Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
Joe Comeau was known as "The Quiet Man", preferring to let his netminding dexterity do the talking.
And what a statement that made:
His senior career began slowly but, once it went into high gear, Joe backstopped the New Westminster Salmonbellies to four Mann Cups in five tries.
Joe began playing lacrosse as a defenceman in Vancouver's Renfrew District along with , , and ; however, by age 12 he had become a goalie. After four provincial championships in the minor divisions, Joe stepped into the Junior 'Bellies' nets in 1960 and led his club to a 21-win, 1-loss record and the Minto Cup while registering an 81 percent shot-saved average. The following season, he returned to Vancouver with the Lobbans and again topped the Junior goalies with a 78.3 percent average.
In 1962, Joe was ready for Senior A competition - but it wasn't ready for him; Vancouver had and , New Westminster had and , Victoria had and , Nanaimo had and , and first-year Norburns had and . So Joe whiled away the season in Senior B, leading Port Coquitlam to the provincial title.
In 1964, Joe joined New Westminster - the 'Bellies were called the "O'Keefes" at that time - in a backup role. The following year, Joe chose the Adanacs of Coquitlam and later of Portland because work commitments forced Schweitzer (now the Adanacs) into part-time duties.
After the 1968 Portland adventure, Joe returned to New Westminster. In the next four years, Joe took the 'Bellies to three Mann Cup playdowns, twice capturing the title. Suddenly, in 1973, he retired in order to build an addition onto his house. The Royal City crew used seven goalies that season but went from Canadian Champion to just seven wins and bottom-place finish.
Like Lancelot riding a white charger into the fray, Sir Joe returned in 1974 to take the 'Bellies back into first place with 20 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. Naturally, another Mann Cup win followed.
Joe sat out the 1975 season, fully intending to enjoy retirement; but, with New Westminster wallowing in the 1976 league basement with a 3-8 record, the 36-year-old Quiet Man again returned. With 12 wins in the next 13 games, the 'Bellies walked through Coquitlam and Vancouver in the playoffs to earn another Mann Cup challenge. The Hollywood-scripted outcome, naturally, was completed with the Mann Cup championship.
This time, Joe stood by his decision to hang up his goalie equipment for good, leaving the game with seven All-Star Team rankings, four Leo Nicholson (top goalie) awards, the Ellison Trophy (playoff MVP), the Commission Trophy (MVP in league play), and a lifetime 77.5 percent shot-saved average.
In 1983, the Vancouver fireman was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.