History of the A's

 
 

The St. Catharines Senior Athletics Lacrosse Club

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Bye ( from May 2005 )

 

Ken Croft ( from Aug 2006)

 
Stu Scott ( from Sept 2006)
 
Ted Howe ( from Sept 2006)
 
Jim McMahon ( from Oct 2006)

 

 

 

 

1877

– the birth of the St. Catharines Athletics Lacrosse Club (one year after the formation of the St. Catharines Lacrosse Club). The team is brought into existence through the efforts of the Citizens Hose Co. (a volunteer fire dept.), and would play their first game on Wednesday November 7th, a 2 - 0 loss to the St. Catharines Club. A year later, the A's and the St. Catharines Club would merge under the Athletics banner. For the first six years the A's would play their games at the old fairgrounds that were once located at the southwest corner of Russell Avenue and Catherine Street.

 

 

Original Athletics

1922 Reunion

top row: James Mitchell, Walter Swayze, Harry Blight (captain), James Spence, and Angus McKay.

middle row: Henry O' Laughlin, Thomas Wells, Albert O' Laughlin, and John Carlisle.

bottom row: James Douglas, James MacGregor, and James Adie.

 

 

 

John Carlisle, James Adie, Harry Blight, Henry O' Laughlin

(taken at the St. Catharines Lacrosse Grounds)

 

 

1879 – the center section of the grandstand at the fairgrounds collapses at a game versus the Beaver Indians and causes injuries to a number of spectators, the most serious being a broken leg to a Mrs. Cruikshank.

 

1880 – a Civic Holiday double-header hosted at the fairgrounds between Athletics I vs. Clifton and Athletics II vs. Thorold is refereed by world champion oarsman and Canadian sporting legend Ned Hanlon. The St. Patrick's Brass Band and Hanlon's boat and championship trophies were at the grounds to add to the draw.

 

1881

 

– the Athletics adopt light and dark blue as their team colours. As part of U.S. Fourth of July celebrations, the Hydrant Hose Company #1 of Lockport, New York offer a silver-plated teapot to the victors of a lacrosse exhibition between the Athletics and the Echoes of Hamilton, Ontario. The A's return home with the spoils of the day and the prize is then passed down through the family of player James Adie to the present day.

 

"The Agricultural Grounds presented a gay appearance yesterday, the games of the Caledonian Society and Lacrosse Club being the attraction. From the number of people on the grounds, we should judge that the interest in athletic sports is not on the wane in this city. At 1:30 o’clock, the XIX Batt. Band marched the Athletic and visiting Brantford Lacrosse Clubs on the grounds." The St. Catharines Journal (July 1881)

"Though the Athletics were unsuccessful, the general verdict was that their playing was a decided improvement over that with the Paris Club on the 24th of May. We advise our boys to practice more of the “drop shots” on flags and do less unnecessary running." The advice offered by The St. Catharines Journal after a loss to Brantford at the fairgrounds. (July 1881)

1883 – the opening of the Athletics Lacrosse Grounds (1st game June 8th). This facility (affectionately nicknamed "the old corner lot") featured a covered grandstand on one side of the field and bleachers at both ends. The Athletics defeated the Mechanics 3 to 1 (with "Zip" Carlisle scoring two) to claim the city championship and a silver cup in that first game at the new lacrosse grounds. The double-blue Athletics would often play to capacity crowds over the next 25 years and were the source of great pride for the citizens of St. Catharines.

 

1885 – the game undergoes a popular boom in St. Catharines when the Athletics win the Southern District championship from the Brants of Paris. The A's are reported in the Montreal Gazette to have organized and instituted "ice lacrosse" in the winter of 1885 with "six-man teams of reds and blues, played games which were won by the latter club 2 - 1 and thus were Canada's first known organization to play lacrosse on skates as well as on the natural field of emerald turf."

 

A POEM TO JOHN "ZIP" CARLISLE

A year or two ago, "Zip," your team was always beat

Or rarely when they won, it was indeed a treat

Athletics versus Any-club, the rule was sure as fate

Athletics - "duck eggs" every time, and Any-club - three straight

Niagara, Paris, Brantford, "Zip," it was a burning shame

They played around you, scooped you up, you seldom won a game

Defeat did not beget despair, your hearts were stout and true

At last, Hurrah - the tide has turned, cock-a-doodle-do!

Cock-a-doodle-do! "Zip," Cock-a-doodle-do!

 

Homeward you came with laurel crown'd, the bonfire lit the sky

The "Saints" went wild with joy, "Zip," the goose hung very high

Both bands had marched away to camp, the music in the street

Was ringing cheers and joyous shouts, the tramp of many feet

You've downed the clubs that beat you once, no longer need you roam

You've swept the decks, redeemed yourselves, & brought the trophy home

Victors on many a hard-fought field, and now the champions too

Pardon my feelings - Hip! Hip! Hip!!! And cock-a-doodle-do!

Cock-a-doodle-do! "Zip," Cock-a-doodle-do ! ! !

 

signed, "Samuel Sawbones" (Dr. Goodman, St. Catharines, 1885)

 

 

1886 "The appearance of the Irishmen on the field was the signal for hearty cheers, which the visitors acknowledged. The different stores in the city had all agreed to close at noon, thus giving their employees an opportunity to attend the game." The touring Irish lacrosse team play the Athletics before 2,500 appreciative fans in St. Catharines. The Thorold Post (August 1886)

 

1887

 

– the Toronto Lacrosse Club's breakaway from the National Amateur Lacrosse Union leads to the formation of the Canadian Lacrosse Association. The Athletics become charter members of the new league. Later in the season, the Ontarios protest a loss to the Athletics over the use of an alleged professional player named C. Lynden. Lynden files a sworn affidavit of his amateur status to a C. L. A. judiciary committee meeting at the Rossin House (Toronto), but to further questions as to what he was paid for expenses to go to St. Catharines, Lynden states that he could not remember.

 

1889 – the A's are Canadian Lacrosse Association champions. The team posts an undefeated record in their own league and a 2 win, 1 loss record in exhibition games against N. A. L. U. competition.

 

1890 – repeat as Canadian Lacrosse Association champions, beating out the Toronto Capitals on August 18 to clinch the title. St. Catharines mayor McIntyre is president of the Athletics lacrosse club.

 

1891 – the new C. L. A. champions from Niagara Falls refuse to grant the Athletics a title match after the A's default a game in the "Cataract City" in mid-season. The A's continue to practice for four weeks after their last match and send repeated appeals to the C. L. A. to force the game, but the league upholds the "Niagaras" position.

 

Never did the Athletics' grounds present a prettier picture of the popularity of lacrosse than they did today when the Athletics and Cornwall teams appeared. The open grand stand and the covered and temporary stands were filled with ladies, while the available standing room was occupied by gentlemen from all quarters of Western Ontario. The Toronto Globe (July 1891)

 

1892 – Athletics are "blacklisted" for the year by the C. L. A. for their refusal to reimburse "expenses" of $30 to the Niagara Falls Lacrosse Club after a no-show in a 1891 game at the "Niagaras" home grounds. Team members then show up in the lineup of other clubs; brothers George and John Downey plus Alec Chaplin in Orillia, John Notman and Bill Yielding in Stratford, and "Ruby" Williams along with Harry Morton in Niagara Falls.

 

1895 The match was witnessed by quite a large number of spectators despite the threatening weather and the crowd was quite impartial in distribution of applause. Any clever work on the part of any player got him a round of applause. The Toronto Globe (June 1895)

 

"It was like old times to see the lacrosse grounds thronged as they were Monday afternoon. It carried one's thoughts back to the good old days when "Doc" Collins, Jim Chaplin, Yielding and the other stars were the pets of the grand stand." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1895)

 

The band afforded some amusement by their frantic efforts to get away from the ball and players when they came in their direction.The St. Catharines Daily Standard (August 1895)
1896 "The referee ordered 'those four men who were fighting' to leave the field. But its difficult to tell which man is which when all are in uniform and the referee couldn't pick them out, so the game went on." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1896)

 

"Just as soon as play begins some one in the front row stands up, then the whole row follows suit and those behind, to see anything, have to do likewise. Everyone could see just as well and with more comfort if they remained seated." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1896)

 

1898 – goal nets replace poles in the Canadian Lacrosse Association.

 

"The posters advertising the match said 'two hours play, rain or shine,' and the spectators could not understand why the (Montreal) Shamrocks left the field before the two hours were up. But this was the arrangement as to the time made on the field, and the visitors were quite justified in stopping. The crowd didn't understand it and yelled and hooted the visitors, who had difficulty in understanding what it was all for." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (July 1898)

 

"The Athletics are developing a system of signals similar to those made use of in Rugby football games. Such a system if perfected will cause a revolution in the national game." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (August 1898)

 

1899 – A’s suspend operations for one year shortly after a particularly violent game against the Orangeville Dufferins draws the ire of fans, press and the local judiciary. John "Shooty" Richardson is given a lifetime suspension by the Canadian Lacrosse Association (rescinded in 1902) and in a St. Catharines courtroom, a $25 fine for common assault.

 

"The referee was asked to stop the match but whether from fear or otherwise, blew his whistle and ordered play to proceed." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (July 1899)

 

When young men play games like this, if trouble occurs, they ought to try to keep it out of the police court. Police Magistrate Comfort at the St. Catharines police court of July 31st hearing of charges against John Richardson and Bill Harris of the A’s, and the Orangeville Dufferins Fred Dowling.

 

The assault was to my mind most brutal and uncalled for and one that will cast a disgrace upon the club to which you belong. Whatever roughness may have developed on the field, there was no reason for roughness after the game was over. I will impose upon you a fine of $25, together with the costs of the prosecution, and you will remain in custody until the same is paid. Judge Collier in sentencing John Richardson after a jury brought in a verdict of guilty of common assault in December 1899.

 

 

1901 – the A’s return and deliver once-again, “fast, clean lacrosse”. They make it to the Globe Shield finals before losing to the Orangeville Dufferins in a match played before a capacity crowd at the Toronto Island grounds.

 

"The game in St. Catharines received a blow some time ago, which it took some time from which to recover, and uncalled for roughness is not tolerated on the St. Catharines team to-day." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (July 1901)

 

"St. Catharines has had many lacrosse teams playing under the cognomen of Athletics, but never was any of them as well balanced as the winner of '01." The St. Catharines Daily Standard after a 16 - 1 victory over the Manchesters of Galt (July 1901)
“Wm. Lang of St. Paul Street on Saturday hoisted his handsome set of colors after the lacrosse match and in the evening fired a salute of 21 guns in honor of the victory.” The St. Catharines Daily Standard (August 1901)

 

After months of hard, up-hill fighting, the lacrosse team has stepped up to the top rung of the ladder and just at the last minute made a misstep and fallen off.  The A's lose by 7 - 5 to Orangeville in the C. L. A. final. The St. Catharines Daily Standard (September 1901)
“Well! Well! Now we can settle down to business again and get in the hay.”  One unidentified supporter quoted in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (September 1901)

 

1902-4 – a period of growing lacrosse enthusiasm in St. Catharines, fueled in large part by a hotly contested rivalry with perennial C. L. A. champions from Brantford. The games against Brantford would long be remembered as the most passionate contests for players and fans alike.

 

"At the lacrosse tournament on Saturday, E. Poole, the well known photo artist, arranged the 18 players who competed together with representative heads of each factory. In addition those in a portion of the large open grandstand were caught, in all over 100 faces appear in the picture, nearly all of whom can be readily recognized."

The St. Catharines Daily Standard, September 22, 1902

special thanks to Dennis Gannon

 

 

Several local men are receiving requests from outside teams to join them for the season, but so far none have succumbed to the wiles of the tempter. This season St. Catharines wants the championship and every local man is needed to win it. It is to be hoped they will remain loyal. The St. Catharines Evening Star (April 1902)

 

"A good crowd will take the (special train) excursion to Oshawa on Saturday. One factory will shut down altogether, and there are others who will take advantage of the cheap rate to take the trip."  The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1903)
"Saturday's defeat should do Brantford good, although it's a little pill to swallow. There has been too much self-horn blowing in the "Hello" town. Such a defeat is a great head reducer."  The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1903)

 

"Kalls, the youngster, is a regular find, and he should very soon be among the best in the game. He was really the most aggressive man on the Athletic home, but he tries a little too much dodging where a pass would be more beneficial."  17-year-old George Kalls breaks into senior lacrosse and draws accolades from The Brantford Expositor (June 1903)

 

Policemen were on the field and St. Catharines people called for Hendry's immediate arrest. Brantford's Tack Hendry gives the A's Billy Elliott a bloody nose and incenses the 800 St. Catharines supporters who followed the team in ten train cars to Brantford. The St. Catharines Standard (August 1903)

 

"That Kalls, the youngest lad playing senior lacrosse, should be so maimed is really shameful. Neeley has always had the reputation of playing clean, but...it looks very much as though Neeley was at least intentionally careless."  Hall-of-Fame bound George Kalls draws extra attention in a rough game played in Brantford. The St. Catharines Standard (August 1903)

 

"The crowd had not forgotten their little catch phrases of "kill him","cut him" etc., but such yells were for the most part confined to some of the more enthusiastic youths, and it was not at all uncommon to hear them severely reprimanded by their elders for engaging in such barbarous language." Comment in The Brantford Expositor after a game in St. Catharines in September 1903.

 

"It has happened. It will go down as the greatest day in St. Catharines in the history of lacrosse. The St. Catharines Daily Standard (May 1904) after the A's open the season with a victory over rival Brantford.

 

"A game that was a most magnificent one and brought visitors from many places at a distance, several being present from Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Toronto, Buffalo, and Chatham, in addition to about 450 Brantfordites. In short, it was one of the greatest games ever seen in the country. More exuberance from the pages of The St. Catharines Daily Standard after a 2-all tie was played out versus Brantford at the St. Catharines Lacrosse Grounds in June 1904.

 

There was a dispute, and in the delay, many spectators went onto the field. Numerous vigorous demonstrations were made against Jack, and the Athletics' players surrounded him to protect him against possible violence by the enraged spectators. Referee Hugh Jack is poorly treated at the Lacrosse Grounds after calling back a game-tying goal by the A's Eddie Hagan in a match with the Tecumsehs. The St. Catharines Daily Standard (July 1904)

 

"He was in the way of the ball on nearly every occasion; and he had a great supply of luck, too; balls hit his body and head - every place but the net. Athletics shooters are frustrated by goaltender Hutton of Brantford in September 1904 as reported in The St. Catharines Daily Standard.

 

"The fence jumpers were on hand as usual, as well as the knot-hole rubbernecks. Some of the regular spectators at the Lacrosse Grounds continue to avoid admission prices. The St. Catharines Standard (September 1904)

 

1905 – A’s win their first of eight consecutive Globe Shield championships (Ontario Senior). The team imports future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Corey Hesse, defensive specialist Don Cameron (both of Cornwall) and the former Tecumseh's star, centre James "Grassy" Forrester (Fergus). The A's travel to Montreal to play the N. A. L. U. champion Shamrocks for the Minto Cup (lose in two).

 

" 'His certificate will be here tomorrow.' Words and music by Corey Hesse, sung with great success by the management of the Athletic Lacrosse Club, St. Catharines. The above popular ballad that has been breathed into the ears of enquiring worshippers of the game here by the new management committee of the local club...the clever little goal tender has signed with St. Catharines and will play with the Athletics for 1905.The St. Catharines Daily Standard (May 1905)

 

"And the home is entirely home-brewed. But it is the lightest and cleverest that the Garden City has turned out in recent years. They play well out in the field and come in with a rush, crossing and re-crossing the field in a style well calculated to mix-up a defence.The Toronto Telegram (May 1905)

 

"To who's address shall we send the Globe Shield?Quote from a Brantford Lacrosse Club official reported in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (August 1905)

 

"If St. Kitts were ever to get that Minto boilerplate over to the corner lot, wouldn't there be a nice time getting it away from them? It would be just about the same proposition as getting the Stanley Cup out of Ottawa. Quote from Joe Lally (Cornwall) reported in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (August 1905)

 

"It rained almost every day we were away and we went on the field for the second game about as useless a bunch as you can imagine."  A's player Eddie Hagan quoted in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (September 1905)

 

1906 – the Athletics press member teams of the C. L. A. to adopt a 60 - 40, home - visitor split of gate receipts. This compels the two Toronto franchises, the Torontos and the Tecumsehs, to jump to the National Lacrosse Union (who have now formally dropped the word "Amateur" from their title). After the Brantford Seniors fold, the C. L. A. suspend senior operations for the year and the Athletics are left without opponents to play.

 

"St. Kitts unintentionally did the lacrosse world a whole lot of good. They forced the Toronto clubs into the N. L. U. and the result is the greatest lacrosse union Canada has ever known. This knowledge must give St. Kitts a lot of satisfaction." The Toronto Telegram (June 1906)
"So St. Kitts can’t stand the strain any longer. The Old Boys must have senior lacrosse of some kind, no matter what it costs. Perhaps even now they are sorry that enlarged heads made them try to dictate terms to the other senior C. L. A. that disposed of that organization far more effectively than all the proposed amendments that ever came before the C. L. A. convention." The Toronto Telegram (June 1906)

 

"As the smallest child already is aware, senior lacrosse is as necessary in St. Catharines as is rain to the farmer." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1906)

 

1907

 

– goaltender Corey Hesse returns for one more season in St. Catharines and nineteen-year-old Billy Fitzgerald electrifies the crowds at the "old corner lot" as the Athletics go 12 - 0 in Canadian Lacrosse Association action.

 

 

"It seems a pity that the C. L. A. senior series should be so weak-kneed as to admit St. Kitts to the fold at this late date. It is time the sulkers on the Welland Canal were taught a lesson. They make more trouble than all the other teams in the C. L. A. combined." The Toronto Telegram (April 1907)

 

"AT THE GAME BETWEEN THE BUFFALO AND SAINT CATHARINES TEAMS: TRYING TO BLOCK THE BALL"

The Buffalo Illustrated Express, July 21, 1907

 

"...almost two thousand persons started in pursuit of the team. When the bridge was reached, the Chief (of Police) and his two men jumped from the bus and instantly took up their positions at the approach to the bridge, drawing seven shooters which stared the mob in the face as they continued in their mad flight." The St. Catharines Daily Standard reports on the police protection afforded the Athletics as they are chased by an angry mob to the Brantford train depot in August 1907.

 

1908 – the Athletics field another very strong team and defeat the N. L. U.’s Torontos and Tecumsehs. The Montreal Shamrocks informally agree to play the Athletics for the Minto Cup once they have completed their games with Vancouver. But Vancouver wins the two games in Montreal and takes the coveted silverware to the west coast where it would reside until it became a trophy for the Canadian junior lacrosse champions in 1937. The A's late 1908 challenge to Vancouver for a Minto Cup showdown are denied. In October, A's goaltender Frank Dixon plays for the gold medal winning Canadian national team at the London summer Olympics.

 

"The team held a meeting the other night and agreed to cut out beer and cigarettes till after the games are over." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (August 1908)

 

Five 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." Goaltender Frank Dixon of the Athletics and the Canadian National team recalls some of his experiences in England during the London Olympics for The St. Catharines Daily Standard (November 1908)

 

1910 – after claiming their sixth Globe Shield by winning both ends of a home and home playoff against the Young Torontos, they are given a late night welcome home with a wild celebration and parade through the city’s downtown streets. The A’s are then denied an opportunity to host the first Mann Cup championship over allegations of professionalism. The C. L. A. runners-up Young Torontos, despite the protests of their own league, host the contest and become the first holders of the golden trophy.

 

"St. Catharines was all expectant this afternoon to find out the result of the game at Toronto. Hundreds of telephone calls were received at the Standard office asking about the score and a large crowd waited for the bulletins." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (September 1910)

 

"There was great cheering as the team and their supporters marched from the station to the conveyances consigned to them. Secretary-Captain McIlwain and President W. J. Lee took seats in the mayor’s carriage. In a few minutes the parade started on its route through the streets, which were lined by cheering thousands." The Athletics are given a late night welcome home after claiming the C. L. A. title in Toronto. The St. Catharines Daily Standard (September 1910)

 

"In half an hour after starting, the parade arrived at Shipman’s Gore where it halted, and Mayor McBride rose in the carriage to speak. He could not do so for a few minutes on account of the vociferous cheering. When quiet was obtained he said:......" St. Catharines Mayor McBride prepares to address the gathered crowd at a late night Athletics' victory celebration.  The St. Catharines Daily Standard (September 1910)

 

"The Athletics of St. Catharines won their series with the help of players who could not qualify as amateurs in competition for the Mann Cup."  Quote from the Mann Cup Trustees reported in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (October 1910)

1911 – plans underway to send the A’s to Stockholm to represent Canada at the 1912 Olympics. This is dashed when lacrosse is dropped from Olympic competition.

 

"That St. Kitts is the greatest lacrosse town in the world, and produces more real lacrosse players, is being demonstrated every year. We grow them here, and have done so for over a quarter of a century." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1911)

 

"Neither Vancouver not Toronto showed the snap that has for years marked St. Catharines as an A1 lacrosse team, and it is a pity that the Garden City boys will have no chance to demonstrate their right to the Mann Cup." The Toronto Mail and Empire (October 2011)

 

1912 – the A’s are in decline with the loss in recent years to the N. L. U. of players of the stature of George Kalls, Billy Fitzgerald, Freddie Stagg, Pete Barnett and Willie Hope, but succeed in winning their eighth Globe Shield. They travel to Vancouver in October to challenge for the Mann Cup but are resoundingly defeated. The Mann challenge, hoped to resurrect flagging fan support, may have contributed to just the opposite.

 

"The Sir Thomas Mann Gold Cup is fulfilling the purposes of its donor. A team of Canadians from the Niagara frontier is to cross the continent to meet a team of fellow Canadians on the Pacific slope." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (September 1912)

 

"Personally and officially I, with all citizens wish you every success. We know you will do your best." Telegram from St. Catharines' mayor W. H. Merritt as reported in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (October 1912)

 

"Come on boys, remember old club, old town and old victories." Telegram from former club officials Joe Timmons and Fred Beard as reported in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (October 1912)

 

"They have strengthened greatly since they were east. They are heavy and fast." A's player Frank Dixon quoted in The St. Catharines Daily Standard (October 1912)

 

 

 

Back row: George Collins, Lorne Tufford, Pat Haffey, Art Herr, Hedley Marriott, Frank Dixon, Howard Carl

Middle row: W. J. "Billie" Lee (President), Ivan McSloy, Corby Richards, Harry Flynn, Art Gayder, Art MacGlashan, Frank McIlwain (Field Captain)

Front row: Billy Aubron, Harry Cerney (Trainer), Bobby Milne

1913 – A’s fail to defend their championship and the Globe Shield goes to the Brampton Excelsiors. The A's travel to Chicago in September to play a post-season exhibition game against the Calumets at Comiskey Park.

 

"The players are a younger crowd who are playing the self same game which brought fame to the Garden City; but the crowd! Oh, where have they gone to? No, it is not there, filling every inch of space as of yore." The St. Catharines Daily Standard (June 1913)

 

1914 – the A’s drop to Intermediate (Senior "B") for one season while the popularity of lacrosse diminishes everywhere in the months heading into the Great War.

 

"There was little lacrosse to yesterday’s struggle. Rather it was the case of earnest effort to see which players could qualify for action in the present war." The Athletics lose in a roughly played Senior "B" final against the Toronto Maitlands played at Hamilton's Britannia Park. The Hamilton Spectator (August 1914)

 

-- JUNIOR CHAMPIONS - ATHLETICS --

On September 28th, the Junior Athletics claim the Ontario title with a 12- 7 win over Bracebridge in a one-game final played in Newmarket, Ontario. "The St. Kitts team and supporters arrived home at 3:45 Sunday morning and even at the late - or early - hour, some lacrosse fans were on hand to receive them and bore the visitors in triumph to their homes." The St. Catharines Standard (September 1914)

1915 – the Senior "A" league is reduced to just two teams (Torontos and Athletics). The A's register a 0 – 2 record.

 

1917 – the Athletics travel to Chicago to play a benefit game against the Calumets at Weegman’s Park (to be renamed Wrigley Field in 1926). The game raises thousands of dollars to supply cigarettes to the American soldiers fighting in Europe. The team returns home to a storm of controversy after the Calumets use two professional players (ex-A's George Kalls and Billy Fitzgerald) to bolster their roster, "tainting" the A’s now amateur status. Original Athletic James Adie receives the news of the loss of 21-year-old son Allan at the World War 1 Battle of Passchendaele. In 1918, the Adies would then lose sons Archibald and John while they served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Europe.

 

"As far as the Athletics are concerned over their playing against Fitzgerald and Kalls, they are justly proud of having had the opportunity of doing so." Athletics secretary Bert Gadsby quoted in The St. Catharines Standard (August 1917)

 

1918 – pro stars Billy Fitzgerald and George Kalls return home and put together a classy Athletics team in the dream of reviving interest in the sport (suffering not only in St. Catharines but in most of the former lacrosse hotbeds since the start of the First World War). All hopes of a championship (even a challenge for the Minto Cup) end with a late season injury to Fitzgerald.

 

 

"The old-time fans sat up, took notice and said 'It's the real thing; when's the next game?' " The St. Catharines Daily Standard (July 1918)

 

"It was a treat to hear the Toronto fans cheer Fitzgerald and Kalls when they time after time performed some of their lightning moves." The St. Catharines Daily Standard after the Athletics play the Toronto Maitlands at Cottingham Square (July 1918)

 

1919 – many of the Athletics are suspended by the Ontario Amateur Lacrosse Association for playing with and against professional players in 1918.

 

1920 – the main grandstand at the lacrosse grounds is destroyed by fire.

 

-- JUNIOR CHAMPIONS - ATHLETICS --

The Junior Athletics defeat Hanover by the scores of 21 - 2 and 6 - 5 in a home and away Ontario final. "It was an enthusiastic multitude that welcomed home the conquering heroes of the Young Athletics lacrosse team, junior champions of the O. A. L. A. The station was practically blocked with autos, the platform was one huge wedge of people, and when the train pulled in, the cheering was tumultuous." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1920)

1921 – Athletics return to Ontario Senior competition.

 

"And regarding (John) Richardson, the old fans heaved a sigh of regret when they saw him work his old-time blocking tactics and quick recovery of the ball. The remark was heard here and there over the bleachers with shakes of the head: 'We’re not turning out players of that type and caliber any more.'" Report from the Oldboys' Lacrosse Game in The St. Catharines Standard (July 1921)

 

-- JUNIOR CHAMPIONS - ALERTS --

The Alerts of St. Catharines go undefeated for 1921 and capture the Ontario crown with a final win over Hanover. "A bit of excitement was caused near the dressing room when some over zealous fan from Hanover tried to hit Brookland over the head with a megaphone. Sergt. Brett galloped to the scene and restored peace before the melee got beyond bounds." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1921)

1922 – the fabled Athletic Lacrosse Grounds, affectionately known as the “old corner lot,” are torn down to make way for the construction of a high school. The city promises to build a new stadium as the A’s move into their “temporary” home at the unfenced Thomas Street sports field.

 

 

 

1923 "Henry O’ Loughlin recalled old lacrosse days in the Garden City in 1876 when he and J. S. Carlisle entered the game and thought that if lacrosse were taken out of his life there would not be much left in it." Former Lincoln County Sheriff O' Laughlin speaking at a Welland House banquet for the touring Oxford-Cambridge university lacrosse team. The St. Catharines Standard (August 1923)

 

" One of the nicest goals of the game was one made by Pearson when he intercepted a pass near his own goal, made a pretty run the length of the field, passing a couple of players and scoring on a one-handed shot." Future Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson scores one of his seven goals for the touring Oxford-Cambridge university team in a match with the Athletics at the Thomas Street Grounds. The St. Catharines Standard (August 1923)

 

1924 – the A’s field the strongest team in years but are fined and have a win overturned by the O. A. L. A. for the playing of Percy Oille. Oille, who played junior and senior for years in St. Catharines, is claimed to be ineligible under the “non-residence” ruling. The management of the Athletics suspect back-room politicking and fold the team in protest.

 

"It has been difficult for the Seniors to get much practice together this week. Most of them are on teams in the City League, and played Tuesday and again last night." The St. Catharines Standard (May 1924)

 

"A fence will be erected across the field so as to keep the crowd back, for on Saturday last they over-ran the field and it was difficult for the players when the ball rolled among the spectators." The St. Catharines Standard (May 1924)

 

1926 – the great Billy Fitzgerald dies of peritonitis at the age of 38 and a benefit game for his family featuring the stars of yesteryear is played before a large crowd in St. Catharines. Fond memories are rekindled and many begin to clamour for the return of the “famous Athletics.”

 

"There were three players who stood out in the last years of professional lacrosse in Canada. They were Fitzgerald, Newsy Lalonde and Charlie Querrie. Fitzgerald had the lacrosse brains of Querrie and Lalonde, and he had the speed that was denied them." The Toronto Mail and Empire (May 1926)

 

 

1928 – the St. Catharines Athletics return under the sponsorship of the local Taylor & Bate brewery and post a 10 win - 9 loss record in the five team senior O. A. L. A. 

 

1929 – the winless T&B Athletics fold in mid-season after management decides that they can't "maintain the prestige of St. Catharines from a strictly amateur standpoint." The last senior field lacrosse team is fielded by the St. Catharines Athletics L. C.

 

"The writer feels this as a personal loss, as we evinced a great liking for the team, every one of them." Sports columnist Clayton Browne in The St. Catharines Standard (June 1929)

 

1932 – a lacrosse “cushion” is built at the Thomas Street sports field to support the new game of box lacrosse. In subsequent years it would be expanded, play host to pro wrestling, concerts, roller-skating (when paved) and above all, countless minor, junior and senior lacrosse games. It would eventually take the name of Haig Bowl (after a street bordering it) and would exist in various rebuilt forms until 1973.

 

-- JUNIOR CHAMPIONS - ATHLETICS --

The A's emerged as the champions of the city junior box lacrosse league before rolling past Niagara Falls, Fergus, Harold Ballard's Toronto Sea Fleas and finally the Cornwall Nationals to claim the Iroquois Cup. "Many a light sparkled in the eyes of grey and bent lacrosse veterans whom their memory recalled similar events of yore as St. Catharines and its suburbs turned out in large numbers on Saturday night or Sunday morning to pay due respects to a team that had lived true to its famous double blue colours." The St. Catharines Standard (November 1932)

1933 – the St. Catharines Sr. Athletics return, but now to the new game of box lacrosse. They play in a newly formed O. A. L. A. "International district" (senior "B") with Port Dalhousie, Brantford, Ohsweken and Rochester, New York.

 

1934 – the Athletics secure a spot in Group 2 of the O. A. L. A senior "A" circuit and the lacrosse box is enlarged to a seating capacity of 1,000 with the addition of two new bleacher sections on the south side of the "cushion".

 

"The Athletics traveled one thousand miles this year to play eight games out of town and five cars made each trip. In addition to the players, Coach Herb Millar, Manager Jack Manning and President Dan Millar are to be congratulated for their work." The St. Catharines Standard (August 1934)

 

-- JUNIOR CHAMPIONS - ATHLETICS --

With the financial support of millionaire spark-plug developer (and one-time St. Catharines resident) David Bloss Mills, the Athletics claim another Iroquois Cup title after a final win in Cornwall. "Thirty Garden City fans who came by private motor, bus, truck and freight train helped swell the number of spectators who watched the game played under flood lights at the athletic park here." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1934)

1935 – Irv Lounsbury returns to the Athletics after his indefinite suspension for professionalism was lifted by the O. A. L. A. Lounsbury had played for the Montreal Maroons of the International Pro Lacrosse League in 1932 and was rumoured to have taken part in a professional game in Pittsburgh in 1933.

 

"The memory of the late Frankie Williams, one of the original wearers of the double blue, crested with the familiar 'A', will be honored tomorrow when the fans and players alike observe one minute's silence before the game starts." The St. Catharines Standard (June 1935)

 

-- JUNIOR CHAMPIONS - ATHLETICS --

With eight future Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famers in its line-up, the Jr. Athletics of 1935 go undefeated on the year culminating in a 25 - 7 win over Mimico in the Iroquois Cup final. "It was unfortunate that the deciding game had to assume such lop-sided proportions." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1935)

1936 – growing popularity of box lacrosse prompts the Parks Board to entirely rebuild the “cushion”, increasing the seating capacity to 2,200 and adding lighting ("36,000 candle power") and new double ticket windows.

 

"St. Kitts Athletics acknowledged with regret that McMahon has gone northward." The St. Catharines Standard (April 1936)

St. Catharines native Jack McMahon of the 1936 Orillia Terriers

 

-- JUNIOR CHAMPIONS - ATHLETICS --

The Jr. Athletics of 1936 would actually absorb the team's first loss in three seasons with a crushing 21 - 8 beat-down to the Toronto Marlboros at Maple Leaf Gardens in their playoff opener. But the team would bounce back to take the series 2 games to 1 before cruising on by Orillia and Cornwall to close out what had become a junior lacrosse dynasty. "Their victory column (championship titles) has only been eclipsed by Toronto Beaches with five wins during 1915-6-7-8-9 and matched by Toronto St. Simon's in 1923-4-5 and Toronto Irish Canadians in 1926-7-8." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1936)

In ovals: H. Johnston, William Mackie, G. Meyers, Jimmy Joy

Back row: Doug Cove, Roy Morton, Tom Teather

Middle row: Roy Barnard (Trainer), I. Kirkland, Jack Cheevers, Ed Kalinowski, Dan Millar (Sec-Treas), George Hope (captain), Russ Masterson, Frank Madsen

Front row: Mel Soper (Coach), Vince Baker, R. Lamb, J. Laurenson (Trainer), Jack Manning (President), L. Cunningham, George Teather, Chuck Stuart (Manager)

Front: mascots Norm MacDonald, R. Walsh

photo courtesy of Nickerson Appliances, St. Catharines

1938 – The Parks Board spends $1,492.98 to increase the seating capacity of the Haig Bowl to 3,825 and install a comfort station.

 

"The officials of the Athletics Lacrosse Club wish to express their appreciation to Charles H. Smith and Son, proprietors of Sunshine Dairy of this city for the donation of the 1938 jerseys to the senior team. The club is supplying the silk 'panties' to complete the outfits. St. Catharines is one of the smartest-appearing clubs in the senior O. A. L. A." The St. Catharines Standard (May 1938)

 

– the Athletics win their first Mann Cup by defeating the New Westminster Adanacs 3 games to 0 in matches played at Maple Leaf Gardens. 12,000 fans greet the Mann Cup champion A's upon their 1 am return from Toronto on a cool, damp October weeknight. A's radio announcer Rex Stimers becomes an impromptu M. C. at a gathering in front of radio station CKTB after a parade through downtown St. Catharines. Population of St. Catharines in 1938: 25,000.

 

"After missing one game, Morton begged Coach Brown to let him back in there. His pleas were answered, and he has starred in the last two victories." The St. Catharines Standard (September 1938) after two cracked ribs briefly sidelined scoring ace Roy "Pung" Morton.

 

"When you have players possessed of the shooting ability of 'Bucko' McDonald, Bill Brunskill, and 'Onions' Smith blazing them at you from a few feet out, one is really on the spot, but Billy time and again came through with marvelous stops." The St. Catharines Standard (September 1938) on the goaltending heroics of Bill Whitaker in the Ontario finals against the Orillia Terriers.

 

 

 

"If he could play hockey as well as he plays lacrosse, we'd sign him on the spot for $20,000." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1938) prints quote from Toronto Maple Leaf general manager Conn Smythe about Pung Morton.

 

"It is St. Catharines' first Mann Cup and the elation of Garden City sportsmen today will know no bounds." W. T. (Tommy) Munns, The Toronto Globe and Mail (October 1938)

 

"Congratulations are offered the club and the players, not forgetting the Garden City itself for being one of the oasis in the lacrosse desert when Canada's national game seemed doomed to extinction." J. P. Fitzgerald, The Toronto Telegram (October 1938)

 

"The Athletics are the fastest team ever to step on a lacrosse field. They play with their heads as well as their sticks. To my mind they are one of the greatest teams lacrosse ever produced." St. Catharines First United Church Rev. F. S. Dowling (and turn-of-the-century Orangeville Dufferin), The St. Catharines Standard (October 1938)

 

"A former great team in St. Catharines won eight amateur Ontario championships, but the present day team is among the greatest yet." Turn-of-the-century Athletic Frank McIllwain, The St. Catharines Standard (October 1938)

 

"Teachers as a rule like to boast a bit about their old pupils who become distinguished. Many of the Athletics were my pupils. Honestly I cannot help blowing about them and telling people that several of them went to school to me, although I never taught them lacrosse." Principle A. E. "Scout" Coombs of the Collegiate Institte, The St. Catharines Standard (October 1938)

photo courtesy of John Sheehan

 

1939 – the Haig Bowl is expanded to 4,200 seats making it the largest outdoor lacrosse stadium in the world. Fans still line up three hours before game time to get a seat.

 

"It is hard to stop a team which sends out reserves equally as fast as the fellows they are replacing. It is this sustained speed which has spelt 'finis' to the Athletics opponents for the past two years." Toronto Maple Leaf owner Conn Smythe, in The St. Catharines Standard (September 1939)

 

– Carl Holger Madsen is named league MVP.

 

"Captain Madsen has never been guilty of rough tactics or poor sportsmanship and it is with the greatest pleasure that I present the Murphy Memorial Trophy." O. L. A. President Russell T. Kelly,  The St. Catharines Standard (September 1939)

 

– A’s travel to British Columbia to defend their Mann Cup title but lose to the New Westminster Adanacs in three games. A reported 8,000 well-wishers greet the team on their arrival back home and the erupted festivities rival that of the victory celebration of a year earlier.

 

"The management of the McKinnon - Columbus Chain Co. of this city have courteously granted leave of absence with three weeks full pay to all members of St. Catharines senior Athletics in their employ." The St. Catharines Standard (September 1939)

 

"Well over 5,000 sports and citizen public jammed the C. N. R. station in a throng that held the New York flier six minutes behind schedule, as players were forced to crowd their way through ranks of admirers." The St. Catharines Standard (September 1939)

 

"They were all pleased to meet me as I was to meet them."  1880 Athletic K. J. Johnston meets members of the 1939 Athletics as they stop-over in Winnipeg, Manitoba during their trek to the west coast. The St. Catharines Standard (September 1939)

 

"Roy "Punk" Morton received a wire just before game time that he was the daddy of a baby girl." The Vancouver Sun (October 1939)

 

"Billy Fitzgerald is a spitting image of his dad, who played for Con Jones' Terminals in 1911. But young Fitzgerald spent eight minutes in the cooler last night, and most of his time on the floor slapping wrists with Ken Matheson . . . No dividend in that." The Vancouver Sun (October 1939)

 

"St. Catharines were I'll-see-you-round-the-corner mad when they came into their dressing room last night at the Forum. The easterners were not so angry at being beaten, but they had it for Ken Matheson of the Adanacs. One is inclined to believe that they'll be "gunning" for Ken before the series concluded." The Vancouver Sun (October 1939)

 

"St. Catharines were a wet bunch of rags at the final whistle. They were still in the thick of the verbal argument, my, yes, but their parched tongues hung down almost to their shoestrings. They simply couldn't stand the Adanac pace." The Vancouver Sun (October 1939)

 

"It is a saddened St. Catharines and joyous New Westminster today. Our gallant Athletics gave every ounce of everything they had in the futile effort to retain the battered mug." Sports columnist Clayton Browne, The St. Catharines Standard (October 1939)

 

"We can take the bitter with the sweet." St. Catharines Mayor Charles Daley, The St. Catharines Standard (October 1939)

 

1940 – Athletics win second Mann Cup, beating the Vancouver Burrards in four games at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens.

 

"Family expenses of members of the champion A's will be considerably lightened this week and following as they are dined and feted right and left." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1940)

 

1941 – Athletics win third Mann Cup, beating the Richmond Farmers 3 games to 2 in B.C. In the deciding game, centre Joe Cheevers fills in for injured goaltender Bill Whittaker in the Athletics net. Art Brown retires as coach of the A's, later to become president of the O. L. A. and eventually the C. L. A. president as well.

Bill Fitzgerald Jr., Bill Wilson, Coach Art Brown, Announcer Rex Stimers, Roy Morton

 

"I must be getting old or this traveling doesn't agree with me. I never did like trains anyways." Veteran player Bill Wilson as reported in the Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

"Gol darn it. I read the rule book through and through yesterday and they don't call it the way I read it." Veteran player Bill Fitzgerald Jr. as reported in the Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

"Well men, win or lose we go home Tuesday evening and I think it would be much nicer to take the Mann Cup with us." Athletics Coach Art Brown as reported in the Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

"Indicative of the St. Catharines spirit was goalie Bill Whittaker who was smashed full on the nose with a terrific shot by Bill Lee. Whittaker retired to the dressing room for first aid, came back with some adhesive plaster on his bloppy schnozzola and continued to stonewall the Farmers' offerings." The Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

" 'You get a receipt from the Red Cross for that pint?' someone yelled." (to Bill Whitaker upon his return to the floor). The Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

"Thought Fitzgerald suffered the worst slashing of the game when he was cut across the back of his legs from behind . . . but the referees accepted it as routine checking." Sports Columnist Hal Straight in The Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

"After the final whistle both teams circled in the centre of the floor and shook hands, making one think of a Frat house reunion or visiting Rotarians . . . They pulled some form of strip tease by exchanging sweaters." Sports Columnist Hal Straight in The Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

"There'll be a hot time in the li'l ol' town of St. Catharines Saturday night." Homeward-bound  Bill Fitzgerald Jr. at the Vancouver train station as reported in the Vancouver Sun (October 1941)

 

"They defeated a good team and two so-called referees." St. Catharines radio station CKTB sports announcer Rex Stimers (October 1941)

 

"Fire siren stop poles along St. Paul Street screamed for several minutes, horns honked, celebrants waved and shouted and noise-makers of all sorts were effectively used in the celebration which continued from shortly past 10 o'clock to nearly midnight." The St. Catharines Standard (October 1941)

 

"It isn't every night that we can welcome the Athletics home with the Mann Cup. But it sure seems like it."  Unidentified street celibrant as reported in The St. Catharines Standard (October 1941)

 

"They have brought more glory to St. Catharines than any other organization that ever existed." Dominion government wartime production executive Harry J. Carmichael as reported in The St. Catharines Standard (October 1941)

 

1942 – Bill Wilson semi-retires and becomes coach of the Athletics. George Urquhart (Navy) and rugged Roy "Bun" Barnard (Army) become the first to leave the Athletics for the military. A united Mimico and Brampton team form the hybrid "Mimico-Brampton Combines" and dethrone the Athletics as Mann Cup champions. An Athletics-Combines game in the Ontario finals drew 3,080 fans to the Haig Bowl in September. Carl Madsen is added to the Combines' line-up for the Mann Cup finals to give "Gus" three Canadian titles in a row.

 

1943 – Bill Wilson stays on as the team's player-coach while nearly half of the double-blue roster joins E. H. Lancaster's 10th Battery reserve unit. Jack "Wandy" McMahon and a young Bobby Thorpe leave St. Catharines for the Number 24 Basic Training Centre in Brampton and spend the summer playing lacrosse for the army-based Brampton Bullets in the senior O. L. A. Roy Barnard and Bobby Melville are both wounded while serving with the Canadian Army fighting in Italy.

 

1944 – George Cleverly becomes coach and a depleted and injury-prone Athletics team win their fourth Mann Cup, beating the New Westminster Salmonbellies 3 games to 2 in games played in Toronto and Hamilton. The A's executive battle unsuccessfully with the C. L. A. to allow a Mann Cup game to be played at the Haig Bowl. The wild celebrations of earlier Mann Cup wins is notably absent as the team returns home from Hamilton to a quiet and sleeping St. Catharines.

 

"We did not travel 3,000 miles to play on a dirt floor. Moreover, we hear the fans down there send up a barrage of stones at visiting goalies. It is final, definite and irrevocable - our team will not go to St. Catharines for a game on Thursday." New Westminster Salmonbellies coach Jack Wood as reported in The St. Catharines Standard (October 1944)

 

"What started out to be a double-blue team comprised entirely of Garden City players, found the dubious Saints executive adding the services of Bill Isaacs, Whoopee Arthurs and Scoop Hayes." Frank "Piper" Bain writing in the Orillia News-Letter (October 1944)

 

1945 - A’s travel west to defend Mann Cup title but lose to the Vancouver Burrards in three games. Goaltender Bill Whitaker is named league MVP, but later is banned from C. L. A. play after striking referee Jimmy Gunn at the Mann showdown. Joe Cheevers suffers a broken leg in a motorcycle accident while serving with the Canadian Army in Germany.

 

"We'd say the presence of Billy Nelson of the R.C.A.F. had a lot to do with the win, along with navy men Spark Urquhart and Billy Mackie." The St. Catharines Standard (June 1945)
"Saturday night's celebration of "Whittaker Night" at Haig Bowl was only half a success. The 1,000 payees were grimly disappointed that they did not see "Big Bill" Whittaker presented with the Jimmy Murphy Memorial Trophy, as the MVP of all the 1945 crop of stylists. Reason for that was the inability to locate the trophy." The St. Catharines Standard (August 1945)

 

"The skeptics will tell you here today that they "told you so" and the die was cast when Saints elected to take all those aging vets along and string them into action." Sports columnist Clayton Browne, The St. Catharines Standard (October 1945)
1946 - Athletics win fifth Mann Cup (the second for Cleverly as coach), beating the New Westminster Salmonbellies 3 games to 0. Goaltender Doug Favell Sr. is named Mann Cup MVP.
"We let too many loose men skip around the floor for easy goals." New Westminster Salmonbellies coach Jack Wood as reported in The St. Catharines Standard (October 1946)
"Those Athletics were deadly in on the finish and a fine team - I'd say they were better than when they beat us two years ago." New Westminster Salmonbellies coach Jack Wood as reported in The St. Catharines Standard (October 1946)

 

"Favell, a Royal Canadian Navy lookout for three years, dived from his net to the edge of the crease, leaped into the air on countless occasions and was struck twice in the head with the ball as he played faultlessly in the cage of the new champions." The Montreal Gazette (October 1946)

 

1948 - Jack "Wandy" McMahon coaches a strong Athletics team but are upset in the Ontario semi-finals by an underdog Hamilton Tigers squad that features St. Kitts' expatriots Joe Cheevers, Doug Favell, Tom Teather, Tony Capula and Barney Welch. The Tigers go on to win the Mann Cup in 1948 and 24-year-old Favell wins his second Mann Cup series MVP award.

 

1949 - the team's top three scorers from 1948 (Jim McMahon, Stu Scott, and Bill Nelson) are each suspended by the O. L. A. for the entire 1949 season for playing winter lacrosse in Rochester, New York. New rule changes move the nets out to 12 feet from the back boards and this permits players to run behind them. 20-year-old Jerry Fitzgerald completes his fifth and final season with the senior Athletics as he joins the growing exodus of St. Catharines' players transferring to Peterborough.

Jeremiah "Jerry" Fitzgerald

Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame

 

"The boys went to Owen Sound short handed when some A's reneged. That forced Coach Jack McMahon to hop back into squad togs and they did not fit any too well."  The St. Catharines Standard (May 1949)
1950 – Joe Cheevers becomes the coach while WWII "Devil's Brigade" veteran Pat Smith is voted captain. Average regular season attendance drops below 1,000 but the team manages to draw capacity crowds at the Haig Bowl for playoff dates against Hamilton and Owen Sound. The A's go to the seventh game of the Ontario finals before bowing to the eventual Mann Cup champions, the slow-moving, ball-control oriented Owen Sound Crescents.

 

"Harry Wipper, long-geared Athletic defenseman, started the Saints away with one of his typical "away from home" performances. Running miles and hawking every loose ball within reaching distance, Wipper was almost a one man show." The St. Catharines Standard (September 1950)

 

"If it possible at all, Harry Wipper will be flown in from McGill "U", for there'll be no seventh start if A's slip and slump here tonight. It just takes 120 cash fare to pay his plane trip home and back, but is it ever worth that to Athletics." The St. Catharines Standard (September 1950)

 

"Who said lacrosse was declining in our Garden City? Surely not after that splendiferous gathering of the Haig Bowl last night." Sports columnist Clayton Browne after 4,000 attend an A's playoff game. The St. Catharines Standard (September 1950)

 

1951 – Joe Cheevers returns as coach but is hard-pressed to replace youthful 1950 standouts Harry Wipper, Donald "Nip" O'Hearn, Jim McNulty and Leo Teatro, who have all signed with other teams, as well as retiring veteran stalwarts Pat Smith, Carson Myers, Frank Madsen and goaltending legend Bill Whitaker. Whitaker returns just before the playoffs, but the fourth-place Athletics make a quick post-season exit.

 

1952 – Season highlight was a late July exhibition game of the current A's versus the 1938 - 41 era champions. The 1952 team put together a 19 - 17 win on a night dripping with nostalgia, but the Joe Cheevers' squad of '52 would be the first A's team to record a losing record since 1934.

 

"Like old man river, he just keeps rolling along. That's Big Bill Whittaker, plucked from retirement by the persistent talking of Coach Joe Cheevers." The St. Catharines Standard (May 1952)
"Coach Joe Cheevers, on the prowl for more defence strength, announced this morning that he succeeded in signing a Hobart University lacrosse star to a double blue contract." The St. Catharines Standard (June 1952)
"Sometimes I wonder why I play this game at all" Athletics player Bill Bradshaw after a rough night in Peterborough. The St. Catharines Standard (September 1952)
1953 - The Doug Cove coached Athletics move indoors to the Garden City Arena and begin to offer more monetary incentives to attract players. But attendance figures continue to decline as fans complained of the heat inside the arena and the team's finances were pushed into the red. On the bright side, A's defenseman Doug Smith is the league’s top scorer and the team rebounds to a 24 - 6 regular season record, good for second place behind Peterborough. In mid-season, the rover position is eliminated from senior lacrosse and the six-man box lacrosse game is born. Also, the size of the nets are reduced from 4' 6" square to 4' square with the reduction of the number of players on the floor.

 

 

 

"If lacrosse doesn't click in St. Catharines this year, the entire subject might just as well be forgotten" O. L. A. President Art Brown after the Garden City Arena undergoes an expensive refit specifically for lacrosse and becomes the new home of the Athletics. The St. Catharines Standard (May 1953)

 

"With the added comfort of Garden City Arena...this should be the year of the great comeback." Sports columnist Jack Gatecliff in The St. Catharines Standard (May 1953)
1954 – after playing indoors for better than a year, the team moves back to the venerable Haig Bowl in mid-season. The seating capacity of the outdoor facility has been reduced to 2,800.

 

"The supporting timbers (of the Haig Bowl), which have been out in the weather for approximately 18 years, have weakened noticeably in the past two or three seasons and to avoid any possible collapse, the Parks Board is removing the top four rows of seats" The St. Catharines Standard (May 1954)

 

HAIG BOWL

St. Catharines, Ontario

photo courtesy of Bob Luey

 

"The shift to the open and clear (we hope) skies should be enthusiastically welcomed by the fans who have claimed that it is too hot for comfort inside during the real 'blast furnace' weather." Sports columnist Jack Gatecliff in The St. Catharines Standard (June 1954)

 

1955 – the Athletics return to the Garden City Arena.

 

1956 – in an effort to regain a contending team and stop the ongoing exodus of many star players, the Athletics executive decide they will not release any player from St. Catharines to other teams.  Tony D' Amico opts to sit out the entire season when he isn't given his release to play for Hamilton. The "Tank" Teather coached team are bolstered in the playoffs by a number of talented local juniors and provide a serious but unsuccessful challenge to the perennial champions from Peterborough in a roughly-played Ontario final.

 

1957 – Player-Coach Joe McNulty has a hard time recruiting enough bodies to fill uniforms on some nights while attendance figures have dropped to just a few hundred per game (in the early 1940's the team would get double that number in the stands to watch many practices.)

 

1958 -59 – the A's  move to nearby Welland and are renamed the Switsons. The team is coached by Carl Madsen and capture the Ontario crown in its first year in the Rose City, but fail to win over many fans in its new digs.

 

1960 – the A’s return to a rebuilt Haig Bowl in St. Catharines and Ron Roy is the league’s top scorer. Veteran star Jim McNulty returns home from B.C. to play for the Athletics and Port Dalhousie native son Bobby Thorpe takes over as coach. Average attendance is a disappointing 400 per game.

 

"He worked as hard as anyone out there then stayed out an hour after the other players had taken their showers, just to improve his shooting." Tank Teather observation of Jim McNulty. The St. Catharines Standard (June 1960)

 

 

 

1961 – Gary Moore is the league’s top scorer. Player-Coach Norm Corcoran and Manager Fred Conradi persuade Jimmy McMahon to come out of retirement, but after one game and one goal scored, the veteran star hangs them up for good. Billy Fitzgerald (Sr) is inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Old time fans are saddened in June by the sudden passing of the popular "Ali Baba", Carl "Gus" Madsen, at the age of 46.

 

 

 

 

Such boys as Hopey, Pung and Fitz

They all could take a whacking

But back behind they knew for sure

That Gus would give them backing

 

Oftimes from end to end he'd dash

To treat fans to a solo

Into the nets the ball would flash

Like a perfect bolo

 

These boys up front would play the game

And very seldom falter

For back behind they knew full well

Was that Rock of Gibralter

 

The run was short, the game well played

In life's hazardous bowl

But we that are left know full well

That Gus has scored his goal

 

                 George Ramsay (printed June 28, 1961 in the St. Catharines Standard)

 

 

"I was watching a practice the other night and I started thinking that if Bill McArthur could play for Orillia when he was 52 years of age, there's no reason I can't when I'm still in my forties." 47-year-old goaltending legend Bill Whittaker briefly contemplates a return. The St. Catharines Standard (July 1961)

 

1962 – Owner-Manager Fred Conradi installs Joe McNulty as coach of the Senior Athletics. Largest crowd of the season comes in the playoffs with just under 600 paid at the venerable Haig Bowl.

 

1963 – Athletics win the Ontario title and play for the Mann Cup but lose to the Vancouver Carlings in six games. The series is played in Cornwall Ontario.

 

"If we didn't think we had a real chance, we wouldn't bother going" Athletics manager Joe McNulty speaking of his under-dog A's traveling to the 1963 Mann Cup finals. The St. Catharines Standard (July 1961)

 

1964 – local Avondale Dairy become the sponsor of the Sr. Athletics and Derry Davies takes over as coach. Hard-checking Gary Hind is named league most valuable defenseman.

 

1965 – Joe Cheevers returns as coach of the Avondale Dairy Athletics. Son Gerry signs a hockey contract with the Boston Bruins in June and plays his last lacrosse. But also in late-June, the A's brain-trust of Jim Lomore/Joe Cheevers/Joe McNulty succeed in persuading long-bomb artist Gary Moore to come out of retirement and the dangerous two-man scoring punch of bomber Moore and the smooth-operating Ronnie Roy are reunited. Helmets become mandatory in the O. L. A. senior series.

photo courtesy of Keasha Roy and John Sheehan

 

"I realize that many of the players are working shifts. I don't expect them to miss work to play lacrosse. After all there isn't enough money in the game to put steak or even hamburg on the table. And most of these fellows are married with families. What I do expect though is that every player will be out for both home and away games when they aren't working. They gave me their word they'd honour that commitment before they signed." Coach Joe Cheevers in The St. Catharines Standard (May 1965)

 

"I told them they weren't playing lacrosse, that if didn't want to get out there and work they might as well pack it up." Coach Joe Cheevers in The St. Catharines Standard (June 1965)

 

1966 – veteran Doug Smith takes over as Player-Coach of the A's after the team very nearly folds before the season even starts. The A’s eventually do fold in mid-season due to a shortage of committed players. Iron-man Ted Howe is named the league MVP. A long and distinguished era of St. Catharines Athletics lacrosse comes to an inauspicious end.

 

"Only seven players reported to Haig Bowl for the trip to Brampton." Manager Joe McNulty in The St. Catharines Standard (July 1966)

 

"Its been tough going the past couple of seasons getting enough players out for home games and almost impossible to field a full roster when we are out of town." A's President Jim Lamore in The St. Catharines Standard (July 1966)

 

"The once promising lacrosse season here in St. Catharines is starting to look like the Merrittville Speedway after a demolition derby." Sports columnist Jack Gatecliff in The St. Catharines Standard (July 1966)

 

1985-6 – John Mouradian puts a team together, the Merchant Athletics, to play in the Ontario Senior "A" loop. The inexperienced squad have some individual standouts such as Jayde Gibbs, Ron Harinch, and Kevin McNulty, but struggle on the floor and at the box office.

 

1999 – Bill LeFeuvre brings Major level lacrosse back to St. Catharines. The famous Athletics are reborn and play out of the Jack Gatecliff Arena (formerly known as the Garden City Arena). Grant Johnston is named league MVP.

 

"It's great to have a major team. This community deserves one because it's been a hotbed of lacrosse for over 100 years." A's General Manager Bill LeFeuvre in The St. Catharines Standard (January 1999)

 

2001 – Goaltender Anthony Cosmo is named league MVP.

 

2002 – The A's move to the smaller Bill Burgoyne Arena. "Home brew" Mark Steenhuis is named league Rookie of the Year (shared with Peterborough Lakers Mike Miron).

 

"If things don't turn for the better, it will be our last year in St. Catharines." A's General Manager Bill LeFeuvre in The St. Catharines Standard (April 2002)

 

"My heart tells me, 'Yes.'" Athletics General Manager Bill LeFeuvre when asked if the team will be back in 2003 in The St. Catharines Standard (August 2002)

 

2003 – Mark Steenhuis is named league MVP and the A’s are O. L. A. regular season champions (Lionel Conacher Award). The Athletics and the Peterborough Lakers engage in an exciting seven-game, semi-final series that instills a buzz in the local lacrosse community not heard in many decades for senior lacrosse.

 

 

 

 

“A St. Catharines Flying Club instructor is prepared to fly to Owen Sound and bring him back.” Athletics General Manager Bill LeFeuvre speaking of the efforts to bring home stellar player Pat McCready for a playoff game in The St. Catharines Standard (August 2003)

 

“I didn’t start playing until I was 17. I fell in love with the game and I’m still learning.”  Newly named league MVP Mark Steenhuis in The St. Catharines Standard (September 2003)

 

2005 – Matt Holman is named league Rookie of the Year. The 1938 St. Catharines Athletics are inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in the team category.

 

"Lacrosse was my love, my passion. All the time, all the years, I never made a nickel. It was for the love of the sport." Former NHL goaltender and St. Catharines Athletic Doug Favell Jr. in The St. Catharines Standard (August 2005)

 

 

2006 – before the season start, the team and franchise rights are sold to Al Orth of the KW Kodiaks and moved to the Kitchener/Waterloo area. Another chapter closes on the history of the St. Catharines Senior Athletics.

 

2013 – Ron Roy (Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame) and Billy Fitzgerald Sr. (Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame & Canadian Sports Hall of Fame) are inducted into the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame.

 

 

Special thanks to the Vancouver Sun and especially the St. Catharines Standard for their kind permission to use articles, commentary and photos from their publications for this lacrosse history website.

 

 

1905

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. The 1905 edition of the St. Catharines Athletics had all of this and something more, a trip to Montreal to play for the Minto Cup... (READ MORE)

 

1918

If the dying field game was to have a unifying moment of resurgence, let it be here and let it be now, with our own breakout stars of the past, and with all of the myth that goes with it...(COMING SOON)

 

1938

What was the greatest day in the sport of lacrosse? Well maybe it was one day long ago when a championship was won and a sleepy town of 26,000 erupted into a spontaneous outpouring of joy and pride...(COMING SOON)

 


 

OTHER DIVERSIONS:

(from photos by Gary Gardell, athleticslacrosse.com)

 

THE "FORT" - FORT ERIE RACETRACK

"Alive and Kicking" for it's 116th season in 2013

 

 

 Prince of Wales Stakes - July 15, 2012
Dixie Strike with jockey Patrick Husbands claim the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown Classic

 

 Prince of Wales Stakes - July 30, 2013

Stayer and closer Uncaptured surges to the lead in the deep stretch for the $300,000 winner's share

 

 

SIT TYKO . . . GOOD DOG!

(for D.R.G. <3)