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Manitoba in Minto Cup Play Downs

In the twentieth century Canada began the change from a rural agricultural society to an urban industrialized nation. One facet of life that was significantly impacted was sport. As Canada became more urban, industrial workers and the new business class had "free time'' to participate in sports. In the early part of the twentieth century sport was controlled nationally by the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada and locally the members of the private wealthy athletic clubs. Both these groups were staunch advocates of amateurism and they opposed the inclusion of these "lower class" rowdies in organized sports. The restrictive amateur codes imposed by these groups barred women, Indigenous People, Blacks, and Asians from participation in sport. In the 1930's these restrictive policies led to a bitter split in amateur sports and ultimately lacrosse, hockey, and basketball walked out of the AAU. The Canadian Amateur Lacrosse Association (CALA) replaced the Dominion Lacrosse Association. One of most significant changes made by the CALA was the introduction of organized system of play downs for national championships at the junior and senior categories.

Prior to these change, national championships were adhoc in nature- with powerful clubs challenging the reigning national champion. Winnipeg based clubs (Winnipeg Lacrosse Club, Tammany Tigers, and Argonaughts) challenged for the Mann Cup (emblematic of the national senior lacrosse championship) from 1919 to 1932.

The Minto Cup donated by Governor General Minto in 1904. At first it was awarded to the senior national champions. In 1910 the BC professional senior league awarded the trophy to their league champions. It stayed there until in 1934, when the stewardship of the Cup was taken by the CALA. In 1937, the CALA instituted the first national play down for the Canadian junior championship and determined the prize would be the Minto Cup. This change meant Manitoba would have a place in the up coming national play downs.

In this system the winner of BC championship would travel east competing against each provincial champion. Only on occasion would there be teams from Alberta or Saskatchewan. However it was not uncommon for the BC champions to stop in these provinces to play a series of exhibition games. The gate receipts from these exhibition games were used to pay the travel costs of the BC team. The winner of the BC/ Manitoba series would travel on to play the Ontario/ Quebec champion. The next year the order was reversed with the Quebec champion travelling to Ontario, with the winner going on to compete against the Manitoba squad. The winner of this series would be declared Eastern Canadian Champions and travel on to BC for the Minto Cup.

1937 WESTERN CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

The first Minto Cup play down in Manitoba was a single game sudden death playoff played on October 22 at the Olympic Rink. The young Manitoba squad was lead by juvenile players Andy Brannigan in goal, Ray Ogston, Scotty Sinclair, and Johny Ames, bolstered by three experienced pick ups from the runner up West End team- Al Colpitts, Ken Hunter, and Hugh Millen. Hub Wilson, Jack Nicol, Reg Williams, Bill McGregor, and Ernie Lennon handled defence. Filling out the roster were Wilf Mattson, Frank Mulvey, and Moe Simovitch.

The Pat's opposition the Vancouver Bluebirds, BC junior champions, were composed of 10 players who played in the BC senior loop the past season. The Bluebirds were led by senior players: Herbie Delmaico, Bob Lee, Ted Bradbury, and Chuck Morphitt. As if not having a roster full of players with senior experience was not enough, the Bluebirds picked up 6 of the top players from the other teams in the BC junior league. This was a handicap for the young Manitoba squad who only had 5 players who have had senior experience and no experience competing on the national stage.

The inexperience and undersized Pats went toe-to-toe with the heavily favoured Blue Birds, falling 17 to 10 in the sudden death game. The difference in the game was not the lack of experience or size; it was Vancouver goalie Lloyd Preston. The Winnipeg Tribune described the goaltenders play as: "marvelous at every turn." The stonewall put up by Preston allowed the B.Birds to get out to a quick 4-0 lead. The play of young Brannigan in the Pats' net grew stronger and allowed the 'Tobans an opportunity to make a game of it. From half way through the game and into the third period the Manitoba team played the western visitors even, sparked by a 3-goal performance by Wilf Mattson. Ultimately the Tribune described the game: "Elmwoods were beaten, trimmed by a fair margin, but by no means disgraced."

The sell out crowd at the Olympic Rink left the game satisfied that they had witnessed some of the best lacrosse played in Winnipeg and with a glimmer of hope for better results in the coming years. The fans on their way out were heard grumbling: "Wait until net year." 

 

 

 

 

 

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