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Lacrosse through the ages: New Westminster Salmonbellies celebrate 135th anniversary

The pounding sounds of running on hardwood, the smash of the ball hitting the boards and the cheer of the crowd—it’s officially lacrosse season at Queens Park Arena in New Westminster.

When it comes to the Western Lacrosse Association, every game is a big game, according to the assistant coach of the the New Westminster Salmonbellies.

“It’s only getting faster, especially with the talent, the size and strength of all of these young players coming into the league,” said Logan Schuss.

This season, the senior Salmonbellies are led by Captain Mitch Jones, a professional lacrosse player and former member of the Vancouver Warriors. 

“I’m excited for this year, I love the way our team is made up. We have some nice home grown talent, a lot of good athletes…big strong guys and a talented offence,” said Jones.

The community of New Westminster embraces all the levels of Salmonbellies—from the young kids all the way to the senior game.

“It’s not uncommon you walk around New Westminster seeing kids walking around with belly shorts, lacrosse sticks in hand,” said Junior A Salmonbellies General Manager Warren Goss.

The sport of lacrosse has been played for 135 years in the Royal City. The glory years of box lacrosse hit its height in the 70s and early 80s, when the senior Salmonbellies were crowned the best in Canada five times.

“Back in my day… we used wooden sticks,” said Wayne Goss, who was with the team for 14 years. “It’s very difficult to win because you have a real long grind in the year, then you’re playing the best and Ontario always comes with great teams.”

Back then, Goss says teams had to play both ends of the floor and it was a gritty, tough game. To this day, you can find Wayne Goss near the top of the Western Lacrosse Association scoring leaders.

“My dad always tells me he never looked where he was going to shoot he always looked away,” said Warren Goss

In 1981, his final season with the Bellies, when they ended up in the finals for the Mann Cup.

The scene was set for game four in the series, with a jammed packed Queen’s Park Arena. Warren Goss remembers the final few moments of his dad’s career—Wayne Goss was six points away from breaking the Mann Cup scoring record-- and watching the team work hard to help his dad get that record.

“I’ll never forget watching… they scored the winner with seconds left to get my dad that point to break the record. Everyone was rushing on the floor to celebrate an amazing memory,” Warren Goss recalls.

A year after the senior Goss retired, his life changed forever.

“My dad had been in an accident in Pitt Lake and had fallen and was in hospital. From that point on, it was just about moving forward. Watching my dad learn to walk and talk and two years at G.F. Strong hospital, just continuing to battle every single day,” Warren Goss said.

“He’s an inspiration to me every single day for multiple reasons. He supports the team, loves the Salmonbellies. I’m making my mark in a different way in lacrosse as a GM and the only reason I’m doing it is because of my dad.”

Over 40 years have passed since Wayne Goss thrilled fans on the wooden floor.

Any day of the week during lacrosse season, however, you’ll find him in the crowd at Queen’s Park Arena cheering on the stars of today, like homegrown talent Kevin Crowley, who plays forward for the Salmonbellies.

“My grandpa used to tell me stories about Wayne Goss and how good he was back in the day and the things he would do,” Crowley told CTV News. “He was one of my idols.” Top Stories

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