His nickname was “T” and that is how he guarded his territory against enemy snipers — to a “T”.
His journey into the world of lacrosse began as a five-year-old in his Ontario hometown, then rambled from youth into adulthood to the West Coast of Canada.
Along the way, his journey of athletic discovery saw short stops in Nova Scotia, Maryland, Australia, New Westminster, and Vancouver; but his roots became, and remain, firmly entrenched with the Adanacs of Coquitlam.
It was an exciting career, filled with team and personal honours, capped in 2006 with his induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“Of all the awards and highlights I’ve enjoyed, being named to the Hall of Fame is the best,” observed Thomas when told of his selection, “because it is for the recognition of all the years you enjoyed playing the game of lacrosse.”
Gregory John Thomas was born in Peterborough on September 6, 1951and, oddly, was introduced to the game of lacrosse at age five because his mother needed a babysitter.
“Lacrosse in Peterborough was like daycare,” recalled Thomas. “The city hired to run a lacrosse school during the summer months. Kids practiced all day and played two games Monday to Friday and then played tournaments on weekends.”
“My mother didn’t have much money to spend so I became a goalie the equipment was free.”
Like many youngsters in Ontario, Greg spent the summer playing lacrosse and the winters involved in hockey.
Somewhere along the line, probably helping his brothers, he also picked up the coaching bug. At age 17, Greg and a friend spent six months in Nova Scotia playing hockey and coaching lacrosse.
In 1968, he returned to his hometown to play Junior “B” lacrosse and, eventually, he stepped up to the Junior “A” ranks with the powerful Peterborough PCOs.
Greg’s first taste of the West Coast lifestyle came in 1971 when, as the netminder for the PCOs, he took part in the now famous Minto Cup championship series against Richmond Roadrunners.
The series went the full seven games, with Richmond taking the deciding match 13-11. The PCOs, with Thomas still minding the nets, got even the following year, registering a perfect 28-0 season before beating Richmond 4-0 for the Canadian junior lacrosse title.
Now of senior age but unable to gain employment in the East, Greg took up netminding chores with the New Westminster Salmonbellies. A year later, he was involved in a six-player swap that saw Greg and two others traded to Coquitlam Adanacs.
Greg played the 1974 campaign with Adanacs, east to Maryland of the professional National Lacrosse League the following year, and then returned to Coquitlam for the next nine seasons.
Although he announced his retirement after the 1984 season, Greg couldn’t abandon the game he loved, instead taking up the coaching reins of a Vancouver Senior “B” club and taking a turn guarding the nets. Then, when Vancouver Burrards’ goalie was injured, Greg answered the call for another 16 Senior “A” games in 1987.
Another two years coaching the Coquitlam Junior “A” club and a handful of Masters tournaments with his old Coquitlam teammates marked the end of his active lacrosse career.
Among Greg’s most memorable career highspots were the Minto Cup victory in 1972, the first World Box Lacrosse championship victory in 1980, and the Coquitlam Adanacs’ 10-game exhibition tour of Australia in 1981.
Oh, yes, another highlight was a goal he scored in Junior lacrosse. Greg rushed down the floor when an opposing player jumped out of the penalty box and knocked him over. He was awarded a penalty shot and, after faking twice, picked the top right corner. Many Junior goalies have scored goals but Greg is believed to be the only successful penalty shot recipient.
During his 10 seasons with the Adanacs, Greg was named to the all-star team three times, was named the league’s top netminder in 1981 and won the Maitland Trophy for his sportsmanship and contribution to minor lacrosse in 1979.
A wandering netminder not restricted by a goal crease, Greg earned 310 points in senior career on one goal and 309 assists. His Western Lacrosse Association shot-saved average was 74.4 percent, blocking 6,948 and the 9,343 balls fired his way.
“The one regret, if I have one, is that I never got to play in a Mann Cup series,” Thomas reflected, “but, then, look at all the lifelong friends I’ve made through the game. That’s something you can never take away.”