Paint It Red!

 

Take a moment this spring, on a quiet afternoon if you can, and stroll in to Queen’s Park Arena once the glossy, green wooden floor is in. Take in the sights—the banners, the displays, the retired jerseys, the sounds, and yes, even the smells. This is what history feels like: the living, breathing history of the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Founded in 1889, the Salmonbellies have a longstanding place of pride in this community, and to many, they are a strong representation of family—family pride, family legacy, and, most importantly, time spent together as a family.

Photo by Rachel Riding

Representing four generations of proud Salmonbellies, Bill Tyler’s family is a testament to the strong sense of family the Salmonbellies organization exemplifies. The Tyler legacy began with Bill Tyler (Bill’s grandfather and namesake) who played nine seasons for the Senior A Bellies from 19351944. One of Bill’s favourite stories about his grandfather took place later in his Bellies’ career. His grandfather joined the Navy during WWII and when the Bellies found out they were going to be facing a very tough, physical team, Mayor Hume (who ran the Salmonbellies organization at the time), lobbied the Navy to allow him to return home to play.

Bill’s father, Mac Tyler, grew up playing lacrosse in New Westminster and eventually joined the Senior Salmonbellies as a rookie in 1964. At 6’4”, and wearing large black rimmed glasses, he would have been an imposing figure as he ran down the floor. Mac Tyler went on to have a lengthy and celebrated career with the Bellies which included winning three Mann Cups, receiving many all-star awards, and playing as part of the World Championship team in 1968.

Bill also grew up playing for the Salmonbellies, wearing his jersey with pride and playing games on that “magical green floor” in Queen’s Park Arena. Now both his sons, Malcolm and Marcus, play for the Bellies and he has coached both of their teams over the years. Bill enjoys reconnecting with guys he grew up with who coach their kids’ teams or cheer from the sidelines.

For the Tyler family, the Salmonbellies represent a shared thread of passion that has woven its way through the generations. Many of Mac Tyler’s former teammates and their families are like one big extended family. Bill’s wife Jaymee, who had “zero knowledge of lacrosse” before meeting him, has also developed a tremendous passion for the game. “So much so,” says Bill, “ she seems determined to single-handedly keep the Bellies’ team store in business!”

Photo by Rachel Riding

According to Minor Salmonbellies Association President Rich Catton, this passion for the Salmonbellies is infectious. “For such a small community,” says Catton, “we have the third highest registration numbers in British Columbia with over 500 boys and girls playing box lacrosse and over 200 playing field lacrosse.”

When asked about multi-generational families in the Association, Catton was able to quickly list over a dozen off the top of his head, like Goss, Husband, Stewartson, Goodwin, Peterson and Porter. “There are countless lacrosse families in New Westminster that span generations and many of them continue to give back to both the Association and the community,” notes Catton.

Catton himself grew up in New Westminster playing on the famous green wooden floor and acknowledges how fortunate he was to have great coaches and supportive parents  who helped with his development and created opportunities for him to play lacrosse for a long time at a high level. “Now,” says Catton, “like so many other players who have come through the Salmonbellies organization, I give back by coaching and helping with the minor executive.”

Catton currently has three kids (a daughter and two sons) playing with the Minor Bellies and hopes his three-year-old daughter will also play in a couple of years. “I love the game of lacrosse for the many things it has taught me, the things it has given me,” says Catton, “and definitely for the friendships I have made.”

It’s the ability to have everyone in your family be part of the game and Association that makes it so engaging, and doable, for so many families. Take the Deans, for whom lacrosse is most definitely a massive family affair. Dad, Geordie Dean, is a Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame recipient who had a long and illustrious career with the Senior Salmonbellies for 14 years. With three Mann Cup wins, multiple trophies, and many MVP awards, it’s little wonder his #5 jersey was retired in 2007 and now hangs proudly inside Queen’s Park Arena.

While Geordie’s Senior Salmonbellies career had many highlights, it’s the moments with his own kids that mean the most to him. Like the first time his oldest son, Hudson, put on a Salmonbellies jersey, when he coached his two daughters together on the same team in field lacrosse, as well as coaching his daughter Graceyn at the national level and, most especially, seeing all four of his kids with his old number on their jerseys.

Lacrosse season is “controlled chaos” in the Dean household. Last year alone, both older kids were coaching, all four kids played, Geordie coached two teams as well as Team BC Midgets, and both daughters played on Team BC. “My wife Michelle creates a big calendar for all the practices and games,” notes Dean. “We depend on this to know where and when we need to be. Thank goodness for Grandpa and our Salmonbellies family, who we rely on to make sure everyone gets where they need to be!”

Over the years, the Salmonbellies family has continued to be a big part of Dean’s life. “Some of my best friends have come from the lacrosse community, and a lot of them are still involved with the sport in some capacity. To this day, most of our good friends, and our children’s good friends, have come to us through the lacrosse community.”

While New Westminster is filled with families like the Tylers and Deans who have donned the famous blue and red jerseys for generations the Salmonbellies Association also plays a part in creating memories for families new to the city. You certainly don’t need to have grown up here to get caught up in the excitement and thrill of being a part of the Bellies family. Nancy Graham and her husband Ross moved to New Westminster in 2003. When their son Aidan was born, they quickly learned that lacrosse for the Salmonbellies was “the” hometown sport to play.

Last year Aidan played at the Novice level and was “lucky to have Geordie Dean as his head coach.” says Ross. “He’s a fantastic coach and was able to teach Aidan so much about lacrosse.” Both Ross and Nancy admit their knowledge of the sport was limited but found everyone really accepting from the get-go. “It’s like one big family,” says Nancy, “and there’s such a feeling of community. It’s been a great way for Aidan, and us, to get to know a lot of people from around town and make new friends.”

Brand new to New West, or a legacy name in the Bellies organization, we are fortunate to have a place like Queen’s Park Arena and an open extended family like the Salmonbellies. Being part of this organization brings us together and enhances our sense of community. The Bellies pull at our passions and let us give back and, at the same time, we become stronger and are given opportunities to thrive. Family is more than who lives within our walls and the scoreboard is only part of the story of how the Salmonbellies allow us all to win.


FAST FACTS!

History and Culture

  • Lacrosse is the official “national summer sport of Canada”
  • Lacrosse is known as “the fastest game on two feet”
  • Lacrosse has been played in Canada for over 1000 years
  • In the traditional indigenous Canadian version, each team consisted of about 100 to 1,000 men on a field from 500m to 3km long

Lacrosse in New West

  • The minor field lacrosse season runs from September to January
  • The box lacrosse season runs from April to June
  • Tryouts for novice level and above begin in February and the provincial playoffs run into July
  • Kids can start playing mini-tyke lacrosse at age five
  • Registration starts in January (see www.minorbellies.com)

Want to try it out?

Each February, the Salmonbellies offer the Doug Hazelwood Clinic to players under eight and new players under ten. This free clinic teaches lacrosse basics in a fun atmosphere. This year’s clinics are on February 15 and 22. More information can be found at: www.minorbellies.com

Tournaments

  • The Minor Salmonbellies Association hosts three popular tournaments during the box lacrosse season:
  • May: Dorothy Robertson Memorial Tournament (girls tyke – bantam) and the Hyack Invitational Bantam Tournament (boys and girls)
  • June: John Witt Memorial Bellie Bowl Novice Tournament (boys and girls)

Want to learn more?

The Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame is in Anvil Centre right here in New West: www.clhof.org

Read:

Salmonbellies vs. the World: The Story of Lacrosse’s Most Famous Team & Their Greatest Opponents by W.B. MacDonald

 

We Bleed Orange in New West

Photography by Alan Wardle

 

Photo by Alan Wardle
Photo by Alan Wardle

For Head Coach Farhan Lalji and the rest of the Hyacks Nation, the looks on the faces of the kids as they come charging out of the tunnel onto Mercer Stadium field on Homecoming Night says it all. With that short run, the young men taking high fives and having their names announced under the Friday Night Lights have undergone a rite of passage that connects them to their program past and present, their city, and a tradition of excellence on and off the field.

And regardless of what happens on the field, they’re always winners—and so is New Westminster.

“I just take a look at the players’ faces,” says Lalji. “To see that and to see the little kids playing touch football in the end zone and maybe 2,000 people in the stands—you can’t beat that.”

In 2005, the recently-resurrected Hyacks Football program was looking for some sort of signature athletic event that would connect a new generation of footballers with the pre-1977 teams and community at large. So Laji and his team looked south and, by and large, liked what they saw.

we-bleed-o-18
Photo by Alan Wardle

“We wanted to create some sort of destination event and in the States, they go a bit further–they have a Homecoming king and queen. We don’t do that,” says Lalji.

“What we do have is a signature event where people can come back and return to their school year in and year out and that’s special.”

“Special” is an understatement. There is nothing like the Hyacks Football annual Homecoming Game north of the 49 parallel. Other BC high school football teams don’t pack over 2,000 fans into their stands to watch the game ball arrive by parachutist and are then treated to fireworks both on and off the field. It’s the kind of spectacle you expect to see south of the border in football-crazy states like Texas.

“It’s the biggest single showcase of high school football in BC and maybe even across the country,” says Lalji. “I have schools calling me up asking to be our Homecoming opponent because they want their players to play in that environment.”

The September classic has become one of the marquee sporting events in New Westminster since it was first held in 2005. The game is played in honour of New Westminster football grads past and present. The Hyacks have gone 11-1 at Homecoming, outscoring their opponents 379-139 in the process.

The game itself is the finale of a larger community celebration featuring on-field kids’ activities like a bouncy castle and football toss. Another highlight is the Alumni Football Game which brings players from past teams back to have a little fun and share memories.

With corporate sponsors like Key West Ford and Save-On-Foods, Homecoming brings together the Royal City’s sporting, business, and community groups. You might even catch a glimpse of Mayor Jonathan Coté and his Councillors competing with School District Chair Jonina Campbell’s Trustees at the tug-of-war contest.

Photo by Alan Wardle
Photo by Alan Wardle

Of course, an event like Homecoming doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work and commitment from a lot of volunteers. That’s where “Hyacks Nation” comes in. Hyack Football operates both a Varsity and Junior Varsity program at New Westminster Secondary School, as well as a community program for children as young as five. With the support of an extended family of parents, former players, and supporters, Hyacks Nation organizes and stages Homecoming year after year. They also set up and tear down for dozens of football games played by the Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Community Football teams.

The commitment to community extends beyond the football field. Members of the Hyacks Football program volunteer to help out at major city events like May Day, the Hyack Parade, RiverFest, and International Reading Day as well as raising money and donating gifts for the Christmas Bureau and others.

In the process, the NWSS Hyacks Football program was named the Hyack Festival Association Community Service Group of the Year in 2006 and has received multiple City of New Westminster Youth Group Awards.

Photo by Alan Wardle
Photo by Alan Wardle

The same level of commitment is shown on the playing field. Over 220 players ranging in age from five to 18 participate in Hyacks Football annually. Their 40 coaches each volunteer hundreds of hours to help the players be the best they can be.

The results speak for themselves: 32 NWSS grads have gone on to earn college scholarships, six of them to NCAA Division 1 schools in the US. Hyacks teams consistently make the playoffs. And last year, the Junior Varsity Team won the AAA High School Football Championship–the program’s first provincial championship.

Despite these big numbers, the success of the Hyacks Football program is built on a focus on each individual player.

“It’s not just about football,” says Lalji. “There are kids who come from challenging situations and others who don’t. There’s a wide spectrum of experiences. We never give up on a player and when you see them start to figure it out, that’s very gratifying.”

we-bleed-o-20Fair weather and foul, the Hyacks Football program has been there for teens that needed a challenge, support and to feel part of something bigger.

And so in September, when it rained for the first time on a Homecoming celebration, when you might have expected folks to stay at home and keep dry, Lalji stepped out onto the Mercer Stadium turf, took a look at the 1,500-plus folks crammed into the stands and the cheer teams and others lining the track and was blown away.

“There is community spirit. There is the pride that connects us all. We get support from so many different sectors in the community because that’s what we’re about. We started the program 14 years ago and it was just an idea. It keeps going because people buy in and see its purpose.”

Queens Cross

What happens when you cross a bike race with a mud bog?

Queens Cross, that’s what.

Saturday’s driving rainstorm may have deterred all but the hardiest spectators, but dozens of riders from beginners to elite men and women relished the chance to battle each other and the elements at New Westminster’s Queen’s Park in the fifth race of the eight-race Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition’s series.

Cyclocross is an off-road version of a road cycling criterium race in which riders lap a number of circuits on a two or three kilometre course comprised of dirt trails, grassy meadows, over barriers and across creeks or gullies. It evolved in Belgium and Northern France in the early 1900s as a way for road cyclists to stay fit during the fall and winter off-season. Sometimes getting to the warmth and shelter of the nearest café or brasserie meant cutting across farmer’s fields and through forests; cyclocross replicates that experience.

Saturday’s cold torrential downpour was worthy of the worst weather of the Ardennes and turned most of the course at the west end of Queen’s Park into a track of thick, viscous muck. At the end of each event, the line at the hose station was 20-30 muddy cyclists deep. Even through their exhaustion, many managed a smile. After all, there’s often a rainbow at the end of a rainstorm.

Full results of the Queens Cross.

In This Corner…

Brennan Williams believes boxing gyms belong under bridges. So that’s where he put his new Sugarrays Boxing and Fitness Club.

Brennan Williams takes a break in the custom-built ring at his new Sugarray's Boxing Gym on Front Street.
Brennan Williams takes a break in the custom-built ring at his new Sugarray’s Boxing Gym on Front Street.

Well, not quite a bridge. But the east end of Front Street where the remaining bulk of the old concrete parkade blocks out the sun and locks in the noise of passing trucks.

There’s no place Williams, who grew up in Burnaby but has deep family roots in the Royal City going back three generations, would rather be.

Brennan Williams grew up in Burnaby but he has deep family roots in New Westminster, so he had no doubts where he wanted to locate his second Sugarray's Boxing Gym.
Brennan Williams grew up in Burnaby but he has deep family roots in New Westminster, so he had no doubts where he wanted to locate his second Sugarray’s Boxing Gym.

“New West has an old history,” says Williams. Perfect for pugilists.

“It’s a classic sport, it’s got a culture,” says Williams. “Everybody has something in their history that connects them to boxing.”

Even if it’s just a memory of watching a Rocky movie.

Sugarrays has been a part of Vancouver’s boxing scene for more than 16 years, first on Granville Street downtown and currently in Kitsilano.

Williams, who learned the sweet science at the gym under legendary coach Bob McAdam and now passes on his knowledge to  prospective boxers aged 16-60, had no doubt where he wanted to locate Sugarrays second facility. He was tiring of the long commute into Vancouver.

Sugarrays New Westminster gym opened Oct. 1 at 425 Front St. after months of construction, including the installation of a custom-built ring, dozens of heavy and speed bags, a weight station and spin bikes. A projector beams boxing matches on a whitewashed cinderblock wall, a collage of framed black and white photos of famous and unknown boxers looms over the reception counter. The 3,000 square foot gym doesn’t yet have the worn-in sweat and spit ambiance of a classic old-time boxing gym; that mostly exists outside the front door, beneath the hulking parkade.

Williams says the gym is in the business of training fighters, but there’s no requirement to face an opponent in the 15-foot training ring. The boxer’s fitness regime is what attracts most members.

That can be comprised of a 30-45 minute circuit of skipping, dips, rope climbs, pedalling the stationary bike and strengthening the abs, plus an hour of running and

Brennan Williams, of Sugarray's Boxing Gym, says a boxer's training workout can be grueling. That may explain the puke bucket hanging in a corner of the gym's custom-built ring.
Brennan Williams, of Sugarray’s Boxing Gym, says a boxer’s training workout can be grueling. That may explain the puke bucket hanging in a corner of the gym’s custom-built ring.

 10 rounds of pounding the various leather bags.

“It’s a tough workout,” says Williams. “It takes real grit.”

Sugarrays is open seven days a week; 2 – 10 pm on weekdays, 10 am – 3 pm on weekends.

Trying Something New: Learn to Curl

It’s September, and if you’re in Canada that means one thing: curling season is starting again! New Westminster’s Royal City Curling Club is having its fiftieth year of curling this season, so it’s the perfect opportunity to try curling or, better yet, get your kids curling!

img_2832The RCCC has a program designed just for introducing curling to children aged 6 to 9 called Little Rocks. Your child will learn some of the basics behind curling, including curling sportsmanship, ice safety, sweeping, scoring, and delivering a stone. The instructors range from seasoned curlers to juniors who have been curling since their own Little Rocks days. While your kids won’t be entering the Olympics just yet, they’ll be given the opportunity to learn some new skills while having fun on the ice. And as a part of the Little Rocks program, they have a Christmas party where there are prizes to be won — last year my daughter won a turkey!

Older kids have their own programs as well: Intermediate for ages 10 to 12, and Junior for ages 13 to 19. Junior curlers have their own tournaments held locally and abroad, and can even win scholarships from Curling Canada!

But suppose you’re an adult and you’ve always wanted to try curling, or you curled when you were younger and want to give it another try. Don’t worry, the RCCC has Novice and Intermediate clinics coming up on September 18 for only $15. Visit that link for more information, and call or email promptly as spaces go quickly!

Of course, clinics only last for one day. If you would like to curl on a more regular basis but might be intimidated by the level of curling, don’t worry, the RCCC has a number of leagues that are very open to new curlers. I curled in the Saturday Night Mixed league for two years, and I can say that it is an incredibly friendly and forgiving league. All of the people that I curled with and against were nice and often gave tips to beginners and novices!

And because I’m legally obligated to pun it up when writing a curling article, let me finish off by saying this: hurry hard down to the Royal City Curling Club so you can get swept up in the excitement of curling!

Salmonbellies a Fun Time for Families

The Salmonbellies are part of that whole New West tradition thing, and although I’m not a rabid lacrosse fan, I think it’s fun, fast paced, and a great way to spend a night in town. There are still a few home games at Queens Park Arena if you’re into catching a game, and tickets for a family are really reasonably priced. Check out Jason Kurylo’s photos from the recent game on July 7, which the Bellies took 10-9. The Bellies are currently top of the WLA standings.