Lacrosse Hero; Hall Of Fame Goalie Rod Banister

Rod Banister

When I think back to the number of lacrosse games my father took me to as a kid, there are so many great memories over the years. Of those, of course, you always remember your home town heroes and all of their wins and Championships. But every so often you see a lacrosse player or goalie on another team that leaves an impression on you (yes even at the age of 9).

I first saw Rod Banister play lacrosse here in my home town of Whitby, in 1977 at the Minto Cup Championships. My dad and I were at every game, cheering on the Whitby CBC Builders, who were playing the Burnaby Cablevision team. It was a great start, but tough finale for my dad and I as we both witnessed the big bad Western team take away what was supposed to be ours…..the coveted Minto Cup (in 6 games).

As upset as we were, we had to applaud the Burnaby team on a great effort and specifically their goalie (Rod), the Minto Cup Most Valuable Player that year.

What we had no idea of at that time, was that Rod would go on to win two more (consecutive) Minto Cups, three Mann Cups, be entered into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and have an unbelievably profound effect on our game and the goaltending position.

When I went searching for some Heroes (of which he was one of my targets), Rod answered my call, and he has graciously shared with us some stories of his playing days along with a couple of pictures.  In the picture at the top he is being interviewed in the ’77 Minto Cup by the man synonymous with lacrosse, the legendary Jim Bishop, and Hockey Hall of Famer, Brian McFarlane.  The picture below is a great action shot of Rod playing in New West Minister.

Ladies and gents, one of the best ever at the goaltending position, Rod Banister.  Enjoy. 

GM: Describe playing minor lacrosse in British Columbia.

RB: I began playing lacrosse in 1968 when I was 10 years old and played minor for the Hastings Bluebirds. We were a small organization who played out of an outdoor box near the PNE in East Vancouver.  Unfortunately, the box is now a parking lot. Two of my team mates from those years, Derek Dickson and Paul Dal Monte, played on the same teams with me all the way through minor, junior and the WLA and Terry Bingley played minor and junior with us. When I was entering Midget, our association merged with a nearby association, Grandview, and the combined organization became the Vancouver East Bluebirds and our Junior B team was the Junior Burrards.

GM: Who were your influences in the early stages of your playing days?

My Mother was probably my biggest influence as her family had been long-time fans of the Vancouver Burrards and the PNE Indians while she was growing up. She would tell stories about how thousands of fans would pack the PNE Forum for games and the thrill of watching the legendary Jack Bionda. She was very excited when I said I wanted to start playing and both my parents were really supportive. Dave Duff, Bob Worden and Gerry Taylor were my main coaches in minor lacrosse; local Hall of Famers Bill Barbour and Bill Chisolm would help out from time to time on the finer points of the game.

GM: What made you become a goalie and did you start as such?

RB: My coach stuck the fat kid in net and the rest was history! In my first year they put all the kids new to lacrosse on the B team but, unfortunately, we competed in the same league against the A teams. We would regularly get beat 15-0, 17-0, 20-2, etc. but I would get 100+ shots a game so it was probably a good (albeit painful) initiation. When we were getting beat so badly that year I thought about switching positions but that was likely the only time during my career that I did (ok, maybe a few times in senior after getting bruised up in practices).

GM: Give us some of your heroes while growing up.

RB: When I first started playing, the National Lacrosse Association was going so I remember going to games at the Coliseum in Vancouver where the Canucks played and thinking that the sport was on the same level as the NHL! Some of my early idols in those days were goalies Skip Chapman and Don Hamilton. Later on when the Burrards moved to the PNE Forum, I would regularly go to games and looked up to goalies like Dave Evans from Vancouver and Joe Comeau from New Westminster. I do remember seeing Buff McCready play for Brantford and was amazed at how incredible he was at breaking out of his own end with the ball.
Rod Banister

GM: In 1977, 78, and 79 you played an integral role as a member of the Minto Cup Champion Burnaby Cablevision team. Describe those teams and the run of consecutive Championships.

RB: Our GM, Jack Crosby, who unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago, and coach, Dan Mattinson, had put together a powerful line-up so I was fortunate to have been invited to play junior there. We just missed getting to the Minto in ‘76 and then dominated the west in ’77 going 27-1. After such a strong season, we got quite a shock in the Minto when we dropped the first two games to a fast-breaking Whitby team. Fortunately, we regrouped and were able to come back to win the next four. The ’77 team was the strongest of our three championship teams from that era. We had a great deal of depth at both ends and a good mix of graduating and young players. Offensively, Dan Wilson, Danny Perreault, Derek Dickson, John Krgovich and Ken Sim were incredible players and defensively we had guys like Eric Cowieson, Matt Aitken, Terry Bingley, Ray Mattinson and many others who did a great job at shutting Whitby down.

The next year was a rematch as Whitby traveled to the west and we played the series out of Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster. Many of the same faces were with Whitby: goalie Wayne Colley and leading scorer Ken Colley, John and Bryce Jordan, Cam Devine. For Burnaby, we had graduated a number of our top players from the ‘77 team but the younger players had elevated their game. Perreault was a leader that year and a lot of the scoring came from him, Dickson, John Swan and Lloyd Simons. Again, we dropped the first game but went on to win the next four.

We lost a large number of graduating players after ’78 and were not expected to make it to the Minto in ’79. That year, the CLA decided to go with a three team, round-robin format (BC, Ontario and Alberta) with a one game final. The series was held in Calgary and the final was televised live on CBC. We had split the two games against Peterborough during the round-robin and won a hard fought battle in the final. They had a very young team that year and were probably not expected to beat Oshawa or Whitby in the east. They were lead by Shawn Quinlan in goal and Larry Floyd was their main goal scorer. It came down to the wire with us coming out on the winning end 8-6, including an empty netter. Tournament MVP, John Swan, had a great game scoring four of our 8 goals and Lyle Robinson added two. Just recently, a team-mate sent us all a DVD of that game and it was amazing to see how tight the game really was (and if you like the short-shorts from that era, it was something to see)!

GM:  Again in 1981, 89, and 91 you won Mann Cups with New Westminster. Were most of those players the same group from Junior?

RB: In the WLA, there is a draft of graduating players so our junior team was pretty much spread around across three different teams. I was drafted by Victoria but traded to New West before the 1980 season started. NW had been rebuilding in the late 70’s after winning four Mann Cups in the early 70’s. There was a good mix of veteran/future Hall of Famers like Wayne Goss, Steve D’Easum, Brian and Bobby Tasker, Dave Durante plus a number of young players from both the Burnaby (Dickson, Dal Monte, Sim, Cowieson, Krgovich) and New West Junior teams (Steve Manning, Mark and Ivan Tuura, Dan Richardson). We gelled quickly and went to the Mann Cup in ’80 losing in a very rough series to Brampton. We did not have a great regular season the following year barely squeaking into the playoffs but then went on a tear and won 12/13 including four straight in the Mann Cup versus Brampton again.

Casey Cook had become our GM before the 1980 season and he was a master at getting the cream of the crop out of the draft (Robinson, Geordie Dean, Doug Zack, Bobby Johnston, Todd Lorenz, Rob Dick), finding ways to sign free agents (Manning, Hieljtes, M. Tuura, Mang), trading for some awesome players (Durante, Wilson, Neilson) and bringing in some great players from Peterborough (Ogilvie, Stevenson, Quinlan, Hiltz, Vilneff, Shaughnessy). Casey kept making the team better and better and deserves a lot of the credit for the team being at or near the top every year for about a 15 year span.

I was very fortunate to have played on some great NW teams and alongside some unbelievable team mates, many who are in the Hall of Fame or soon to be. We were always known as a strong defensive team, so that certainly helped make my position more enjoyable. We stressed D first and then took our offensive opportunities as they presented themselves. We had many great two way players and in my opinion, Geordie Dean and Ben Hieljtes, rank up there with the best two way players to ever play the game.

GM: What did you (or do you) find to be the biggest difference in lacrosse in the West vs. lacrosse in the East?

RB: As I mentioned, we got quite a shock when we first arrived in Whitby in 1977. We were known as a run-and-gun team in the west but it was a whole different ball game in the east. The eastern teams were much faster in their transition from defence to offence and/or breaking off of their bench than what we were used to. Also, the eastern goalies were great at starting the break out and hitting the breakaway pass. When you think about goalies like Colley or Quinlan, not only were they good stoppers but they were very good at sparking that fast break.

GM: Looking at your lacrosse resume, you have won a slew of individual awards / Championships; you’ve been an MVP, and so much more. What lacrosse accomplishment are you most proud of?

RB: All of the championships were fantastic experiences and any time you set a goal at the beginning of the season and accomplish it, there is a great deal of satisfaction at the end of the day. If I had to pick one accomplishment, it would probably be the three year Minto run we had in Junior. Our ’77 team has the honour of being the only BC team to have won the Minto, when it was played in Ontario, in the past 54 years! Heading into the ’77 championship, the press made quite a big deal about BC teams not having won in Ontario since 1953. It’s quite incredible when you think about all of the talented teams that have headed east to compete for the Minto only to come home empty handed.

Also, and I am not 100% sure if I am correct on this, but I believe our ’77-‘79 team is the only box team from BC to have ever won three consecutive championships: Minto or Mann. I think a few field teams in the early part of the 1900’s won more consecutive championships but I think we are the only team with three straight championships in the box era.

GM: In 2001 you were inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Give your thoughts on receiving that honour.

RB: Needless to say, it was an incredible honour as it is the pinnacle of a lifelong involvement in the sport. It was very emotional as I found out I was going into the Hall just days after my Dad had passed away. I was very fortunate to have played for two great organizations in New Westminster and Burnaby and I certainly owe a great deal to the team mates I played alongside. The actual induction ceremony was very special as I was inducted the same year as our New West captain, and former Burnaby team mate, Eric Cowieson, and the 1978 Canadian field team, who won the World Championship, amongst others.

GM: Are you still involved in lacrosse today?

RB: This will be my third season as an Assistant Coach with the Victoria Intermediate Shamrocks (17/18 years old). Unlike Ontario, in BC most players play two years of Intermediate lacrosse after Midget and before they go on to Junior, so the level of play is quite good. Prior to coaching with the intermediates, I was an assistant with the Junior Shamrocks and was the goalie coach for the Vancouver Ravens. It is pretty cool seeing some of the players you had in Junior, and even minor now, do well in the NLL.

GM: What are your thoughts on today’s edition of the Major and Pro game?

RB: I am really happy to see the sport grow to the level it has. It has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, to get it to where it is today. The athletes today are incredibly fit, dedicated and talented and it is great to see the game being played in so many places and getting TV exposure. To be honest, I am not a big fan of the O-D system that dominates today. I preferred the fast breaking, run-and-gun style of the old days and also miss the two-way player. I think the nets in the NLL are about three inches too wide; given the size of the equipment, the goal size did have to increase but I prefer the 4 X 4.6 that are currently in use in the WLA and Major league and used to be used in the NLL.

GM: So what occupies your time now, after lacrosse?

RB: Well, we have a three year old daughter, our first, so that has had us hopping for the past few years; loads of fun! We moved to Victoria ten years ago and really enjoy the lifestyle on the island. This past December, I kind of semi-retired from a 26 year career in the educational publishing business so I am now doing consulting work.

Fun Questions

GM: Who were a few of the best shooters you ever faced?

RB: Kevin Alexander could score from anywhere and could pick a corner like no one I have ever seen. Other great snipers were Wayne Goss, Dan Wilson, Dave Durante, John Grant, Bob Cool, Brian Evans, Ron MacNeil, Derek Keenan, Dan Perreault, Brian Tasker, Doug Hayes, Ken Colley, John Jordan, Bruce Turris, and Mike Thomas. Later in my career came along the likes of John Tavares, Gary and Paul Gait, Jim Veltman, Johnny Wilson, Dan Stroup, and Russ Heard. I am probably missing loads of people that deserve to be included here!

GM: If you could change any one lacrosse game or event, would you and which one / where?

RB: Without a doubt, if I could turn back time, it would be the 6th goal (against) in Game 7 of the 1985 Mann Cup. We were tied 5-5 with about 3 or 4 minutes left in the game-Ken Colley had the ball-he was a lefty and was cutting across the top toward his wrong side, I was following him across and thought he would go for a low shot to the short side. As he was coming across, he suddenly flipped a strong back hand from the outside, similar to what you see Tracy Kelusky do these days, my weight was going to my right but the shot went to my left side, I reacted and dropped to my knees and was lucky to block the shot with my left thigh, as I went to trap the ball one of our defenders came in the crease and tried to scoop up the ball. I am not sure if I distracted him when I tried to trap it but unfortunately the ball somehow flipped off of his stick and went right into the net. We lost game seven 6-5.

GM: Give us who you would put out on your “All Time Greats” Power Play. And who would take the shot?

RB: Boy, that is a tough one given all the great players I played with and against and the way various generations of players cross over each other. I will cheat a bit and do a west and east version from guys who played in the 80’s: from the west, I would have Ben Hieljtes, Dave Durante or Brian Tasker at the top, Geordie Dean at the right shooter, Kevin Alexander on the right crease (although he could just as easily play the top or shooter spot), Wayne Goss on the left shooter and Jim Meredith or Jim Lynch on the left crease (Meredith could play the top as well). From the east, I would put John Grant or John Jordan at the top, Derek Keenan at left shooter, JJ Johnson at left crease, Phil Scarfone or John Fusco at right shooter and Bobby or Jimmy Wasson at right crease.

GM: Your most memorable lacrosse experience is……

I really can’t pick one, all of the championships were absolutely terrific but I also remember things like traveling to Ontario to play in the first ever PeeWee National tournament in 1970, spending two (Canadian) winters in Australia coaching/playing box and still being in touch with some of the Aussies almost 30 years later, the ’85 Super Series against the US, the way the lacrosse community rallied in support of Wayne Goss night, the launch of the Ravens. Winning my first Mann and Minto Cups will always be the most special.

GM: What is one thing you feel lacrosse did for you that you otherwise would have missed out on?

RB: It would definitely be the camaraderie of being part of a team; setting goals and doing everything you can to accomplish them. In New West we had a real family environment and we went through all the ups and downs of life together. I would not have wanted to miss the experiences and friendships that the sport has given me. I also think that some of the lessons learned on the lacrosse floor and in the dressing room have helped me a great deal to survive in the business world.

GM: Rod, this has been a heck of a lot of fun, thanks so much for doing this.

RB: Thank You.

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7 Comments

  1. Great interview and pics.

  2. I would love to get my hands on one of those DVDs from the 79 Minto Cup. Gary, make it happen!!

  3. Working on it Kent!

  4. I enjoyed the interview. It brought back memories of the games I used to watch out of the neighborhood Grandview Community Center, where the Burnaby team started. That team was the core of Cablevision. I wonder what ever happened to Ron Kulcheski? LOL My neighbor Dan Sylvester played for Grandview. I watched a lot of games out of the Burnaby Arena also. Doug Hayes was my fav player. I then followed him to the Burrards, and became a big fan, watching many games at Kerrisdale Arena. Does Sanderson /Leithwaite ring a bell? lol Lacrosse is a great game, and it is good to see it grow like it has.

  5. Excellent website, I especially enjoyed the video of the 1979 Minto Cup game, what memories. I love the wooden sticks and still use one to this day. Just wanted some help, it has been 30 years since the Burnaby Cablevision Jr. A Lacrosse won three consecutive Minto Cup and I would like to get the guys together at a game in Burnaby, BC, on June 21, 2009, to acknowledge the anniversary/accomplishment and also enhance the good sportmanship of lacrosse.

    So I am looking for the players, managers and anyone else who was involved with the team to contact me, Mike O’Reilly #9, at oreillyc@telus.net .

    Thanks,

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  7. Marksy,

    Great interview, Rod was a legend out west when we went their with the Brooklin Redmen and when I played there in Coquitlam. You need to do more of these interviews maybe 2 a week, one east, one west, there is lots of lacrosse players out there who would love to share their memories. Hey I think we should do one with you as the person getting interviewed, you have lots of playing memories to share especially that 85 Minto Cup. Get Mess on it or Garlin. Heck I can think of a few questions to ask ya!

    To Rod, thanks for sharing some great memories,

    Paul St. John


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