The Winnipeg Tribune described Eric Abbott as “Winnipeg’s staunchest lacrosse booster”. Abbott made contributions as a player, coach, referee, and organizer.
Abbott’s playing career started with the West End Memorial in 1935. Playing in the Juvenile division as a midget aged player, Abbott showed a natural ability to score goals- potting 1 to 2 goals a game. In 1939, Eric graduated to the West End Argos Senior team. Abbott played a number of years with the Argos, before playing 1 year with the Elmwood Pats Seniors..
In the late ‘30’s and early ‘40’s Abbott moved into the officiating ranks In the 1934, The CLA moved the game of Field Lacrosse into the hockey rinks left vacant in summer. Playing under Field lacrosse rules in the much smaller hockey pens made the game quite rough and violent at times. As an official, Abbott had to step in on more than one occasion to break up fights amongst the players. In one dust up, an errant punch hit Eric in the face breaking his glasses. In this rough and tumble game, Abbott earned the admiration and respect of the players and coaches.
Eric tragically passed away in 1954 after attending a Manitoba Lacrosse Association meeting. A Trophy honouring his work in lacrosse has named for him and presented to the winner of the Winnipeg Senior Lacrosse League.
As well as officiating, Abbott was active in the coaching world from 1942 to 1950. Starting with the Isaac Brock Bantam team in 1942, Abbott’s teams snagged the Bantam A championship a year later. From 1946 to 1949, Abbott coached Midget, Juvenile, and Junior, winning titles with the Isaac Brock Midgets (1947), Juveniles (1948), and Deer Lodge Juniors in 1950.
Ravaged by the effects of the Great Depression and World War II, sports including lacrosse suffered greatly. Limited resources and leadership for grassroots sports dwindled and the number of youths playing sports declined rapidly. For lacrosse these effects were exacerbated by the Winnipeg School Division decision to end the Winnipeg School Lacrosse Leagues.
In 1944, Tom O’Brien and his group including Eric Abbott, Russell Ball, Richard Gavan, David Smith, Morris Mulvey, and Clarke Simpson banded together to resurrect lacrosse in Winnipeg. This group met and formed the Greater Winnipeg Lacrosse Association (GWLA) with goal of fostering bantam, midget, and juvenile lacrosse. Abbott in the role of secretary took an active role in promoting lacrosse to the community centres across and around Winnipeg. With provision of lacrosse sticks and equipment, the GWLA was able to field teams at the following community centres: Isaac Brock, Kelvin, Sir John Franklin, West End, Orioles, Lord Roberts, Norwood, and teams from the North End (Excelsiors and Spartans).. The league grew to 20 teams in 1947 with new teams from the CUAC, Selkirk, St. Vital, and Fort Garry.
Eric Abbott, as secretary of GWLL, was at the forefront of this boom promoting the game, coaching at least one team a year and referring every night of the week.