Doug Hayes has often been called “Truck,” and sometimes “Ira,” even “Groucho” – nickname not withstanding, call him “Great.”
Whether killing penalties with incredible agility, making bull-like dashes down floor, or staking out territorial claims in front of the opponent’s goal despite violent attention by frustrated defenders, Hayes always made his presence felt in the wonderful world of lacrosse.
In hockey, he would be called a power forward; in boxla, he was the dominator.
Born in Vancouver on September 27, 1950, Doug was too busy in his youth playing rugby, football and basketball in and around Templeton High School to find time for lacrosse. But, at aged 17 he joined buddy Dave Gurniak on an East Vancouver intermediate club coached by Fred Sutton.
It wasn’t long before he became intrigued with his newfound pastime.
“I played junior football with the Vancouver Blue Bombers and went to a couple of B.C. Lions’ camps,” Hayes recalled a few years ago. “Seven or eight schools in the states offered me football scholarships (but) I didn’t take any of them because I just didn’t like the game.”
He added: “Football was too boring for me. I figured I didn’t want to try to make a career of football if I didn’t enjoy playing the game.”
And so, he concentrated on rugby – a dozen-plus years with First Division Ex-Brits – and began honing his skills on the lacrosse floor.
Two years in the minors and another two with the junior Burnaby Cablevision was enough to earn Hayes a tryout in 1972 with the Vancouver Burrards.
Doug had managed only 30 goals and 24 assists in 39 junior games but, at six-foot-three, 220 pounds, he was expected to add much- needed muscle to the Vancouver line-up. Coach , however, saw much offensive potential in the raw rookie, plunking him on the opponents’ crease on power plays. Incredibly, Hayes responded with a 49-goal rookie season.
“Peter Black helped me tremendously in my stick-handling ability and the chance to play on the power play gave me the confidence I needed,” said Hayes.
Hayes continued to improve his skills and, in 1975 was drafted by Long Island Tomahawks in the first round of the professional National Lacrosse League draft.
“When I joined the pro league, I was still learning the game,” Hayes recalled. “Don’t forget, I didn’t start playing until I was 17 and I was playing against guys who had 10 or more years of experience than me. I was given lots of floor time in the pro league and coach Morley Kells helped me considerably.”
Hayes responded with 104 goals and 126 assists to capture the NLL scoring title with a fantastic 230 points in 48 games. He added 28 more points to his total in six playoff matches.
But the NLL folded before the 1976 season, sending Hayes and other B.C. players back to the WLA wars.
Hayes was philosophical: “It was nice winning the scoring title in the pro league but I really missed going after the Mann Cup.”
His ambition was fulfilled in 1977 when Hayes and his Vancouver mates captured the Canadian title with a four-games-to-two victory over Brampton. Hayes and teammate shared the MVP Mike Kelly honors. He got a second Mann Cup ring two years later as a pickup player for Victoria.
As Doug developed into a complete ballplayer, he relied less on his bullying tactics and more on finesse. In his first four seasons at the senior level, Doug averaged 55 minutes a season in penalties. In his last five playing years, the penalty minutes dropped to an average of just 12 Â½ a season.
“Just as many guys were hitting me in front of the goal but I just didn’t bother with retaliation, ” he explained. “I felt I was more valuable to the team outside of the penalty box.”
The rigors of lacrosse and rugby began taking a toll on Doug’s body and, so, he retired at the age of 33 following the 1983 season. The lure of competition, however, drew him back in 1985 for another two seasons of play.
And about those nicknames “Truck” came from his days ramming through opponents on the rugby field: “Ira” from his lacrosse years after the U.S. Marine hero Ira Hayes, and “Groucho” from his friends because of the Marx-like moustache and eyebrows.
In addition to his two Mann Cup rings, Doug was a member of the 1978 Canadian world Field Lacrosse champions. His 687 WLA goals places him fifth on the all-time list behind , , and . He also has 1232 points, eighth overall. Of course, his 258 NLL league and playoff points takes his lifetime senior career total to 1490.
Other highlights include 103 hattricks, 195 powerplay goals, 77 man-short goals, eight all-star teams, the Mike Kelly award and two WLA MVP awards (Commission Trophy).
In 1994, Doug Hayes was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. His 1978 field lacrosse world-winner was inducted into the Hall’s “team” category in 2001.