Peter “Whitey” Berge Honoured in the Veteran Category (2020)
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 3rd 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 player Peter Berge – a triple sport athlete known for his gentlemanly character, offensive skills and a valued teammate. Peter Berge was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2020 honoured in the Veteran category.
Peter Graham Berge was a skilled lacrosse player, known for being a stick handler, best able to score goals. He accumulated 199 points in four seasons of Junior “A” lacrosse with the St. Catharines Athletics including scoring 93 goals. He went onto to play Senior lacrosse with St. Catharines Athletics from 1962 to 1966 where he tallied 262 points in 127 games including 131 goals. In both Junior and Senior lacrosse, Peter was usually amongst the league’s top ten scorers.
During his minor lacrosse days, Peter was on teams from St. Catharines that won Ontario championships in Bantam “A” in 1954, Midget “A” in 1955, and Juvenile “A” in 1956. He was a was a pick-up player for the Whitby Red Wings in the 1960 Minto Cup (New Westminster defeated Whitby). Peter was also a pick-up player for the 1961 Minto Cup champion Hastings Legionnaires. Berge was second in playoff scoring for Hastings that season. The Hastings Minto Cup winning roster included lacrosse talent such as John McCauley, Joe Todd, John Davis, Gary Landoni, Ken Ruttan, Grant Heffernan and Ted Higgins.
The late Ken Ruttan, a stand-out player and Assistant Captain of the Hastings team recalled the Legionnaires picking up Pete Berge from St. Catharines for their Minto Cup quest – “We wanted to win the Minto Cup, so the players we picked up were top notch. Peter Berge was a very good player. He really knew how to handle a lacrosse stick. He was great with the ball and he knew what to do to make good things happen. A really nice person who helped us win”.
Peter came from humble beginnings, raised by his “Gram” (Mary Elizabeth Ann Graham). He began working full time before the age of 18 to help the family, while he still played lacrosse. Peter was proud to have completed high school and to have earned a degree from Brock University after he started his own family. Peter’s greatest joy was his family: his gram; wife Meryle, daughter Dr. Brenda Berge and son Christopher Peter Berge. Truly the best grandfather to his two grandchildren: Mackenzie and Harrison, whom he lovingly and affectionately called “Precious” and “Champ”. Peter was a fiercely protective individual. He would be best described as being a reliable loyal man with the strength of a lion, balanced by his gentle loving, optimistic, happy, humble nature.
Peter Berge was a triple sport athlete. Fondly known as “Whitey”, he was an accomplished lacrosse, hockey and softball player in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Recognized for his baseball skills placing as a finalist on the Ontario Midget Softball team in 1954, Peter won the St. Catharines Softball Association M.V.P. Award a year later in 1955. However, he was more known for being a well sought-after hockey player. ‘Whitey’ was on the last of the St. Catharines Junior “A” hockey team to win the 1959-60 Memorial Cup - the St. Catharines TeePees defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Teepee’s roster included such great names such as: Chico Maki, Vic Hadfield, Ray Cullen, Pat Stapleton and Roger Crozier.
In 2006 with his children, grandchildren, family friends: the Thornes; the Cheevers and Johnny Bower (Toronto Maple Leaf goalie) by his side, Peter was inducted into the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame receiving the honour from hockey legend Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens.
This was followed up in 2007 when Peter Berge was inducted into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He accepted the honour with his grandchildren Harrison and Mackenzie on the stage with him. Amongst Peter’s family and friends at the event was his best friend Wally Thorne, teammate on the St. Catharines Junior “A” lacrosse team from 1956-1960 (Wally Thorne was inducted into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2009).
One of Peter’s happiest and fondest memories was to tell of the 1960 lacrosse trip out to British Columbia with Wally to play against the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Peter’s family, especially his grandchildren, recall him sharing the story of how the Salmonbellies cunningly outsmarted his Whitby team enticing them to enjoy a fishing trip on the ocean for hours the day before playing. He would laugh at their naivety afterward when forced to play the next day with the terrible sun blisters, Peter would describe the effect with the pads banging on his shoulders, remarking “it was the most painful game I ever played”.
Peter was honoured to be a member of the St. Catharines Athletics Old Boys Club for years. He attended many of the events they held where he and his friends Wally Thorne and Artie Graham would gather and reminisce with teammates. Such a welcoming group, he was eternally grateful they also included his son, making Chris an honorary member of the Athletics.
Ted Higgins, goalie for the Minto Cup Hastings team remembers Peter Berge well, “As a person, Peter Berge was a perfect gentleman, such a nice, nice man. As a lacrosse player, he was a beautiful runner and a great athlete. He did his job on the floor well and contributed to us winning the Minto Cup.”
Sadly, at the age of 78, Peter Berge passed away in 2018. Peter’s daughter Brenda was both thrilled and delighted in hearing the news of her father’s induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. However, it was with great emotion, Brenda commented, “Dad would have been humbled (as always), to be inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. As his family, we are grateful to the Selection Committee, but sad he missed knowing about this honour. However, we are incredibly honoured to accept this posthumous induction”.
Peter Berge, was a skilled lacrosse player and valued teammate. He is certainly a fine example of lacrosse’s veteran players. Quite rightfully, inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in the Veteran category – Class of 2020.
(Written by Rad Joseph - Member of Major Series Lacrosse Media team)