1961 Minto Cup

The lads from North Burnaby were aptly dubbed the Cinderella team of the 1961 British Columbia junior lacrosse league. Youngsters moving up through the North Burnaby minor lacrosse system in those days had no local junior club, forcing them to line up with teams in Vancouver.

Not content with their plight, several players — spearheaded by Bill Bradley — recruited retired superstar Bill Dickinson as coach and then applied for a junior franchise and permission to return to their Burnaby home base. The B.C.L.A. fairy godmother granted their wish — Norburns donned the glass slippers and danced their way to a 12-3-1 first place finish and a trip to Ontario to vie for the Minto Cup.

Unfortunately, Hastings Legionnaires played the wicked stepmother and the Norburn victory wagon transformed into a bitter pumpkin of controversy and rancor.

Dickinson had coached another junior team — Eagletime — to the 1949 Minto Cup title and dearly wanted to repeat the success; however, he admitted the Norburn kids were not as tough as Eagletime, just much faster.

Bradley, Gary Stevens, Sohen Gill, Ron Bodner, Don Boyd, Gary Taylor, Jim Gray, Terry Ritchie and Cliff Donovan had all played the 1960 season with Bob Lees while netminder Skip Jolly toiled for Lobbans. When they formed the nucleus of the Norburn club, they were joined by graduating juveniles Jack Crosby, Mike Dimich, George Longman, Dick Crompton and Bill Miles. Not only did the new squad capture first place, Gill won the scoring title, Stevens was the league’s MVP and Jolly was named top goalie.

Now the team was off to Port Credit, Ontario, to meet the Cy Coombes-coached Hastings Legionnaires. Dickinson bolstered his lineup by picking up Lobbans’ Gord Frederickson and New Westminster’s Barry Erlendson and Jim Watson. Hastings, meanwhile, added Garry Landoni of Fergus, John Davis of Whitby, Peter Berge  of St. Catharines and John McCauley and Don Arthurs of Brampton, although Arthurs saw no action.

The B.C. reps, outshot 48-36, still managed to capture the first game 13-11 by simply outrunning the bigger Ontario squad. Said coach Coombes: “They are the weakest club we’ve played but they out hustled us and deserved the game. We’ll have to play a bit harder, that’s all.”

And harder, they did. Both teams, frustrated with tight and often questionable officiating, accumulated a total of 86 minutes in penalties in Game Two, including a fight that involved every player on the floor. Hastings outlasted Norburns 12-11 to knot up the series at one game apiece.

Game Three turned into an even bigger mess. A timekeeper improperly interpreted a delayed penalty causing the referees to reject a Norburn goal with less than six minutes remaining in the game. A 10-minute long harangue followed, resulting in mass confusion and Stevens and Dimich being ejected. It was the capper for a game that saw goals awarded to wrong players — some not even on the floor — and the time clock being allowed to continue running long after a stoppage of play. With the game under protest, Hastings won 10-9.

“That was the worst exhibition of refereeing I’ve ever seen in all my years of lacrosse,” a livid Dickinson later stated. “(CLA) officials are standing right beside me and agreed that the refereeing is just terrible, but they couldn’t do a thing about it. Some officials.”

A reporter summed up the evening: “It was a disgrace to lacrosse. Lacrosse was only played in the last five minutes. The rest of the three hours was taken up with arguments, chippy play and unnecessary penalties.” To add further confusion, the official game sheet disappeared before the protest could be heard. Game Four, a 9-6 Hastings win, was already in the books before a decision was made to wipe out Game Three.

Now Game Five became Game -Four. With Don Boyd scoring a trio and setting up another three, Norburns knotted up the series at two games each with an 11-8 victory.

But Hastings’ durability overcame Norburns’ scrappiness, capturing the Canadian championship with 15-6 and 7-4 wins in the final two contests.

When Norburns returned home, Dickinson was still smarting over what he called “inconsistent” officiating but his anger paled when compared with the pride he felt for his Cinderella team.

Related Images: