British Columbia
British Columbia: The Early Years

British Columbia: The Early Years

Given the impact that British Columbia has had on Canadian soccer down through the years, it is hard to imagine that the governing body of soccer on the west coast did not join the national soccer association until 1920, eight years after it was founded.  Even then, B.C. did not send a delegate to the Annual General Meeting until 1921.

The Dominion of Canada Football Association was founded in 1912 with Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan as members, while Alberta wired applying for membership.

However, a governing body of soccer in all of B.C. first came into existence on December 28 of 1904, and remained in power until sometime in 1909.  In 1909, a professional soccer league was formed in B.C., bringing the soccer association into direct conflict with the very powerful B.C. Amateur Athletic Union, and that seems to have led to the collapse of the provincial association.  A second B.C. Football Association was formed on August 15, 1914.  That association, still with strong ties to the BCAAU, chose not to join the DCFA, which by that time had joined FIFA.  In turn, the DCFA, in joining FIFA, agreed to support both amateur and professional soccer, upsetting The Amateur Athletic Union of Canada.

However, conflict arose in B.C. in the years just before 1920, which resulted in a rival group starting another B.C. provincial governing body, which sought affiliation with the DCFA.  It was a bitter and complicated battle, with one faction led by David Leith, and the other by Con Jones.  Eventually the Con Jones group prevailed, and BC joined the DCFA in 1920.

From its earliest days, soccer in B.C. had strong ties to the neighbouring states south of the border, and this led to a team from California visiting B.C. as early as 1909.  The Californians played six games in B.C. against Vancouver, Nanaimo, all B.C., Ladysmith and Victoria.  Later that same year, a B.C. All-Star team visited California, while a second Vancouver All-Star team visited California in 1913.

Then in 1910, professional soccer was introduced in B.C., with the first professional game ever played in Canada taking place at Recreation Park in Vancouver on March 25 between the Rovers and the Callies.

In 1911, the first touring team from overseas played in B.C. when the famous English amateur team, the Corinthians, toured Canada and the U.S.  They played in Vancouver on August 11 and beat the Vancouver All-Stars 5–1, before crossing the Georgia Strait to Nanaimo, where they tied with a powerful Nanaimo/Ladysmith combination 2–2.  The Corinthians remained on the Island and beat Victoria 4–2 before returning to the Mainland to once again defeat Vancouver 4–1.

Due to the generally mild winters on the coast, the B.C. soccer season has usually been played from September through to the spring, thus being out of step with the rest of Canada, where soccer can be played only during the summer months.

No overseas touring team played in B.C. again until 1921, when the powerful Scottish Football Association team played teams representing the Mainland, Upper Island, Victoria and B.C.  It was the start of many games played between B.C. All-Star teams and touring teams in the inter-war years.

As a general rule, touring teams played two games on the Island and two on the Mainland, with the second game on the Mainland being a game against a B.C. All-Star team on occasion.  This was the case in 1927, when the B.C. All-Stars were beaten 6–0 by the touring Scottish Football Association team.  On that day, B.C. lined up with Andy Roots in goal, Bert Daggar and Vic Laven at full back, George Russell, Neil McFarlane and Jimmy Heaps in the half back line, while Alex Cameron, Bob McDougall, Duff Davies, Dickie Stobbart and Adam Kerr were the forwards. 

This format was tried again in 1931 when B.C. was beaten 4–1 by the English Football Association team.  On that occasion, B.C. was represented by Harold Singleton – Bill Constable, Tommy McKibbin – Murray West, Dickie Stobbart, and Alcock – George Stephen, Preston, Bill Findler, Dave Turner and Jack d’Easum.  Then in 1935, when the Scots once again came calling, with some of the greatest names in the history of the game in the lineup, they struggled to beat B.C. 1–0.  That B.C. team was: Stan Stronge – Fred Easley, Don Cowan – Murray West, Dot McPherson, Jimmy Gemmill – Billy McNeil, Trevor Harvey, Ray Watchorn, Jimmy Spencer and Johnny McKay.  It was a similar story in 1939 when the Scots beat B.C. 3–1.  The B.C. team on that day was Stan Stronge – Don Cowan, Tommy McKibbin – Murray West, Trevor Harvey, Jimmy Gemmill – Jack Johnson, Johnny McKay, Hap Smith, Jim Spencer, Norman Mcleod.

In 1924, Canada sent a team to tour Australia for three months in the Canadian summer and the Australian winter.  Among the B.C. players making the trip were goalkeeper Henry Mosher (UBC), George Anderson (Ladysmith), Dickie Stobbart (Nanaimo), Jack Armstrong (Vancouver St. Andrews) and Harry Chapman (Ladysmith).  The party was led by James Adam from Victoria, while Don Morrison from Ladysmith was the trainer.

Three years later, Canada returned to the South Pacific to tour New Zealand.  Once again, B.C. was well represented in the touring party that included Stan Tait and Ernie Edmonds of Nanaimo, Jack Monaghan of Vancouver Woodfibre, and Don Archibald of Vancouver North Shore.  The party also included Dave Turner, then playing in Toronto for Ulster United, but later to make a name for himself with Westminster Royals.  James Adam once again led the party.

While the governing body of soccer in B.C. remained outside of the DCFA, no club team from B.C. was able to enter the competition for the national championship.  But when B.C. teams could enter in 1921, Ladysmith went all the way to the final before being beaten by Toronto Scottish in Toronto.  In those early days, the power in B.C. soccer seemed to rest with the teams on the Island, and particularly teams from the mining towns of Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Cumberland.  Nanaimo Wanderers won the national championship in 1923, but lost in the final in 1925.  One year later, Canadian Collieries from Cumberland were losing finalists, but only after four games had been played.  Nanaimo made its third appearance in the final in 1927, and won the trophy for the second time.  So in seven years during the 1920s, teams from Vancouver Island reached the final four times.

That all changed at the end of the 1927–1928 season when the great Westminster Royals team won the title.  The Royals won again in the 1929–1930, 1930–1931 and 1935–1936 seasons, followed by Johnston National Storage from Vancouver in 1936–1937, North Shore in 1937–1938 and Radials in 1938–1939, before the outbreak of war interrupted the 1939–1940 competition.  So between 1921, when B.C. teams first entered the national championship, and 1939, they were in the final in 13 years out of the 19 and winners on nine occasions.

On the provincial level, an unofficial B.C. championship was played in 1896 and won by Victoria Wanderers, but the official B.C. championship did not begin until 1911 when B.C. Premier Eugene McBride presented a shield for competition.  The first competition was won by Victoria West who beat Vancouver Athletic Club.  The McBride Shield was replaced in 1922 by the Province Cup, presented by B.C. Lieutenant Governor Walter Cameron Nichol.  Nichol was also the publisher of the Province newspaper.  However, before that, in 1915, B.C. Premier William John Bowser presented the huge Mainland Cup for competition on the Lower Mainland.

At the end of the decade in 1939, B.C. once again sent an All-Star team to California.  The occasion was the California World’s Fair.  B.C. swept the three-game series against the San Francisco All-Stars, winning 8–2, 5–1 and 4–2.  

Some Notable Players and Administrators from B.C.:

James Adam – B.C. delegate to the annual meetings of the DCFA throughout the 1920s, he also managed the national team on its tours to Australia in 1924 and New Zealand in 1927.  He was an All-Star centre forward in his playing days.

John Russell – Became president of the DCFA in 1925 when John Easton resigned, and remained president until 1931.  First came to prominence in 1920 in the dispute over which provincial association should join the national governing body, and remained in the forefront of B.C. soccer as the leader of the B.C. Soccer Commission in the 1930s.  In 1946, when the DCFA was reformed, he was the secretary from 1946 to 1947.

Dickie Stobbart – A member of the Canadian team that toured Australia in 1924, and was awarded a gold medal by the Australian authorities as the outstanding player on the tour. Played in the national final in 1921 with Ladysmith, then Nanaimo in 1923 and 1925 and Westminster Royals in 1928 and 1931.  Played for the B.C. All-Stars in 1927 against the Scottish Football Association and in 1931 against the English Football Association.

Ernie Edmunds – A member of the Canadian team that toured New Zealand in 1927, he had an outstanding career in B.C. soccer.  A member of the Nanaimo team in the national finals of 1925 and 1935, he also played for the Pacific Coast All-Stars against the English Football Association in 1926.  Also played in the 1926, 1932 and 1935 Province Cup finals for Nanaimo.

George Anderson – A member of the Canadian team that toured Australia in 1924, he played right back in all six internationals.  Played for Westminster Royals when they won the national title in 1928, 1930 and 1936.  Also played in the 1923 and 1924 Province Cup finals for Ladysmith and in the 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1936 Province Cup finals for Westminster Royals.

Austin Delany – Left Half on the great Westminster Royals teams of 1928 and 1930, he went on to a career in journalism with the Vancouver Sun.  The name was Delany and not Delaney.

Dave Turner – A member of the Canadian team that toured New Zealand in 1927, he played in three of the four internationals.  Had an outstanding club career with Edmonton South Side, Canadian Collieries in Cumberland, Vancouver St. Andrews, Toronto Ulster United and Westminster Royals in Canada, and also played for New Bedford Whalers and Philadelphia in the U.S.  He won Canadian championship medals with Westminster Royals in 1928, 1930, 1931 and 1936.  Voted Canada’s Player of the Half Century in 1950 by the Canadian Press.

Trevor Harvey – First gained prominence as a member of the B.C. All-Star team narrowly defeated by the Scottish Football Association team in 1935, and went on to a great career, winning national championship medals in 1936 with Westminster Royals, 1937 with Johnston National Storage and in 1938 and 1949 with Vancouver North Shore.  Played numerous times for the B.C. All-Stars.

Jimmy Spencer – Played almost all of his career with Vancouver North Shore, winning national championship medals in 1938 and 1949. Played for the B.C. All-Stars in 1935 and 1939 against the Scottish Football Association and 1937 against Charlton Athletic.  He also played for the B.C. All-Stars at the California World’s Fair in 1939, scoring seven goals in three games.