'48 THE BEST OF TIMES AND THE WORST OF TIMES
When most Winnipeggers think of lacrosse the first thing that comes to mind is Elmwood. For thirty years, under the banners of the Elmwood Pats, Elmwood Terriers, and Kelvin Terriers, this region East of the Red River and North of the CP mainline was the hot bed for lacrosse. What most Winnipeggers don't know is that prior the emergence of Elmwood, the dominant power in the game of lacrosse was West Winnipeg- south of the CP tracks and East of Maryland. In the 1920's, the Tammany Tigers, working out of Mulvey School yard, produced junior and senior teams that dominated their respective leagues. The senior Tigers captured four provincial senior titles and representing the province in the Mann Cup over a ten-year period. The Tigers were a multi-sport club, providing lacrosse, football, baseball, and basketball, decided to focus on football- ultimately becoming the Winnipeg Football Club and today the team Winnipeggers know as the Blue Bombers. In the 1930's, the Argonaughts Athletic Club, a multi-sport club based upon an abandon lot on Preston Street, South of Portage Avenue, picked up the mantel. With many former Tigers, the Argos dominated junior and senior play, with the senior team competing in 3 Mann Cups in ten years.
The Argos, now playing out of the West End Memorial, on Logan Avenue, continued to compete until the outbreak of World War II. Over that period of time the name Argos disappeared, with the team occasionally be referred to as the West End Argos. Until the mid-forties, West End was the number one rival in junior and senior lacrosse, with Elmwood squads capturing the bulk of league titles.
With advent of the Winnipeg Minor Lacrosse League, lacrosse boomed in West Winnipeg, with teams at West End Memorial, West End Community Centre, Orioles, and Isaac Brock. These teams, in the younger age groups, started to compete with the Elmwood Terriers- capturing titles a the bantam and midget age groups.
Since the re-establishment of the Minto Cup play downs in 1937, only teams from the Elmwood area represented Manitoba in the play downs. The Elmwood teams bolstered their rosters with "pick ups" from the west end squads, the name on the front of the jerseys read "Elmwood".
That was until 1948, when the Isaac Brock junior team pilfered the title from the Elmwood Terriers. For the first time Manitoba was going to be represented by a team not wearing the Elmwood Colours. After four years in operation, the Winnipeg Minor Lacrosse League developed a team of players, outside of Elmwood, with enough talent to represent the province. The Brockers were composed of 14 players from the champion junior team and one pick up from Deer Lodge- Mark Flynn.
Bill Curtis, an efficient scorer and tough defender, led the west group with 2 years experience playing as a pick up with the Elmwood teams. Along with Curtis, Flynn, Skelly and Hebenton were the only other players with inter-provincial experience. The remainder of team; Palmer, Hesselwood, Morrison, Shotbolt, Henley, Martin, Sabo, McMillian, Miller, Dawson, and Dailey were playing in their first Minto Cup. The squad was going to compete against the perennial Ontario powerhouse and defensing Minto Cup Champions- the St. Catherine's Athletics in a best two of three series.
1948 was the best of times for Manitoba lacrosse and the worst of times. The best of '48 was having a number of competitive teams in the junior category, with Isaac Brock battling their way to represent the province. The bad times came in the form of the St. Catherine's Athletics. The current Dominion Junior Champions held over eight players from the Cup winning team. The holes in the roster were filled with graduates from the midget and junior B teams. What these youngsters lacked in experience, they more than made up for by playing a swift fast moving game.
Eleven hundred fans packed the Olympic Rink for the first game of the series. The lacrosse enthusiasts had little to cheer about as the visitors scored early and often romping over the Brockers 28-10. Lead by the McNulty brothers, Jim and Joe, every member of the St Kitts team scored at least one point. The potent offense was anchored by spectacular goal tending by Ralph Speck. His acrobatic saves nullified most of the "Toban attack, bring thunderous ovations from the partisan Manitoba crowd.
The Manitoba team was led by "pick up" George Skelly with four goals. Bill Curtis, Johnny McMillan, Ernie Martin, Andy Hebenton, Mark Flynn, Gord Morrison, and Charlie Sabo scored singles. Goalie, Palmer, kept the game from getting really out of hand making numerous saves.
In the second game of the series, St. Catherine's continued it scoring display, taking only six minute to score their first goal in a 25-5 triumph. Every IB attempt to get back in the game ended with it being smothered by the 15-year-old Athletics goalie Ralph Speck. Any success the "Tobans had came on the back of Bill Curtis- scoring 1 goal and assisting on the other four. Charlie Sabo potted two g's, while singles went to Johnny McMillian and Ernie Martin.
While the score did not indicate, the Brockers were vastly improved from the first game. The disappointed fans did not leave the game discouraged realizing it was going to take time for Manitoba to close the gap. They saw the future of Manitoba lacrosse lay in the booming Winnipeg Minor Lacrosse Association. What the fans did not know, Manitoba was only a couple of years from competing and beating the historically strong teams from Ontario and British Columbia.