The 1959 Mann Cup series had just ended, Peterborough crushed by the Salmonbellies, when fabled Eastern netminder Moon Wootten pointed to the jubilant opposing goalie: “That guy Norman is some goalie. He’ll be getting the name I’ve had for some years.”
The prediction held true – for the next decade, Les Norman was the most prominent ball stopper in Canadian box lacrosse.
Leslie D. Norman was born in Sexsmith, Alberta, on December 2, 1939, but developed his lacrosse prowess in the Burnaby minor system, Peewee to Juvenile ‘A’. Then, at aged 17, he took up the netminding chores in New Westminster for the Junior Salmonbellies and Junior Pastimes.
The senior ‘Bellies, defending Mann Cup champions, came calling in1959, desperate to halt a one-win, six-loss start. While continuing to play in the Junior circuit, Norman became instrumental in taking the senior Fishmen to a 10-game winning streak and, eventually, the Western title.
By now, Les had replaced the great Stan Joseph as New Westminster’s Number One goalie. Norman played all four Mann Cup contests against Wootten’s club, allowing a mere 29 goals out of 160 shots.
Wootten was impressed with the 19-year-old’s performance – and so was the rest of the lacrosse world. Even though he played 11 Junior games while taking part in 18 Senior games, Les was named Rookie-of-the Year and was placed on the First All-Star Team.
His 370-game career had numerous peaks, with only a few valleys, but the biggest highlight came on May 3, 1962 when Les blocked 27 Victoria shots to register the first shutout in Inter-City Lacrosse League regular season play.
“Wow, what a night!’ Norman understated following the game. “I’m a nervous wreck and exhausted. My hands are still shaky.”
But his career was anything but shaky. His competitiveness was legendary. He never hesitated to attack the opponents verbally or with a good, stiff check. If his teammates dared to doddle, they became the recipients of his vociferous bellowing. By game’s end, his voice was often reduced to a raspy growl.
Someone once wrote that Norman was “quiet and reliable” and was “quietly confidence.”
“I was never quiet,” shouted annoyed Norman. “How could anybody write that?” Good question – he was anything but quiet.
Norman earned seven all-star ratings, five on the first team. In addition, he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1961, the playoff MVP in 1962 and the Mann Cup MVP in 1965, as well as being named the league’s top goalie three times.
When he retired following the 1971 season, Les had blocked 9,958 of 13,141 shots fired his way for a lifetime 75.8 per cent save average.