It began in 1949 with the sputter of a wet firecracker: two years later, the pathetic firecracker blasted into the annals of sport history.
For an incredible four consecutive seasons, the Peterborough senior lacrosse organization reigned supreme in Canada.
No other team in box lacrosse history has captured the national title four straight.
Box lacrosse began in the picturesque Ontario community in 1938 but didn’t enter the Senior “A” level until 1949. It was far form an auspicious beginning, with the team managing only eight wins in 36 games.
The following year was Peterborough’s Centennial Year and the future looked promising. The team recorded a respectable 15-13 win-loss season and 22-year-old Arnie Dugan walked away with the scoring title with 124 points: but more was needed to take the club to the penthouse.
The injection of strength came in 1951 when a new sponsor renamed the team “Peterborough Timbermen.” A recruiting drive spread across the province and even to the West Coast. Defending Mann Cup champions Owen Sound Crescents, beset with financial difficulties, folded, freeing up goalie Moon Wootten, feisty Curly Mason and scoring ace Russ Slater to join Peterborough. St. Catharines’ junior graduates Harry Wipper and Nip O’Hearn were also signed, as were Ross Powless from Six Nations and Ike Hildebrand from New Westminster.
Instant success! The Timbermen took first place with 23 wins in 30 games, then breezed through Fergus and Mimico in the OLA playoffs for the right to challenge Vancouver Combines for national supremacy. With Hildebrand off to hockey camp and Jerry Fitzgerald sidelined with appendicitis, Peterborough was allowed to add Mimico’s Denny Peterson and Don McPhail and Hamilton’s Merv McKenzie to its lineup for the trip West.
The formula worked – the series went three games apiece but, on the strength of Peterson’s hattrick and Wootten’s spectacular netminding, Peterborough won the deciding match to capture the Mann Cup in only its third year of existence.
The following year saw Bob Thorpe replace Don Crowe as playing-coach and Don Ashbee from Weston and Mimico junior grad Lou Nickle being added to the team. The Mann Cup venue switched to Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, but the result was familiar –Timbermen devastated Vancouver four games to none.
1953 – two Mann Cups, going for three. Now renamed the Trailermen, Peterborough swept through the OLA 25-5 on its way to Victoria for a title series against the four-year-old Victoria Shamrocks. Hildebrand once again was at hockey camp, replace in the Trailermen lineup by St. Catharines’ 50-goal scorer Derry Davies. Victoria took one game 8-7 but Peterborough claimed the rest.
1954 and going for four! Peterborough added Mimico’s Denny Peterson, Fergus’ Don Campbell and junior grads Bob Allan and Bob Curtis for the season and then picked up Hamilton’s Jim McNulty and Tony D’Amico for the Mann cup series. Victoria won the first game but, with Wootten allowing only 27 goals in five games, Peterborough walked off with the next four contests and its fourth consecutive Mann Cup title.
Could Peterborough make it five in a row? After going 19-5 in OLA league play and 12-1 in the playoffs, the Trailermen headed West. But Victoria, taking a lesson in recruiting from its Eastern Foe, had obtained the services of Ontario stars Peewee Bradshaw, Bob Dobbie, Nip O’Hearn, Derry Davies and Geordie Johnston. Shamrocks halted the Peterborough string at four, taking the national title four games to one.
Peterborough again challenged the West in 1956 but Nanaimo, with former Peterborough stars Don Ashbee, Bob Allan, Arnie Dugan and Harry Wipper in its lineup, won the Mann Cup 4-1.
It was a wonderful run – four straight Mann Cup feasts in six trips to the table, six consecutive OLA first-place finishes, 193 victories in playoff and league play, and 14 members who were later inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame — Arnie Dugan, Don Ashbee, Bob Allan, Jack “Curly” Mason, Ike Hildebrand, Lloyd “Moon” Wooten, Bob Thorpe, Lou Nickle, Ross Powless, Harry Wipper, Jerry Fitzgerald, Russ Slater, Roger Smith and junior call-up Paul Parnell.
Box Lacrosse dynasties preceded Peterborough of the ’50’s, and others followed, but none have been able to match the distinction of four consecutive national championships.