Down Memory Lane - Mann Cup Follies
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
The 1951 Canadian senior lacrosse championships began with much anticipation of showcasing the best two teams in the Nation.
Twelve days and seven games later, Peterborough Timbermen climbed to the pinnacle of success over the bruised and battered back of the Vancouver Combines.
But the bickering, the contentious hostilities and the petty politics sandwiched between the first and seventh games earned the headlines "Mann Cup Follies".
Both clubs had threatened to pull out of the series; the Canadian Lacrosse Association brass overseeing the tournament continually flip-flopped in its decision-making; playing conditions became intolerable in Game Four, and, of course, the predictable East-West interpretations of the rulebook were ever-present.
Little wonder that the formal presentation of the Mann Cup to the Ontario team by CLA executive Lyle Barr was interrupted for more than 10 minutes due to the boos and catcalls of the disgusted fans.
Actually, the controversy spilled forth even before the first faceoff. The CLA bosses permitted the traveling Peterborough team to pick up three players - Don McPhail and Denny Peterson of Mimico and Merv McKenzie of Hamilton - although the rules allowed only two. The CLA then removed Vancouver from its home floor of Kerrisdale Arena, ordering Game One for the PNE Forum, Game Two in Victoria, Game Three in Kerrisdale and Game Four back to the Forum.
The teams split the first two matches Peterborough winning the first 16-9 and the Combines the second 11-7 - but the wrangling continued to mount. Neither club was happy with the faceoffs - the West faced off with the centres facing the sidelines, left shoulder toward the home goals, while the East had opposing centres facing each other. Vancouver President Carl Grauer threatened to pull his team out of the series after Game Two if the CLA continued to waffle over making a decision.
A compromise, not altogether satisfactory to all, was reached and referees Bill Wilkes and Eddie Powers were replaced by Gordie Folka and Bill Dickinson for Game Three, won by Vancouver 12-7.
Now the fun really began. Game Four, originally scheduled for New Westminster's Queens Park Arena but later switched to the PNE Forum, would go October 1 even though ice had been laid in the Vancouver venue. No problem said the organizers - a layer of tarpaper over the ice and place the floor boards on top of the paper. But the floor began to sweat, making it virtually impossible to stand up in the pre-game warmup. Sawdust was spread over the floor with little or no relief.
Coach John Cavallin pulled his Vancouver club off the floor, refusing to subject his players to possible injuries. Naturally, Peterborough coach Don Crowe took the opposite position, arguing the conditions were the same for both teams. With a packed house chanting for the game to begin, the CLA officials pleaded with Vancouver to play. Finally, Cavallin left the decision to his players, who then voted nine to eight in favour of going on with the game despite the fluid Forum floor.
The game became a farce. Hundreds of fans demanded their money back. The CLA held an emergency meeting after the first period and decided to switch the rest of the series to Kerrisdale Arena. Oh, yes, Peterborough captured the slip-and-slide exhibition 13-4.
Did that finally bring peace and tranquility to the tournament?
With the series tied at tow games a piece, Game Five was set for October 3, Game Six for October 5 and Game Seven, if necessary, for October 6. But, without consulting anyone, the CLA switched Game Six to October 6 and Game Seven to October 7. Kerrisdale Arena manager Jack Elliott was furious - he had delayed installing ice until October 6 to accommodate the CLA but refused to extend his deadline. For the first time in the series, Vancouver and Peterborough agreed on something - October 5 and 6, forget the extension. The CLA finally backed off and reinstated the original dates.
Vancouver took Game Five 15-10, prompting Coach Crowe to demand that Dickinson and Folka be fired and new referees appointed. The demand went unheeded.
In the sixth game, Peterborough physically mauled Vancouver, outscoring the Westerners 11-1 in the second half on the way to a 14-3 victory and a 3-3 tie in the series. Combines' Gogie Stewart suffered a fractured jaw, Ken Webb had two broken ribs and Jim Anderson sustained an injured leg. Fans showered the floor with seat pillows, peanuts, cups and even firecrackers.
Game Seven, and the Combines were down to just 11 runners. The sagacious CLA felt it would be prudent to permit Vancouver two pickups - New Westminster's Archie Browning and Jack Northup. Both scored goals but it was not enough - Peterborough won 13-7 to become the first Eastern team in 10 years to capture a Mann Cup on Western soil.
Many years later, 16 members of the two competing teams were inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame but the antics that tarnished the 1951 Mann Cup Follies quietly faded into obscurity.
|Don "Nip" O'Hearn||7||18||10||3||13||22|
|Jack "Curly" Mason||7||14||11||0||11||12|
|Donald "Dootch Vitarelli||7||13||5||2||7||4|
|Isiah "Mick" Magee||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Lloyd "Moon" Wootton||2||0||0||0||0||0|
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|Lloyd "Noon" Wootton||420||226||165||61||.730||8.71|
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