Down Memory Lane - Fred Fulla
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
His goaltending career began by happenstance, but the eventual path of success led Fabulous Freddie into lacrosse immortality.
Born in Nanaimo on February 11, 1926, Fred Andrew Fulla grew up in the Hub City, excelling at lacrosse, hockey and baseball. And it was in junior hockey where Fred tended goal - in lacrosse, he played the forward position.
v Not yet out of his teens, Fred served a one-year stint in the navy aboard a Canadian ship attached to an American task force in the South Pacific.
After returning home in 1946, Fred jo8ined the Nanaimo Senior "B' lacrosse team. One night, the netminder on his team was injured - Fred volunteered his services: after all, he spent several years play8ing goal in hockey.
With that, his lacrosse future was established.
Fred and his Nanaimo mates remained at the Senior "B' level until 1951 when the club entered the Senior "A" Inter-City Lacrosse League. Fulla proved to be outstanding, his team rather woeful. Nanaimo managed only four victories in 32 attempts but, despite the poor performance by the club, Fulla captured the Ed Bayley Trophy as the league's rookie-of-the-year.
As Fulla's reputation grew, so did his padding. Some observers even went as far as to accuse him of covering his bulky belly with a crib mattress. True or not, the Canadian Lacrosse Association rules and regulations were amended to require goalies to wear pads that conformed to the shape of the body.
Undeterred, Fulla's fortunes continued to grow along with those of his team. He was named the league's top netminder (Leo Nicholson Trophy) in 1954 and 1955 but Nanaimo was still playing second fiddle to rival Victoria Shamrocks. When Victoria advanced to the Mann Cup against Peterborough I 1955, Fulla was appointed standby goalie in the event that either team's goalie was injured during the series.
He didn't see Mann Cup action in 1955 but, one year later, Fulla and his Timbermen cohorts finally made it to the national championship. Nanaimo's lineup now boasted former Peterborough stars Arnie Dugan, Harry Wipper, Don Ashbee and Bob Allan. The Eastern team could have used their help -Nanaimo captured its first Canadian title, beating Peterborough 4-1
Nicknamed "Fabulous Freddie, " the veteran netminder again was again the backbone for Nanaimo when it reached the 1060 Mann Cup finals: but, this time, the East prevailed - Port Credit took the national title 4-1.
The following year, a wonky knee and a couple of slipped discs in his back reduced Fred's play to part-time. He retired in 1062, turning over his chores to Gerry Shires: but his love of the game still whetted his competitive juices - he suited up with the Senior "B" Commercial Hotel team for another two seasons.
Now retired, but certainly not inactive. Fred spent years coaching minor lacrosse and hockey, holding executive positions with minor league baseball associations, chairing the local legion's youth sports committee and, oh yes, jumping feet-first into golf, curling and bowling activities.
It was an incredible 11-year Senior "A" career, one in which he blocked 8,708 of a total of 12,311 shots blasted his way in 332 games - a 70.7 shot-saved average. Fred still holds the record for facing the most shots in one season - 1,492 in 1952.
Fred's accomplishments carried him into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1982.
For over 40 years, Fabulous Freddie was a service station operator I the Hub City, first at a station near the Tally Ho Island Inn and later on Terminal Avenue. When he retired in 1990 at the age of 65, the modest Fulla merely observed:
"I've got everything I wanted in life. Six or seven years ago, I got inducted into the Hall of Fame. So, as I say, I've had a lot out of life. "
Sadly, his life ended November 25, 2001.