Like Rip Van Winkle, the lacrosse scene in Manitoba has been in a state of hibernation for the past 60 or so years.
That’s not to imply that the game has been in a dead sleep; rather, it’s been dozing in hopes that the seductive call of player curiosity will spur renewed interest.
And it appears to be happening.
Winnipeg hosted both the Under 16 and Under 19 national field lacrosse championship in September 2000, which, according to Manitoba field director John Wolski, infused life into winter development camps high school ad summer leagues.
Perhaps, soon, Manitoba will again produce lacrosse jewels like those that sparkled on the Canadian scene in the 1920’s and 1930’s, gems like Frank Hawkins and Dick Buckingham. They were among the elite, good enough to be selected to the Canadian national team that gave demonstration exhibitions at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
Richard Henry “Dick” Buckingham was an outstanding athlete, playing hockey, football and rugby; but it was lacrosse in which he excelled from his elementary school days until the introduction of the box version of the game in 1932.
Born in Winnipeg on January 16 1900, Buckingham first picked up lacrosse at aged 10 while helping his Norquay School teammates to three consecutive city school championships. He continued honing his skills in minor leagues around the city until turning senior at aged 18.
Over the next 14 years, the all-star defenseman line up with such Winnipeg clubs as the Tammy Tigers, Argonauts and Wellingtons, claiming seven provincial titles. Tammy Tigers met the Toronto Westons in 1926 and the Ottawa Emmetts in 1928 in unsuccessful bids for the Mann Cup.
When lacrosse was named a demonstration sport for the 1932 Olympics, Canadian Amateur Lacrosse Association president A. E. Lyon saturated the national team, as expected, with players from Ontario (Joe Bergin, Matt Rohmer, Tony Pelletier, Norm Gair, Jack Worthy, Duke Harrison, Harold Wallace and Charlie Connell) and British Columbia (Henry Baker, John Mercer, Stu Gifford, Bob Mackie, Red Fraser, John Fraser and Bryce Spring). Yvon Paquin and Yvon Lacquier represented Quebec and Buckingham and Hawkins, Manitoba.
Selected as captain for his outstanding leadership qualities was the Winnipeg native, Buckingham.
Frank Hawkins might have been born in Meadford, Ontario, in 1908 but it was the minor leagues in and around Winnipeg where he perfected his netminding skills. In 1928, he joined the senior Winnipeg Arenas and later transferred to the Winnipeg Argonauts for both field and box lacrosse from 1929 to 1933.
Hawkins phenomenal dexterity carried his teams to four provincial titles, Mann Cup semi-finals in 1929 and 1930 and the national finals against Mimico in 1932.
Hawkins shard the national team’s netminding duties with the great Henry Baker during the 1932 Olympic demonstration games.
Buckingham was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1977, Hawkins joining him in 1984.