Down Memory Lane - Royal City's Regal Trio
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
One was blonde and cocky, another was dark and nimble, while the third quietly went about becoming one of the greatest players in box lacrosse history.
All quite different, proving the theory that opposites can attract. They began as the Newton Nuts and matured into adulthood as the Regal Trio of the New Westminster Salmonbellies.
Of course, the blonde and cocky bantam rooster was Black Jack Barclay, dark and nimble was Ivan Stewart and the silent leader was Cliff Sepka; a threesome mixed together in childhood that was to become one of the most feared lines in lacrosse.
Over a 15-year span, the Regal Trio accumulated an incredible 2,463 points in B.C.'s Inter-City Lacrosse League and Western Lacrosse Association.
It was the mid-1940's when the three unlikely buddies began their collaboration in the Surrey community of Newton. They were an immediate success, carrying their team to five provincial minor lacrosse titles.
Barclay and Stewart broke into the junior division in 1953 with Chilliwack but soon transferred to New Westminster and a reunion with Sepka. That was all that was needed to carry the Junior Salmonacs to the Minto Cup finals. Despite the fact that every player on the New Westminster team came down with an attack of food poisoning, they were able to beat Long Branch in the Ontario club's back yard to capture the Canadian championship.
The trio, along with Wally Davis, Doug McRory, Max Skinner and Cliff's brother, Don, turned senior with the Salmonbellies in 1954.
Barclay soon lived up to his reputation as a carefree, pugnacious fireball, as adept with his fists as he was with his over-the-shoulder shot from the edge of the crease. A four-time Golden Gloves boxing champion, Black Jack was a member of the Canadian boxing team in the 1954 British Empire Games.
While Barclay menaced netminders with his close-in shots, Stewart used a blazing long shot and breakaway speed to baffle frustrated opponents. He perfected a shuffling studder-step to break through defences long before Muhammad Ali applied the move in the boxing ring.
And the there was Sepka, the steadiest but least colourful of the trio. He had none of the flash of Stewart and certainly lacked the roguish appeal of Barclay; but, aside from Jack Bionda, he was undoubtedly the most consistently dangerous player of his era.
The trio carried New Westminster to Mann Cup victories in 1958, 1959 and 1962.
The Regal Trio's collaboration ended in 1965 when Barclay and Stewart joined the newly formed Coquitlam Adanacs. Both ended their playing careers with the Portland, Oregon version of the Adanacs in 1968.
Sepka, too, ended his playing life after the 1968 season, but with a great deal more glitter. As playing-coach, Cliff led his Salmonbellies to the National Lacrosse Association professional championship with an upset four-games-to-two series win over Detroit. He used himself sparingly throughout the season, managing just 29 points in 21 games; but, during playoff wins over Vancouver, Portland and Detroit, Cliff came through with 54 points in 18 games and was named the most valuable player in the New Westminster-Detroit finals.
Cliff scored his first point (a goal) on May 1, 1954 in a 14-11 loss to Nanaimo and his last point (also a goal) in the final 22-14 victory over Detroit. Altogether, he totaled 746 goals and 581 assists for 1,327 points in 484 games and was, at the time of his retirement, the all-time scoring leader in Western Canadian senior lacrosse. Barclay accumulated 429 goals and 266 assists for 695 points in 441 games while Stewart earned 301 goals and 140 assists for 441 points in 386 games.
Needless to mention that awards were many, topped by Cliff's induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1973 and Black Jack's entry in 1978.