Down Memory Lane - A Cloud of Bittnerness
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
Although over a half century has passed into history, oldtime lacrosse fans in Victoria still point an accusing finger at Conn Smythe for sabotaging Vancouver Island's hopes of a national boxla title.
Perhaps the accusatory allegation is a bit strong but, nevertheless, circumstances certainly indicated a classic case of robbing "Peter" (Victoria United Services) to pay "Paul" (Mimico-Brampton Combines).
And "Paul" wound up capturing that 1942 Mann Cup championship.
The Victoria team in question was the United Services, a powerhouse team comprised of navy sailors, a handful of soldiers and one airman, all stationed in and around southern Vancouver Island.
The season began slowly but, as the team mix solidified, United Services began blasting its way through the Victoria Senior League.
Team captain was sailor George Urquhart, a stalwart with the St. Catharines Athletics that captured three Mann Cups in the four previous years. Joining Urquhart from the East were Jack Williams, Archie Dixon, Jesse James and Tony Worsencroft from Mimico, Stan Hall from Orillia and Nibs Chambers from Owen Sound. Filling out the lineup were Lou Moro and Ralph Temple from Trail, Ken Fetherston and Bob Phelan from New Westminster, Earl MoDonald and Doug Cadyzion from Vancouver, and Jackie James from Richmond.
During the season -- as it would be expected with armed service personnel in wartime -- some players were transferred to other postings and they, in turn, would be replaced by new recruits; however, the nucleus remained constant.
The league playoffs showcased the power of United Services: scores of 26-17, 21-19, 23-9 and 23-14 were the norm with Williams notching 10 goals in one contest, Dixon 4 goals and 5 assists in another, and McDonald twice enjoying 6-goal outputs.
Victoria fans were optimistic!
Next on the agenda was a best two-of-three showdown with the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the provincial title and the right to travel East for the Mann Cup championships.
Then it happened! Just days before B.C. playoffs, Army Major Conn Smythe -- a former Mimico resident who went on to run the famous Toronto Maple Leafs' hockey dynasty -- left the province and returned East.
Oddly, Williams, Dixon and James were also transferred to Ontario about the same time as the major.
United Services enlisted Victoria players Duff McCaghey and Arnie Ferguson to fill out the depleted lineup, to no avail. With the heart of the club torn out, United Services were trounced by Samonbellies 15-5 in the first game and 12-8 in the second.
New Westminster, not United Services, made the trip East to contest the national championship. The Royal City boys first defeated Lachine-Ville St. Pierre in the Mann Cup preliminary round and then lost to Mimico-Brampton in the finals.
Oh yes, Mimico-Brampton's lineup included Jack Williams and Archie Dixon