Honoured in the Team Category: New Westminster Salmonbellies Sr. A (1980-1989)
Honoured in the Team Category (2021)
Editor's Note - The pandemic has resulted in activities across the World being delayed or cancelled for the past 20 months, including countless events in the Canadian lacrosse community. However, on Saturday, November 13, 2021 - the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame held a double cohort Induction ceremony for the years 2020 and 2021. A total of 4 players, 2 builders, 1 veteran and 1 team were inducted for each year.
This is the 2nd of 16 feature articles pertaining to the most recent teams, players, builders, or veterans inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. The following article highlights the New Westminister Salmonbellies decade long run (1980-1989), a team that appeared in the Mann Cup seven times. The Salmonbellies were inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2021 honoured in the team category.
1987 Mann Cup vs. Brooklin
In the ten year period of 1980-1989 the New Westminster Salmonbellies competed in 7 Mann Cup championships, winning the Canadian championship three times (1981, 1986, 1989)
During this decade in regular schedule action, the Salmonbellies played 240 games compiling a record of 149-90-1. In the playoffs (including Mann Cups), their record was 77-53. Specific to Mann Cups – playing 41 games in 7 Mann Cup series, the Salmonbellies were 21-20, including two series losses in the seventh game.
Overall, the Salmonbellies compiled a record of 370 games played, with 239 wins, 130 losses and 1 tie for an overall winning percentage of .6459. Any team that wins 65% of their games is a damn good team!
Beyond the numbers of wins and losses, this organization assembled teams with an outstanding core collection of players – men of character and integrity. Of note, 5 of the players who were members of the 1980 team were also on the 1989 team (Rod Banister, Eric Cowieson, Paul Dal Monte, Geordie Dean and Dave Durante). Even more impressive - 19 members of these teams have been inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame (including 2021 inductee Lyle Robinson).
Although one could cite numerous individual Salmonbellies players, some of the very greatest during the era include:
- Rod Banister – an outstanding goalie who backstopped 3 Minto Cup Championships along with playing in 6 Mann Cups - winning three times. Inducted into the CLHOF in 2001.
- Eric Cowieson inducted into the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 (in addition to being an inductee into the CLHOF in 2001). He also holds the record for playing in the most Mann Cup games (62) and most Mann Cup series (11). His #6 jersey has been retired by the Salmonbellies.
- Paul Dal Monte was inducted into the CLHOF in 2019 and the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. Mr. Dal Monte has been the Commissioner for the Western Lacrosse Association since 2017.
- Geordie Dean is considered a generational talent. He was inducted into the Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 and the CLHOF in 2003. His #5 playing jersey has been retired by both the Coquitlam Adanacs Junior “A” team and the New West Salmonbellies Senior “A” team.
- Dave Durante – An Adanac traded to the Salmonbellies in 1980 playing 12 seasons with New Westminster. A five-time WLA All-Star. His sweater #10 has been retired. Inducted into the CLHOF in 1997.
- Wayne Goss inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, as well as his CLHOF recognition in 1986. His #13 jersey has been retired by the Salmonbellies.
During their playing careers, four members of these Salmonbellies teams were awarded the Mike Kelly Medal selected as the Most Valuable Player in the Mann Cup:
1981 – Wayne Goss
1986 – Geordie Dean (also MVP in 1991)
1987 – Eric Cowieson (even though the Salmonbellies did not win the Mann Cup)
1989 – Ben Hietljes
There are many people who could reflect and comment upon the immense success of the team over the decade - a more than qualified person to comment on the history of the Salmonbellies, Geordie Dean shared his thoughts on the Hall of Fame Salmonbellies team. (Note: Geordie Dean – a Salmonbellies legend who played16 seasons with New Westminster including competing in 9 Mann Cup series. He was a 10-time All-Star and two-time Mann Cup MVP. Dean also represented Canada at the World Field Lacrosse Championships in 1986, 1990 and 1994. He was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2003. His team jersey has been retired by both the Coquitlam Junior “A” Adanacs and New Westminster Senior “A” Salmonbellies).
Legendary Salmonbellie #5 Geordie Dean
When hearing the storied Salmonbellies teams from the 1980-1989 years were being inducted into the CLHOF, Geordie Dean responded – “First of all I want to say it is an honour. I’m grateful for both my teammates and the team management over the years. I’m sure my teammates would agree with me when I say those were the best years. To be recognized as a team has a special meaning. A lot of lifelong friendships were made during those years. In fact, most of my closest friends now were my teammates during those years. We fought many hard battles together. We wore the Bellies jerseys with pride, tradition and respect. There are so many great memories and a few nightmares from those years. There are also a few series I replay in my head and wish we could go back to replay. Thinking about those years and remembering how hard we fought and the good times we had brings out a lot of emotion. I’m so proud and feel very privileged to have been a Bellie during those years and going into the Hall of Fame with my teammates is extra special.
When questioned to offer insight as to what were the keys to the success of the teams – Dean commented, “I believe there were many reasons for our success. In those years first of all we played hard defence and we had good sized players, Lyle Robinson, Steve Manning, Ed Cowieson to name a few. We played good systems for our era. We had a good penalty kill, great man down, and our offence moved the ball well. Another strength we had in those years was great goaltending with Rod Bannister Shawn Quinlan and Doug Zack. We were like a family. We did a lot of socializing off the floor with our team and our wives and children. Steve D’Easum, our coach at the time really pushed us to include our families as part of our team. I believe this created a stronger bond between us all and was an important factor in our success. We had a lot of hard-nosed dual athletes that had, or were still playing rugby or wrestling. They were just plain tough and hated to lose. We were surrounded by great management and staff. K.C Cook brought in a few key players from the east and also made some great draft picks over those years. Our other staff and trainers were dedicated andworked endlessly. Rick and Rusty Wills come to mind. In all, being such a close-knit group on and off the floor was probably the biggest contribution to our success”.
The Salmonbellies of that era played the Brooklin Redmen four times during that decade (winning 2 Mann Cup series 4-2; and losing 2 Mann Cup series 4-3). Geordie Dean shared memories about the Redmen; “The Brooklin Redmen were as competitive as us and they were tough as hell. They never gave in. They always seemed to be able to answer anything we threw at them. I chalk this up to their Coach, Peter Vipond; he was a great coach and someone I have a lot of respect for. The players I remember the most are Derek Keenan. He never gave up; he would just keep coming at you! Wayne Colley who played fantastic in net. It was always hard to sneak one by him. Others of note, especially offensively were Gil Nieuwendyk, John Jordan, Jim Meredith and John Fusco. I know there were more but those are the ones that come to mind first.
The special recognition for a team to be inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame is self-evident. When reviewing the accomplishments of the team and the players of this particular decade (1980-1989), the conclusion is obvious -legendary team. When hearing the comments from Geordie Dean, you cannot help but think, what a privilege it was to be a Salmonbellie during this period. To have been a player on such an accomplished team with players possessing great skills and character was to be part of a special group. Without question, a team worthy of induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
(Written by Rad Joseph - Member of Major Series Lacrosse Media team)