Al Smallwood started his lacrosse career at the Old Elmwood Community Centre (later know as Kelvin Community Center) playing for the Elmwood Terriers in newly formed Greater Winnipeg Minor Lacrosse Association. In 1946 Tom O’Brien and his band of lacrosse enthusiasts grew the game in all parts of the city of Winnipeg with 29 teams competing in five age divisions. Elmwood with its long tradition of lacrosse welcomed these new teams to the sport.
Al’s younger brother, Doug, who started to play lacrosse a year earlier introduced Al to the game. Al may have started the game a bit later, but he took to the game like a “duck to water”, spending his free time on the box at the Elmwood Community Centre. The local Elmwood paper explained, “Al spends all his time around the Elmwood CC practicing his skills and instructing younger lads in the game.” His hard work and dedication lead to the Winnipeg Free Press describing Al “as one of the trickiest men in the game… able to shoot from any angle”. Al put as much effort into his schoolwork, graduating with honours (an average of 80% or better) from Lord Selkirk School.
Smallwood’s talent and desire pushed him up the ranks with the Terriers playing juvenile in 1947 season. His 48 goals in 18 games in the juvenile league lead to his selection to the 1947 Manitoba Junior All Star team. The team fell two straight in the Minto Cup play downs to the visiting BC all-stars. The much smaller and younger Manitoba team boasted seven juvenile aged players: Mark Flynn, Andy Hebenton, Al Smallwood, Ernie Martin, and Bill Curtis hit the score sheet in the two game series.
Smallwood’s strong play and continuing goal scoring prowess (averaging more than a goal per game) with the Elmwood Juniors resulted in his selection to the 1949 Manitoba Junior All-star team, The 1949 team was “drubbed” and “swamped” by a powerhouse BC junior all star team, winning the best of three series two games straight. Smallwood contributed a hat trick in each of the two games.
Smallwood was selected to the Manitoba Junior All-Star team in 1950- the results were the same, but the story was different.. The Winnipeg Tribune described the aftermath this way: “The thrill that local lacrosse fans experienced this weekend was one that will long remembered by lovers of Canada’s national pastime.”
In 1951, Smallwood graduated to the Wellington’s senior side. In 1952 Al moved to the East Kildonan Esquires, Playing with the Esquires until 1953 he continued to be a goal a game player, with numerous multiple goal games.
In 1954, Smallwood moved to the new St. Boniface Kiewals senior team. Al was chosen the team captain. Not as flashy as in his younger days, the Winnipeg Free Press described his contribution to the team as being “a young veteran” and “old reliable”, while still finishing in the top 1o in scoring. The St. Boniface Kiewals won the league championship in 1957. While the Kiewals were unable to repeat as league champions, Smallwood’s sterling play was rewarded with a spot on the 1958 all-star team and selection as the league’s most valuable player. Smallwood continued to play senior lacrosse until 1960 when the league was disbanded.