Doug Garriock on that team…they were picked up by Orillia Terriers and went out to compete for the Minto Cup out west.

 

Gary: Then there wasn’t any junior lacrosse in Ontario until after the end of the war.

 

Jim: Yes, and I played Senior “B” for St. Catharines in ’41. There were Tommy Madsen and I, Doug Favell and three or four other juniors playing on that team because there wasn’t a junior team. We had a couple of the Masterson boys, Russ and Ernie. And we played against Owen Sound and they had a lot of players that had played for Orillia Terriers Jr. “A”. We took them right to the fifth game in Owen Sound and we only had ten guys. I was just eighteen years old then.

And that’s really how we got to Owen Sound in 1942. The next year Owen Sound wanted Tommy Madsen and I to play up there. It was the first year Owen Sound had a senior “A” team, the Owen Sound Georgians, and they played in the old arena way out at the end of Second Avenue East. Second Avenue is the main street in Owen Sound.

Owen Sound was nice. I enjoyed playing up there. It was the first time I was away from home and I was up there when I still had two years of junior left. I played with Rusty White and these guys.

I played against a guy who had played in the old pro league in ’32. I remember I took a rebound off our goalie, Ray Mortimore, and he swung and hit me right here inside the knee. He was about 5’ 10” and quite stocky. But at that time he was getting a little older and a little ornery I guess. My knee swelled up and that was on a Thursday night, and I was on crutches.  We had a game in St. Catharines on the Saturday night and I played because I wanted to play against St. Catharines.

 

Gary: Then you were in the armed services for a couple of years. When you were in the Navy on the Pacific coast and you came back in ‘44, did you have a chance of playing on the Athletics Mann Cup team that year?

 

Jim: No. I was asked. St. Catharines did contact me about playing but I was headed down to Halifax.

 

Gary: Were you put on a ship?

 

Jim: Yes, I was but not for very long.  I was on a corvette for a while, but we were just along the coast. I went down to Bermuda as training on one of the American destroyers. We had a torpedo shot at us, but I didn’t see that much action.

But, you know Ike Hildebrand (New Westminster forward who played terrifically against the Athletics in the 1944 Mann Cup and was awarded the series MVP). Well, I played against Ike Hildebrand before anybody knew about him. I played on the Navy team out west and Ike played for the Salmonbellies. We beat them the last few games in the regular season and we were the favoured team in the playoffs.

I was 21 and I think I was the fourth oldest guy on the team. Talk about assists. I played 10 games; I had 37 goals and 3 assists. But we had one good line with Jack McKinnon and Kenny Webb. The other line had one guy that was a soccer player. He wasn’t a lacrosse player. The kid was 17 years old. Plus another guy that hadn’t played much. Whereas I was at 21 in my third year of senior after playing senior “B” in ’41 and playing senior “A” in Owen Sound in ’42.

We had a practice one day and we threw our equipment in the back of a truck and that was the last I saw of my stick. You can’t break in a new stick. So the Burrards beat us 3 – 0 and it was by one goal each game. I only got about one goal a game after we had beat the Salmonbellies several times. They had a few older guys like Bert Bryant and Bill Dickinson, and a couple of the Cavallins.

We didn’t have too much trouble against Ike out there because a lot of our younger guys knew Ike. They had played against him and they knew about him. They were the same age as he was or maybe just a year older.

 

Gary: By 1946 the war was over and the Athletics had one of their best box teams of all time. This was really your first full season with the A’s and you had a big year with 77 goals during the regular season and another 31 in the playoffs.

 

Jim: Our 1946 team was a little unique because every forward was a right-handed shot. A couple of the extra players had left-handed shots, but all the regulars were right-handed shots. Roy Morton, Joe Cheevers, George Urquhart and my brother “Wandy”, they had come from the ’38 team and they were all right-handed shots. And “Stuey” Scott, Pat Smith, “Ham” Nelson and I were all right-handed shots.

Doug Cove, Frank Madsen, and Carson Myers on defense were right-handed shots. Tommy Madsen was the only left-hand, plus Jerry Fitzgerald. Jerry was only young then, something around 18-years-old and he was really the fifth defenseman then.

We had two good goaltenders, Bill Whittaker and Doug Favell. Favell eventually went to Hamilton just because Whittaker had been a mainstay here for years and years.

 

Gary: And you were on a line with Stu Scott, Pat Smith, and Ham Nelson. Who would play the off-wing?

 

Jim: Well probably somebody like Nelson or “Stuey”.

Nelson, Pat and I on our line could all play centre. But usually I dropped back to the rover spot. My brother played rover on the other line. Back then it was seven-man lacrosse.

Nelson was big. They used to call us “the mule and the three asses”. Nelson would get hurt more than we did. He was big and we were small. We couldn’t afford to get hit because we were small. I was a runner. I would keep moving and it was harder to hit a moving object. (laughs) 

When we played, the defense would get the ball in our own end and one of the forwards would be up a bit. Usually that was “Stuey” on our line. They would try to get the ball up to him and he tried to break. And the rest of us would start running and that was what put the motion in it. The other team would run to get back and we would run to get a jump on them. Back then the ball would always be the first thing down the floor.

The game slowed down in later years when the ball was the last thing down the floor.

 

Gary: The Athletics were in a great race with Mimico all that season and then you went to seven games against them in the Ontario finals.

 

Jim: Mimico had a real good team and they beat us one game in Mimico by 24 – 8. Well we went over there for the third to last game of the season and we were both tied for first place. We were missing “Stuey” and Pat off our line, so we played “Ducky” Whitely and Norm McDonald. The winner of that game was going to get first place which meant the extra game in the playoffs, and that’s exactly what happened. We went in there without “Stuey” and Pat, and we beat them right there. And that was the game that Nelson and I each got 10 points. I had 7 goals and 3 assists and Nelson had 5 and 5.

And that was the time they threw pop bottles at us at the game. It wasn’t really directed at us but I was in the center of it. Mimico already had a penalty and one of our guys took a shot at the net and missed. I raced back down the floor to pick up the ball and Donny MacPhail came and pushed me from behind and knocked me off my feet. I got a free throw and Claude Clarke from Hamilton was the referee. He gave me the ball but he was holding my stick and that’s when the Coca-Cola bottles started to come. Man, could you imagine if one ever hit you? At one end of the Mimico Bowl there were no seats and they had a couple of boxcars there as dressing rooms. I just dropped my stick and both teams ran to that end where the boxcars were.

But Mimico was a good team, Donny MacPhail, George Masters, Kenny Dixon, Archie Dixon, Jack Williams, “Boxcar” McLean...6’ 6” on defense, “Scoop” Hayes, Tony Worsencroft, and I think Blain McDonald played on that team.

At the end of the third period, there was four periods then, Tommy Madsen got a five-minute penalty. The score then was 10 – 10. And the old guys, “Urkie” and my brother scored short-handed goals, and then we went on to win 17 – 11. If we hadn’t won that game we probably wouldn’t have got by them in the playoffs without the extra home game. That was probably the best game I ever played in my life. That one and one I played in Quebec City that we won 15 – 9 and I had nine points.

 

Gary: After winning Ontario in ‘46, the A’s went to Quebec City to play for the Eastern Canada title. What was that like?

 

Jim: Quebec was tough too. We went down there and Morton didn’t go. Neither did “Wandy” and Cheevers. We went by train and got into the stuff. When we got there we had a practice at 7 o’clock that night and these guys couldn’t even see. We could have used a football and they wouldn’t have seen it. There were quite a few people out at our practice and I know one guy came over and made a pretty big bet with Bill Demars (Athletics trainer). He gave Bill odds too. It was the easiest money Bill made.

But the people stood up through the whole game at the Coliseum and they threw money on the floor. I don’t know why.

 

Gary: Coins?

 

Jim: They didn’t throw them at us, but whenever something happened and they cheered, they threw money on the floor. And Doug Cove ran out and picked up all the money.

At that game “Stuey”, Pat and I got four goals each and Nelson got one.

 

Gary: How long would your line be on for a shift?

 

Jim: Well you see we couldn’t change on the fly. Like down here at the Haig Bowl, when you went to the bench it was like going up some stairs. At the players entrance there would be a couple of guys sitting and the rest would be about four stairs up. It was just an ordinary door and when it closed your coach stood there. There was no such thing as the players bench being twenty feet long.

 

Gary: So you’d wait for a whistle and then change?

 

Jim: Yes, but the funny thing was that there wasn’t that many penalties called. There were a few unwritten laws like there was never any butt-ending. That surprises a lot of people. Back then, lacrosse players didn’t wear cups. I never wore a cup in my life. The only guys that wore cups were the goaltender and any guy that played hockey. And we didn’t wear helmets and masks. I was lucky for all the years I played, I only had about seven or eight stitches and had my nose cracked twice. And one tooth chipped here.

My legs were the best part of me. “Wandy” was known as a penalty killer. I was too and you know it’s actually easier to beat two guys that it is to beat one. When you’re killing a penalty and you have two guys trying to box you in, neither one of them is giving you 100% of their attention. So you just pick the moment and the place to go is in between them.

I always liked the dirt floor at the Haig Bowl. I always figured you could shift better on a dirt floor, you could kind of dig in on the ball of your foot. You would get scrapped up if you fell down though. But the worst place was in Fergus with their softwood floor. I never use to wear kneepads and when you fell on that floor it would really burn.

 

Gary: Let’s jump to 1949 and the year that you, Stu Scott, and Bill Nelson were suspended by the O. L. A. for the year for playing during the off-season. Why were you given that suspension?

 

Jim: We still don’t know. They always had some winter lacrosse and all the guys before the war use to play out of Buffalo. There were two teams playing out of Buffalo, the Buffalo Eddies and the Buffalo Bowman Stoves. I guess they were juniors at that time. My brother told me this because I was still young. Morton, Urquhart, Whittaker, Hope, Doug Cove, all those guys played on the Athletics junior team here back in 1934. And from the Tecumsehs side they had Cheevers, the Madsens, Fitzgerald, and goaltender “Shy” Manning. They became the nucleus of the ’38 team.

Anyways later, Rochester had a team and they played in the armouries and the teams over here, Mimico, Hamilton, Brampton would go over on different weeks to play them. Mimico would go over one week, St. Catharines would go over, then Hamilton would go over on another. And to be honest with you, we didn’t play all winter but they were playing every Friday over there. We use to get a team guarantee and they would split it up among the players. Then the following night they would go and play in Geneva, New York. The floor there was about the size of a basketball court. We used to just stand back and shoot the ball. Some of the players were from Hobart University in Geneva and one of them threw a flying block at “Ducky” Whitely. They were big guys, big football players.

We didn’t hold onto the ball too long. They couldn’t handle the stick that well. But we were shooters. We used the swing shot.

The next year, Rochester wanted to strengthen their team up so that they could compete better against the teams from over here. In the long run, everybody would have made a little more money. They used to draw about two thousand people to a game and they would have drawn more than that if they had won more games. So at that time, “Stuey”, Nelson and I, all of our line had over a hundred points. Morton went over too, he was a little older. Bill Demars would drive us over because he was the only one that had a car. We played over there and we were going to play the teams from over here so we asked for permission from the O. L. A. to go over. This was wintertime, not summertime. We had asked for permission, they put up all the advertising for the game and then the O. L. A. waited to the very last. We were going over on a Friday night and they waited to Thursday before they told us we couldn’t go.

Well we went over there and played, and a fellow from Brampton paid his own way over and caught us. We knew who he was; we even talked to him over there.

Anyways what happened was that all the teams over here lost out. The teams over here would like to go over there because they would pick up a little money. If you wanted to blow your money and have a good time, you could. Or if you wanted to you could bring it back to your family. Money was scarce. They were the ones that lost out, not us. The six of us kept going over, the referee, the trainer and the four players…and we all got the same money. We turned around and played about twenty games, all against Native teams. We played every Friday night.

We did play against Medina, just outside of Buffalo, and they had a lot of juniors from St. Catharines and even Blain McDonald (from Mimico). “Tank” Teather also went over to play for Medina, and they didn’t get suspended. We were suspended for the following summer over here and that took the three highest scorers off the team for ’49.

There were a lot of people around here that weren’t too happy with a lot of things, that’s the reason “Stuey” went to Burlington. He figured St. Catharines didn’t fight enough for him. “Stuey” said he’d never play another game for St. Catharines and he didn’t. 

 

Gary: Did you feel that you lost anything in your game after sitting out the 1949 season?

 

Jim: Well, I probably did. Another thing was that there were a bunch of younger fellows coming up, Doug Smith and all those guys. The unfortunate part then was that the style of lacrosse was changing too. It was becoming that the last thing up the floor was the ball. With us it was that the ball was the first thing up the floor…big difference. It hurt me too when the defense started to play farther in. There wasn’t enough space to beat guys.

Just after the war, in ’46 and ’47, it was good lacrosse. And ’38, ’39 and ’40 was good lacrosse too. They moved the ball as well. Of course the crowd makes the game too. The bigger the crowd, the better you play. And the better you play, the more people you get.

I think they eventually brought in the shot clock because of the style brought in by Owen Sound back in the late forties. When Owen Sound came down here they would walk the ball because they couldn’t run with us.

Lacrosse really went downhill. Sometime around 1948 lacrosse started to peter out. I don’t know if it was a fair weather sport or a depression sport, whatever you want to call it, but as far as I’m concern, there was a decade there where lacrosse was really down in the doldrums.

And then not only that, but in St. Catharines the guys started to leave town. Guys went to Peterborough…Bobby Thorpe, Harry Wipper, Nip O’Hearn and Jerry Fitzgerald. Jim McNulty, Leo Teatro and Ken Croft to West York, Doug Favell to Hamilton. In about four years, I was the only one left.

Peterborough produced a lot of great players, but when they first started they went with an import team.

 

Gary: That hurt lacrosse?

 

Jim: Definitely. Owen Sound dropped out after they lost Slater, Mason and Wootton. It almost killed lacrosse in St. Catharines from the players they took from here. And other places suffered, Hamilton doesn’t have a team, Mimico is gone and they used to draw 3,500 people at the Drummond Street Bowl.

 

Gary: In 1954 you made the jump too and went to Hamilton. Did they entice you to play for them?

 

Jim: No, it was a combination of things…the Athletics were bringing up the juniors, we played in the Garden City Arena in 1953 and it was so hot, and some of us weren’t getting the playing time. “Skippy” Teal, Bobby Melville, “Ook” Frick and I use to kid with each other about bringing the cribbage board to the games.

Anyways, when I got around 29 or 30 I found I couldn’t make the same moves, or I would see a ball bouncing and I couldn’t get it.  But later on it came back. Even in ’58 in Welland, we lost the first two games to Long Branch but after that we went down to two lines. I played a lot and we won in four straight then. I was in fairly good shape in 1958 all considered. I was working shift work and I had a family, and it was tough. But I kept playing.

“Skippy” Teal use to say to me that he had to carry me because I was 35. We were always kidding one another.

1958 WELLAND SWITSONS

O. L. A. Senior "A" Champions

Front Row: Joe McNulty, Doug Smith, Ron Roy, Justin "Spike" Howe, Mike D'Amico, Don Baker, Jim McMahon, Allan "Skip" Teal

Back Row: Bill Burnett (trainer), Jack Timlock, Donald "Nip" O' Hearn, Dick Morningstar, Gary Carr, Brian Woods, Rich Daniels, Dave Hall, Jack Galway, Les Howard, Ted Howe, Carl "Gus" Madsen (coach)

Photo courtesy of Chris McNulty

 

Gary: The main part of your game in your prime was your speed?

 

Jim: Yes, speed and shift. It was a different game then. If I went down with “Nip” O’Hearn and “Nip” knew I would try to beat my man, he would make a move and dash for somewhere else to take his man with him. This would open up a larger area for me. If I beat my man, then I didn’t want to run into his man.

We had bigger nets too. The scoring in junior now is way down. It is ridiculous with the pads that the goalies are allowed to wear and the nets are smaller. They aren’t really developing lacrosse players, outside of shooting the ball. Nobody can beat anybody. Well, I’m not saying they can’t, but it’s not the style of play.

 

Gary: You were still a pretty effective player when you were in the late stages of your career with the Welland Switsons in ’58 and ’59, better than a goal a game player over those two years. That seemed to be the end of it but something prompted you to come back in 1961 for one more shot.

 

Jim: I came back in 1961 when Normie Corcoran was coaching the team. Normie said to me, “Come on out and play.” I played one game, scored a goal and I said to myself, “What am I doing here? I have five kids at home!” (laughs)  By that time I was 38, going on 39.

Normie hadn’t played much lacrosse. He was a hockey player. But he was shifty and he has pretty good size too. He’s a good guy. I haven’t seen him for quite a while.

 

Gary: What do you think of the way the game is played today? 

 

Jim: I’m not a real enthusiast of the game now, the way they run to the bench when the ball changes hands. You don’t get any fast breaks. The fast break was what our line was built on.

And of course, we didn’t have the 30-second clock. When they get the ball and run to change off, that’s where they lose the fast break. It’s a heck of a lot easier going two on two, or three on three than it is going five on five. When you as an offensive player come off the bench, you are going up against a stacked defense. And the nets are small, so the defense can back in.

It’s a different game now. You see the pads they wear now, they’re virtually nothing because you can’t hit. And we didn’t wear helmets and masks. A lot of the players now are good shooters, but nobody is touching them. That was our main thing…if a guy was winding up to shoot, hit him right across the gloves. You can’t do that anymore.

You see these games now, 5 to 4, that’s not a lacrosse score! I always figured a good lacrosse score was 13 – 9, 15 – 11, 15 – 12, something in that area.  When we played in 1946 the nets were 4’ 6” by 4’ 6”, then they shrunk them to 4’ by 4’. It doesn’t sound like much but its 20 square feet. The juniors are still 4’ by 4’ but the pro league is 4’ 9’ now. In junior you can’t even judge a goaltender anymore because all he does is stand there.

The kids now, they pass the ball. That wasn’t our game. Our game was beating the guy running, running up the field, 2 on 2, break fast. I think our game was faster than the game now. But not in the fifties and sixties, it was very, very slow. That’s when the ball started to be the last thing up the floor.

When the ball comes up first, then the defensive team has to run to get back. And now when they get the ball, one guy stays back with the ball.

 

Gary: Jimmy, who would you say was the best player you saw play the game?

 

Jim: I think number one would be Bill Isaacs.

Defensemen? I’d probably say “Gus” Madsen. But when I played against “Gus” when I was with Owen Sound, I didn’t have too much trouble with him. A name that might surprise you as a defenseman, was a guy by the name of Lou Nickle. He was a good, tough checker and a good guy. Not flashy but a good checker.

Jerry Fitzgerald was a good lacrosse player. He was good as a kid too. He played on our team in ’46 when he was just 18 years old. He played as a fifth defenseman but he still played.

 

Gary: Thanks Jim for all your interesting recollections from your outstanding lacrosse career.

 

 

"Senior Athletics are hoping to boost their Haig Bowl lacrosse attendance tonight. The hopes are based on the fact that Jimmy McMahon of the R. C. Navy will be seen in his first game here since the days he played with the Owen Sound Georgians. Since then, the younger brother of Jack (Wandy) McMahon has graduated into one of the slickest stick artists in the wide Dominion. He has not played since last season, but is in prime condition."

The St. Catharines Standard, June 23, 1945

Photo used to create 1945 card courtesy of Jim McMahon

 INTERVIEWS