Mentor Leaves The Game He Loved

Jack Crosby

(story by  Tom Berridge, Burnaby Now, as published Saturday January 26, 2008).  On behalf of us at L.I.T.G. our condolences go out to the Crosby family and the  Burnaby Lacrosse family.

An era in Burnaby, British Columbia ended this past week with the passing of lacrosse mentor Jack Crosby on Tuesday.

The passionate hall of fame builder, who was known locally as ‘Mr. Lacrosse,” passed away from cancer in the morning of Jan. 22. He was 66.

He leaves behind Arrianne, his wife of 43 years; son Richard and grandchildren Christina, Dylan and Nyla; and son Mike and grandchildren Jade and Riley.

Jack was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1980 and was later an inductee into the inaugural Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame.

He was honoured with the Lester B. Pearson award for outstanding achievement by the Canadian Lacrosse Association in 1981. Jack was also named Mr. Lacrosse by the provincial body on two separate occasions.

He is the only president Burnaby’s minor lacrosse association has ever had, a post he held since 1964. Jack was also president of the intermediate and junior A and B teams and the senior A Burnaby Lakers up until the time of his death.

As general manager of the junior A club, he helped the Burnaby Cablevision team win three consecutive Minto Cups from 1977 to ’79, including two national titles back East – a feat that has yet to be duplicated.

Jack also volunteered his time to the executive of B.C. lacrosse as a registrar.

As GM of the Burnaby Lakers, he guided those juniors to a record 12 straight Minto tournaments, playing in 11 championship finals and winning five national titles.

But perhaps his most satisfying accomplishment was the annual novice all-star tournament that bears his name.

The Jack Crosby tournament began in 1985 to showcase the elite novice players and is considered by many to be the best competition of its kind in the country.

Jack began playing lacrosse at the age of five in Burnaby and went to the Minto Cup final with Norburn in 1961. He played just five games in the old Intercity league for the Burnaby Lougheeds and at the age of 21 began a lifetime of coaching at the minor levels.

“That was his time and it’s what he stayed with all these years,” said WLA statistician Stan Shillington.

Former business partner and junior Cablevision head coach Dan Mattinson remembers Jack as a man with a burning desire to stick up for his players and what was good in the game of lacrosse.

“He was a pit bull in a good way. He hardly ever backed down. If he thought it would be good for the sport and the game, he’d be there to the end,” said Mattinson, who opened D&J Sports with Jack and later partnered in Victory Trophies for a time.

Jack’s vision was to build a feeder system through the minor ranks, championing the importance of stick skills in developing players in the mould of another great lacrosse mind, Jim Bishop of Oshawa Green Gaels fame.

Jack was feared by some in the back rooms of lacrosse meetings, but he was adored by players who he all knew by name.

He was passionate about lacrosse in Burnaby and loyal to a fault.

“He wanted to keep the Burnaby boys. He didn’t want to let them go,” said senior Lakers director John Paterson. “He said, ‘It’s not just the senior team. They’ll step in and help the club.’ He was so good for the kids. He let people go when they wanted to go but he never let them go like old dishwater. There are a lot of young guys playing lacrosse who have a lot to thank Jack for.”

One man who has seen both sides of the game is former Western Lacrosse Association official Ron Crosato.

“The loss is somebody who saw the big picture in his sport, even though people always said he was Burnaby first. But I feel he had the best interest of the lacrosse league (in mind),” said Crosato. “He was there for all of lacrosse. He was a visionary.”

Although he rarely missed a game on the bench of the junior A team, he was equally at home with the minors. Jack was the longtime coach of the peewee A1 team before finally giving it up because of his health.

He was named BCLA coach of the year in 1971.

Besides the popular novice tournament, Jack also set up a game exchange with Saanich on Vancouver Island, where tyke teams of five-, six- and seven-year-olds came together for fun and competition.

“It was everything to him,” said former junior A Lakers co-coach Dave ‘Doc’ Lough.

“I guess he was the most knowledgeable lacrosse person in Canada, or Western Canada at least, and a great leader in Burnaby, in B.C. lacrosse and junior and senior. He had a lot of lacrosse knowledge in that stubborn head of his. He is irreplaceable.”

Paul Rowbotham, the current GM of the WLA Lakers, brought the current senior A team over from Richmond with Jack’s help.

“He (Jack) started something in Burnaby 40 years ago and just kept going,” said Rowbotham. “He was gruff and rough, but it was never personal.

“Jack never got mad at you, he got mad at a situation. I can tell you from experience, Crosby’s biggest problem was he cared for the game. He wouldn’t do anything that wasn’t good (for it).”

Jack was also involved in amateur hockey, keeping peewee league stats at one time and sitting as a league commissioner in the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association for a spell.

With the late Mike Krgovich, Jack co-owned the Burnaby Bluehawks of the B.C. Junior Hockey League in 1982 and also managed peewee soccer in Burnaby.

But he never left his beloved lacrosse.

And to honour that love and commitment, Jack Crosby will be honoured by the BCLA with an endowment fund named after him.

“This is our way of honouring what he has done for lacrosse,” said BCLA marketing director Jeff Gombar. “It was all about lacrosse, and that’s who he was.”

A memorial service for Jack was held at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre Tuesday, Jan. 29th.

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