Down Memory Lane - Al Brenner
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
Successful defensive specialists in contact sports are big, bad, burly, bashing barbarians who would sooner rip their opponents apart than give up a scoring chance. Well -- at least this is the impression Hollywood scriptwriters often bestow on those defenders bent on dimming the glow of an offensive superstar.
However, every so often along comes a maverick who, by his very nature, shatters the stereotype -- a stay-at-home defenceman who excels at his job even though he does it cleanly and with an engaging demeanor.
Good Heavens, even his opponents like and respect the player.
Such was the life and times of Alfred Joseph Brenner throughout his lengthy lacrosse and soccer careers.
Born June 3, 1928, in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, Alfie was just eight years of age when his family moved to Vancouver, settling down near Boundary and Twenty-fourth on the edge of the Renfrew district.
It wasn't long before Alfie and a handful of buddies began hanging out around Renfrew Park soccer field and lacrosse box where they caught the eye of the legendary boxla mentor Reg "Pop" Phillips. It mattered not that they hadn't played lacrosse -- Pop needed Peewee-aged kids to fill out a team and he would teach them.
By 1944, Brenner had progressed to the point where he was awarded the Delmonico Trophy as the "Most Inspirational Player" in the Juvenile "A" division in Vancouver. It was a distinction he never relinquished.
Alfie was just 17 in 1946 when Clayton "Blackie" Black signed him to play for the Richmond Junior team. One year later, just short of his 19th birthday, he began his 15-year senior career with the fabled North Shore Indians, later renamed P.N.E. Indians, sharpening his defensive skills under coaches Bill Dickinson, Jake Proctor and Clary Jenion. When the Indians disbanded in 1956, Alfie joined the Vancouver club coached by Jack McKinnon.
After helping Vancouver to the Mann Cup title in 1961, Alfie retired from Senior "A" lacrosse to assume a playing-coach assignment with the New Westminster Senior "B" team.
Meanwhile, he began officiating -- holding positions of referee-in-chief in Westminster minor lacrosse, conducting countless clinics and refereeing games from the minor level up to Senior "A".
When asked who was the toughest opponent to contain, Alfie replied, without hesitation, Bobby Allan. He then added Jack Bionda, Bo Bradford and Gogie Stewart were also difficult to handle.
At the time he left Senior "A" lacrosse, only six other Western players had exceeded Alfie's 410 games.
Underscoring his clean play, Alfie accumulated only 346 minutes in penalties in the 410 games -- only seven of his penalties were majors. A classic stay-at-home defenceman, he still managed 136 goals and 141 assists for 277 points.
An all-round athlete, Alfie also played over 20 years of soccer at levels from Division Three to the top Coast League, winning a number of championships.
When he retired from competitive soccer -- as he did in lacrosse -- he spent several years coaching and officiating soccer in the Royal City and, in fact, dabbled in "Plaster" recreational soccer until his 65th birthday.