During the late 1930’s, a skinny little blond kid picked up a lacrosse stick in New Westminster and pronounced he had found his game. Older, wiser box lacrosse buffs chuckled, pointing out that, although the youngster was lightening-quick, he was too slight to ensure the rough and tumble sport.
But Archie Browning built a net in his backyard and practiced until he could put that ball between the posts from any angle. After that, he attached a lard tin to each top corner and shot for the tins. At 17, he and lifetime buddy, Whitey Severson, tried out for the New Westminster Junior team, but were cut because both were considered too small. Not be denied, both then tried out, and made, the Adanacs Senior club. As a matter of fact, Archie won the 1945 Rookie of the Year award by notching 61 points. Archie spent four years with the Royal City Adanacs before taking his shooting eye eastward to the wilds of Brampton, Ontario. But two years there was enough – he returned to B.C. with a new wife and took up residency in Victoria. After eight years with the Shamrocks and a short comeback with Nanaimo in 1960, Archie hung up his stick.
Awards were plentiful. In addition to his rookie honours, Archie was named Ontario’s Most Valuable Player for the 1950 season and the Western League’s playoff MVP in 1953. He captured the Western scoring title in 1951 and shared the same award with Severson in 1952. Archie took part in seven Mann Cup Championships – 1947-48 with Adanacs, 1951 as a pickup with Vancouver, 1953-54-55 with Victoria, and 1960 with Nanaimo. Sips of victory champagne were savoured in 1947 and 1955.
Well known columnist, Denny Boyd, once wrote: “I think Archie Browning is the greatest lacrosse player I have ever seen. Jack Bionda has more flamboyance and more tricks, but I have never seen anyone who could do more offensively or defensively, who could shoot with such fantastic precision, or who played as hard as this little blond with the bleached eyebrows”.
Like many fine stars, Archie gave more than just his playing talents to the game. He gave of himself. Archie coached Junior box lacrosse between 1953 and 1958 in Victoria, was Coach of the Year with the Senior club in 1975, spent several years as President, Director, and Head Coach of the Esquimalt Minor Lacrosse Association, and even sold 50-50 tickets at old Memorial Arena.
With 724 goals and 316 assists for 1,040 points in B.C. and Ontario Senior Lacrosse, his induction in 1971 into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame was a foregone conclusion.
Always a quiet, self-effacing individual, Archie accepted the induction with a simple, “It was easier scoring goals than standing here. But, I can say this – this is one of the proudest moments of my life”. Short, classy….just like the man.
Sadly, his life ended on November 18, 1989, at the age of 62, a victim of cancer. Two years later, the community he served both as an athlete and a policeman, honoured his name by officially renaming the Esquimalt Sports Centre the Archie Browning Sports Centre.