Down Memory Lane - Lacrosse - a Regal Game
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington

Box lacrosse -- a noble game worthy of a royal spotlight.

And so, on the evening of October 20, 1951, the New Westminster Commandoes and the Vancouver Combines mounted the stage at Vancouver's PNE Forum in an exhibition romp for Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip.

Royalty loved every minute of it.

It had been and incredibly hectic day for the royal couple, one that would have taxed the energy and patience of Job. They were scheduled to watch only the first 15-minute period and then retire to the Hotel Vancouver for a well-deserved rest. But the excitement of the "Fastest Game on Two Feet" kept them glued to their seats for the entire 60 minutes.

And the rougher, the better!

The royal couple arrived in Vancouver by train at 10 a.m. After that, they barely had time to catch their breath:

  • They were officially welcomed by Lieutenant-Governor Clarence Wallace, Premier Byron Johnson and Vancouver Mayor Fred Hume;
  • They inspected a Guard of Honour drawn up in front of the C.P.R. station;
  • A slow motorcade took them along crowded streets to the Vancouver City Hall were they were again presented to Mayor Hume and 57 invited guests, including Victoria Cross winner E. A. "Smokey" Smith;
  • The motorcade carried the pair back through cheering crowds to the Hotel Vancouver for a mere 30 minutes rest in their suite;
  • At 12:30 p.m. , they attended a civic luncheon in the hotel banquet room;
  • The royal party left the hotel for Stanley Park at 1:45 p.m. where they were greeted at Brockton Oval by thousands of cheering children;
  • Then it was off to Shaughnessy Military Hospital for a 25-minute visit with the veterans;
  • At 3: 45 p.m. the couple proceeded to Queen Elizabeth Park where the princess planted a tree in Arboretum;
  • Thirty minutes later, the motorcade moved on to the University of B.C. for a half hour tour of the campus before returning to the hotel for a private dinner.

What a hectic day! But it was not yet over.

At 8 p.m. , Their Royal Highnesses were again on the road of social activity, first stopping at a Vancouver Folk Society display and then proceeding to the lacrosse game, arriving at 8:46 to a thunderous ovation from the 5,000-plus crowd.

Three weeks earlier, a wooden floor was laid over the Forum ice for a Mann Cup game but condensation on the floor made the Playing conditions intolerable. To avoid a repeat of a fluid farce, a wooden sub-floor was laced directly on the ice and then covered with three-inch thick rock wool insulation. A second wooden floor was placed on top of the insulation.

The floor remained dry. Actually, the only casualty to slippery conditions occurred at a rehearsal two nights earlier when Mayor Hume lost his footing on the ice and broke his right elbow.

The couple escorted to centre floor and introduced to New Westminster coach Ralph Douglas, Manager Wilf Hill and captain Jake Proctor and to Vancouver coach John Cavallin, manager John Dale and captain Clary Jenion. Oh, yes, there was one other lacrosse star present -- six-year- George Powell of the Renfrew Diaper team who presented Prince Elizabeth with a lacrosse stick autographed by both teams. After Prince Philip presided over the official face-off between John Douglas and Ernie Smith, the couple entered the specially constructed Royal Box and the game was underway.

It only took a few minutes before the princess identified Proctor as a favourite. He went on to delight her even further by scoring a hat trick.

Fearful of bad feelings spilling out over the two rivals, Mayor Hume had ordered the contest be played as a gentlemanly exhibition--no rough stuff or fights. But Inter-City League chairman Les Gilmore, sitting next to Prince Philip to explain the intricacies of the game , noted the prince took delight in some stiff checking.

"You don't object to them playing rough, do you?" asked Gilmore. "No, not at all," was the quick reply. Gilmore then had an aside with referee Gordie Folka to "let them go."

After the first period, Princess Elizabeth's private secretary leaned over towards her and asked if she were ready to leave.

"We have no other engagements this evening and I'm enjoying the game," replied the princess. "We stay to the end."

When the game handed, the royal couple sent a message of praise to both teams "with a special thanks to Number Nine." That, of course, was Proctor. No one really cared but, for the record, New Westminster won 11-7.

Three months later, King George VI died-- the princess was now a queen.