Down Memory Lane - The Tranquillity Of A Lacrosse Match
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
Ah, the Wild, Wild West -- what a perfect setting for a quiet Saturday afternoon of lacrosse.
It was July 13, 1912, thousands of fans had gathered at New Westminster's Queens Park grounds to enjoy a 'hot and heavy' conflict between Con Jones' Vancouver Athletics and the hometown heroes.
The 'hot' was the intense 5-2 Vancouver victory -- the 'heavy' came at game's end when police had to protect referee Joe Reynolds at gunpoint from an angry mob intent on attacking the official.
The crowd was in a state of controlled frenzy by halftime, with Vancouver-holding a slim 3-2 advantage; but the furor had escaladed to a turbulent pitch by the fourth quarter when the visitors increased the lead to 5-2.
Then the volcanic atmosphere popped its lid; New Westminster's John Howard was penalized for cross-checking Newsy Lalonde, followed soon after by penalties to Bill Turnbull and Tom "Sharkey" Gifford. Angry and frustrated, George Rennie deliberately struck referee Reynolds with his stick, and was ejected. Meanwhile, penalty timekeeper J.B. Williamson, while being loudly berated by New Westminster Acting Mayor Wells Gray, was struck in the face allegedly by Sharky Gifford.
Pandemonium erupted with the final whistle. The fans, now resembling an oldtime lynch mob, rushed onto the field after referee Reynolds. New Westminster Police Sergent Staton was forced to draw his revolver to protect Reynolds while a cordon of his fellow officers escorted the Vancouver club to safety.
"It was one of the most disgraceful scenes ever connected with the national game that I have been so unfortunate to witness," league commissioner Harry Senkler later said. "In my opinion, Mr. Reynolds refereed the game in a most capable manner. When rough play was attempted in the final quarter, Mr. Reynolds immediately penalized the offenders in only the proper manner."
BCLA President Harry Cowan added: "When an officer is compelled to draw his automatic in order to protect a referee from an angry mob, it is about time some drastic action was taken. The assault upon an official in charge of the game was totally uncalled for. I considered that Mr. Reynolds had handled the game in a most capable manner."
In a classic case of "truth being in the eyes of the beholder," New Westminster Alderman Kellington witnessed the foofaraw this way.
"While I deplore the unfortunate demonstration that occurred after the game, I feel that the actions of Mr. Reynolds justified, to a large extent, very severe criticism for the extreme favouritism he exhibited in favour of the Vancouver team. It must have been disgusting to any clean and impartial sportsman who witnessed the game."
Vancouver owner Con Jones observed these "clean and impartial sportsman" this way:
"When the trouble started, I was made a target of hundreds of insulting remarks. When I have to submit to such indignities as having people spit in my face and call me all the vile names they can recollect, it is time I quit and game."
The two teams were scheduled to meet in Vancouver the following week but, after Rennie and Gifford were suspended, New Westminster claimed it wasn't able to field a full team. The problem, however, arose when the team failed to inform Vancouver until after some 4,000 fans had shown up.
The silly head-games continued on July 27. The schedule had Vancouver playing in New Westminster but Con Jones claimed he was still owed a home game from the previous week. Both teams lined up in their own parks, scored uncontested goals and claimed victories for themselves.
Frustrated league officials refused the claims for wins and ordered the stubborn combatants to settle their differences on the field in Vancouver on August 3.
And, so, without any further impetious turbulence by players or fans, New Westminster won 5-4.