Arguments, scuffles, fights…testiness is part and parcel of the fabulous game of lacrosse.
As it is with all sports in which bodily contact plays a major role, fans come to accept or, rather, expect the occasional hostility. When a disagreement rears its antagonistic head, the boxla warrior can choose one of many weapons – a lacrosse stick, a fist, or an elbow aimed directly at the adversary or a few choice words loudly delivered to the referee (all utterances, of course, tastefully enunciated).
But today’s game has been tamed somewhat by facemasks, helmets and sturdy pads – the all-out, bench-clearing riots of old, by and large, have been ceded to baseball and basketball.
The more gentlemanly game of today is reflected in the all-time penalty list. Only five of the top 50 most penalized badmen in Western Canadian senior lacrosse history were active in the 1998 season – Andy Ogilvie, fifth place on the list with 1,049 minutes; Paul Jones, 16th with 722; Tyson Leies, 21st with 761; Rick Rawson, 28th with 722, and Warren Blackwell, 32nd with 677. The all-time leaders ahead of Ogilvie are Ward Sanderson (1,647 minutes), Ron Pinder(1,207), Bill Chisholm (1,157) and Jack Barclay (1,119).
Having said that, it must be noted that there are exceptions to every rule. The Western Lacrosse Association exception erupted with a fury on July 31, 1998, when the Victoria Shamrocks hosted the North Shore Indians. It began quietly enough with just three fights in the first period and none in the second. But, at 3:22 of the third, all hell broke loose. When the smoke cleared, referees Bill Geddie and Lorne Cardiff had handed out 12 game misconducts to the Indians and nine to Victoria. North Shore’s penalties-in-minutes amounted to a record 223 while the total for both clubs (393) also set a new standard. Oh, yes! Victoria eventually won the game 14-11.
The screwiest rhubarb, however, came during the semi-final series between Abbotsford Hotel and the New Westminster Adanacs in 1933. It began with a disputed goal scored by Gordie McEvoy and didn’t end until it reached Chief Justice Morrison in Supreme Court. It was a two-game total point series for the right to meet St. Helens in the semi-finals. Adanacs held a seven-goal lead entering the second game; however, they fell apart and dropped the second contest by a 9-2 score, throwing the outcome of the series into overtime.
McEvoy stickhandled through the entire Adanac team, dipped behind the net, and then reached around the goalie to tuck the winning marker in the goal. (Remember, there were no creases in those days.)
Referee Stan Carter allowed the goal, sending the jubilant Abbotsford club off the floor to celebrate. Then league president Jim McConaghy disallowed the goal and ordered Abbotsford back onto the floor. When they refused to return to the playing floor, Adanacs were awarded the game by default. Playing ping pong with the series, the league commission then overruled McConaghy and gave the win back to Abbotsford.
Adanacs, now hopping mad, went to court seeking an injunction to stop the finals until they had an opportunity to lodge their protest. Chief Justice Morrison found it hard to take the matter seriously:
“The whole thing is a question of money and gate receipts. It all comes down to dollars and cents. By the way, who gets the money? The players, of course. Why should I stop this (final) game? Where does it help you? It doesn’t. A lot of people are waiting to witness an ordinary, clean, lawful game and, if I stopped it, it would disappoint them. Don’t ask me to beat the team for you. I think you came to me because you thought I was an old lacrosse player. Why, I don’t know the difference between a lacrosse stick and a chop stick”.
Then, more seriously, he added: “I can’t understand why the game should be stopped. You are just trying to use this court to your advantage. If I stopped the game and then you lost your protest, a lot of unnecessary trouble would be caused”.
The postcript: Abbotsford lost to St. Helens who then dropped the league championship to the Salmonbellies.