1942 Mann Cup –  New Westminster Salmonbellies

1942 Mann Cup –  New Westminster Salmonbellies hopped on a train that late September morning, bound and determined to become the first Western box lacrosse team to capture the Mann Cup on Eastern soil.

First step on the 1942 quest was to dispose of Quebec champions, Lachine – Ville St. Pierre, and then move into Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens to meet the powerful Mimico-Brampton Combines.

Unfortunately, good intentions, determination and hard work aren’t always sufficient to snag the big brass ring.

Jack Wood’s Royal City crew battled through the Inter-City Lacrosse League schedule with 15 victories and then disposed of Victoria United Services for the B.C. title.

Mimico-Brampton, meanwhile, narrowly beat out St. Catharines for the OLA league title, took Owen Sound three straight in the playoff semi-finals and squeaked by St. Kitts 4-3 in the final Ontario playoff series.

‘Bellies went into Montreal ready for battle, but Lachine – Ville St. Pierre proved to be less than a challenge, West beating East 18-4 and 19-8.

Now, Combines and Salmonbellies were ready for the Mann Cup finals -or were they?

Injuries and Armed. Services’ commitments had depleted both rosters. The Ontario team borrowed three players — Bill Isaacs, Carl “Gus” Madsen and Arnold “Onions” Smith — from other teams while the Fishmen added John Douglas, Bert Bryant, Art Mathewson, Art Pruden and Doug Ross to its lineup.

All set? Well, not quite, for the Westerners lost Matthewson (dislocated shoulder) and Ross (internal injuries) in the Quebec series. Coach Wood placed a hurried call to B.C. for more help, picking up Kip Routley and Marcus Smith who, fortunately, arrived in Toronto October 7, the day the Mann Cup series began.

Game One proved to be a crowd-pleasing, see-saw battle until the last few minutes when Ontario’s George Masters, Bill Arthurs and Ken Dixon (his fourth of the match) scored for a 10-7 victory.

A black cloud continued to hover over Salmonbellies — Routley suffered an ankle injury and Pruden was bedridden with the flu. Again, Wood jumped on the telephone, this time to summons Bill Tyler.

Combines took a two-game series lead two days later, soldier Jack Williams (available on a weekend furlough) and Al “Flash” McLean registering three-goal hatttricks for a 15-9 victory.

Game Three was set for October 12, Thanksgiving Day, and Coach Wood was doing just that — giving thanks for Tyler had just arrived, Routley’s ankle wasn’t broken, and Ross and Pruden were on the mend.

The revitalized Salmonbellies forced the play from the onset, Pruden and John Douglas earning hattricks to lead the Westerners to a 14-8 win. For the Combines, Soldier Archie Dixon, also on a weekend furlough, scored four and brother Ken notched three.

The fourth game — and, as it turned out, the last — left the fans limp in their seats.

With less that 10 minutes remaining to play, Salmonbellies held a 9-6 lead. Then the slide began! First, Arthurs deposited a shot behind Bill Scruby in the ‘Bellies’ net. Then Ross Gimblett made it 9-8 and Madsen knotted the match on a penalty shot.

With Ed Downey off with a penalty and time running down, Masters took a Madsen pass to complete the comeback and claim the national championship.

The elation of one team and the dejection of the other would be reversed the following year when the same two clubs met in the West, Salmonbellies capturing the Mann Cup with a similar three-games-to-one triumph.

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