Forty years can be a long time, but for the former members of the Victoria MacDonald’s Bread junior lacrosse team, memories of the 1976 Minto Cup championship season aren’t too far away.
A group of players and staff from that national championship team, as well as team owners John and Rhoda MacDonald, were on hand to be honoured on the 40th anniversary of their win in a special ceremony held before Saturday’s junior Shamrocks game at The Q Centre.
“It’s kind of emotional. It’s an honour to come out here and meet the guys and recognize that 40 years is a long time,” said Gerry Cadwallader, a rough-and-ready player who could also score and later played for the senior Shamrocks. “It’s hard to believe it’s gone by that fast.”
Playing home games out of what was then the Esquimalt Sports Centre (now the Archie Browning Sports Centre), the team went 21-6-1 in the regular season that year to win the five-team Pacific Junior A Lacrosse League. They later swept the Bramalea Excelsiors 4-0 in the Minto Cup series.
Despite having such amazing offensive talents as Kevin Alexander, who scored 101 goals and totalled 217 points – a record that still stands – in 28 games; Bob Cool, who tallied 70 times and racked up 176 points, and Tej Labh, who notched 55 goals, the team was a collection of players who all played key roles, Cadwallader said.
“There were no stars on our team from our point of view; everybody contributed and everybody believed we were going to win.”
Teammate Joe Mottishaw echoed that sentiment.
“We acted like a team, we weren’t individuals,” he said. “We were a true team and everybody stuck together (through) thick or thin. You went after one of us, you went after all of us.”
The MacDonalds team, nicknamed the Bakers, were a collection of players who had come up through the ranks in the Esquimalt, Victoria and Saanich minor lacrosse associations. Juan de Fuca had yet to be established by that time.
“It was kind of a cool group … when we all came together we all got along great,” recalled player Roy Sinden, a longtime Kelowna resident who travelled to Colwood for the ceremony . “We used to play against each other, as kids, and now here we were playing together as young adults.”
Joked Cadwallader of looking back today: “We’re still 19 in our minds.”
He noted that some players from the team still keep in touch, but he expected that this mini-reunion would help further in that regard.
Giving a sense of just how special that collection of players were, the MacDonald’s Bread team fell to 13-15 the following year and watched arch-rival Burnaby Cablevision capture the Minto Cup. Many of the players from the championship Victoria team had graduated out of junior and a handful, including Alexander and Cool, won a Mann Cup in 1983 with the senior Shamrocks.
The Victoria junior club, renamed the Esquimalt Legion, won the city’s last Minto Cup in 1988 after being runner-up the three previous years. Area teams have been runner-up three times since then, most recently the junior Shamrocks in 2008.