Down Memory Lane - Mann Cup 1956 -- A Victory To Remember
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
A recipe for victory is easy to follow -- just add a little Eastern spice to homegrown ingredients, mix carefully to avoid ego bruising, and you have a winner.
And so it was with the 1956 Nanaimo Timbermen, a senior box lacrosse team that captured the Canadian championship after just six years of existence. In fact, the Hub City heroes were the first BC club to capture the Mann Cup on Eastern turf.
The road to the to the Holy Grail of box lacrosse was a gruelling, often heartbreaking journey that began in 1951 when Nanaimo's Senior "B" club stepped up a level, its chief asset being netminder Fred Fulla. Nanaimo won a mere four of 32 games that first season and just six the following year.
But, if happiness is a state of mind, Nanaimo was about to make a statement. A dash of Eastern spice was added to invigorate the lineup; first Jim Heffernan and Arnie Dugan from Peterborough and John and Bob Lumley from Owen Sound. Later,Jim McNulty and Derry Davies arrived from St. Catharines and Don Ashbee from Peterborough.
By 1956, the Lumleys, Heffernan and McNulty had all returned home, but in their place was added high scoring Bobby Allan and, as playing-coach, Harry Wipper. With the road to success smoothly paved for a run at victory, the 1956 Nanaimo won all but six league games, walked through Vancouver four straight in the provincial playoffs and then boarded a plane for Toronto and the fabled Maple Leaf Gardens.
Nanaimo's opponents would be the powerhouse from Peterborough, winners of four of the past five Mann Cup championships.
But Wipper was unfazed by the record of his former teammates which Harry, along with Ashbee, Dugan and Allan, helped create. "We have enough Eastern boys on our team to match the style of play of our opponents," Wnipper observed prior to the opening whistle.
Both clubs picked up players from their leagues as injury replacements; Jim Bradshaw and Doug McRory by Nanaimo and Ross Powless by the Petes.
Nanaimo got off to a quick lead in the first game of the best-of-seven series, taking a 14-7 advantage into the final 15 minutes only to see the Eastern champs fight back to within one goal. Ashbee finally iced the match for a 15-13 win.
Again, in Game Two, Nanaimo saw a good lead disintegrate, with Peterborough registering three goals in the final four minutes of regulation time; however, Derry Davies, with a floor-length dash, carried his club to the overtime victory with his fourth goal of the match.
But the game came at a high cost to both teams. Nanaimo's playing coach was carried off the floor on a stretcher after tearing the ligaments in his right knee and Peterborough's playing coach
Ike Hildebrand was sidelined with a torn thigh muscle. In addition, the Petes' Bob Thorpe was assessed a two-game suspension for bumping referee Doug Cove while disputing a call.
Replacements were needed - Victoria's Bill Bamford was quickly summonsed while St. Catharines' Doug Smith was called to bolster the Petes' lineup.
Game Three, like the previous match, required an extra 10 minutes of overtime to settle hostilities and, again, it was Davies with the winner, followed by Lisle Scott's insurance marker, for a 10-8 win.
Peterborough was down but not out. The combatants were tied five goals each in the second period of the fourth game when Nanaimo wilted under the onslaught of nine goals against two, giving the Petes a 14-7 victory.
Hildebrand confidently stated his boys "have hit our form; the series will go the limit." The prophesy proved to be wishful thinking; but his charges certainly didn't go down without a fight. Down 8-4 with a mere five minutes to play in Game Five, Peterborough scored three times but just couldn't manage to get the tying marker past a brilliant Fred Fulla.
Wipper, propped upright on his new set of crutches, flew back to Vancouver with his victorious team where they were met by a police pipe band. After an overnight stay in a hotel, the team boarded a ferry to their Vancouver Island hometown where a parade and civic banquet followed.
A Western team had finally won the Mann Cup on Eastern soil. Wipper had the recipe and, like his name, whipped up a record-setting triumph.