Legends of the Game

In the forty-second edition of “Legends of the Game” we look at the career of Stanley “Bunny” Albert Joseph.

I came across an article written by Stan Shillington on the British Columbia Lacrosse Association’s website.

Here is the article in it’s entirety:

Down memory lane with Stan Shillington…

Stanley Albert Joseph

On May 22, 1945, a lithe youngster just one month past his 17th birthday stepped between the pipes of the newly reborn North Shore Indian Arrows.

The youngster had graceful movements, keen eyes, incredible reflexes and an unorthodox style. From the onset, he performed like a champion – even if his team didn’t.

The Arrows won only tow games in 1945 but, for Stan Joseph, it was the beginning of a amazing 25-year Senior ‘A’ career tending goal for the Indians, Vancouver, New Westminster, North Vancouver and even one game for Coquitlam – 522 games in total.

“Bunny” – as he was known to his teammates – had an unenviable job of trying to follow in the footsteps of lacrosse legends, particularly one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, Henry Baker. If that weren’t enough, father Stan Joseph Senior Played over 170 games with the Salmonbellies and the Indians in the 1930’s.

Through it all, though, the Bunny remained cool.

Born April 28, 1928, young Stan was surrounded by lacrosse tradition; his father, of course, and his neighbors – Henry, Ray, Simon and Dom Baker, Andy Paull, Russell an Hubie Smith, Louis Lewis and Oscar and Stu Bomberry.

The colorful Indian team of the 1930’s disbanded after the 1941 season due to the Second World War. When it was reorganized in 1945, Bunny was the designated netminder, edging out old Henry Baker and July Garlow. Teammate included Del and Ross Powless, Harry Newman, Jim Martin and Joe Johnston but, despite Stan’s heroics, the club took only two of 24 games, a more four the next season but 10 wins to make the 1947 playoffs.

For almost two decades, many pretenders to the crown attempted to dislodge him from his Number One perch without success. He remained with the Indians until the team once again disbanded after the 1955 season. He then joined Vancouver for one term before heading off to the Royal City as a main cog in the Salmonbellies’ Rebuilding project aimed at capturing the Mann Cup.

It was propitious move for Stan was to enjoy something that had deluded his father. The senior Joseph played for the Salmonbellies and Indians without success in the 1933, 1934 and 1936 Mann Cup championships. Now, with his lean years behind him, Bunny was to savour Mann Cup victory with the 1958 New Westminster juggernaut.

In 1959, Stan shared the goaltending chores with a hot rookie named Les Norman on the way to a repeat Mann Cup title.

Norman was young and on his way up the ladder of stardom. It evident that he was to be the Top Dog as the 1960 season approached. Not wishing to spend his old age on the bench, Joseph asked Vancouver coach Bob Marsh if he could attend workouts.

Toiling with the same determination he displayed as a green grass rookie 16 years earlier, Bunny was again Number One, capturing his fourth Lea Nicholson Trophy as the league’s top goalie. The following season, 1961, Stan and Don Hamilton shard the Vancouver netminding duties on the way to yet another Mann Cup title.

After the 1963 season, Stan began coaching the North Shore Indians Senior “B” team and, of course, looked after the goaltending chores. He returned to Senior “A” play with North Vancouver in 1968 and 1969 before returning to the Senior “B” level for the next half dozen years. Stan’s last Senior “A” game was a 31-minute stint for Coquitlam Adanacs on July 11, 1970, rejecting 19 of 27 New Westminster shots.

No one before or since had enjoyed netminding success using Stan’s unorthodox style of clutching the shaft of the stick with both hands, the leather pocket held a waist height. Awkward – but for him, it worked.

Stan wasn’t much of a conversationalist on or the playing floor but, at post-game gatherings, he loved to entertain with an excellent impersonation of Bill Kenny of the Ink Spots.

No other goalie in Western Canadian senior lacrosse had faced or blocked more rubber than Joseph. In his 522-game career, Stan stopped 13,040 for 18,456 shots for a 70.65 per cent save average.

In 1976, Stan was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

On March 21, 2001, the highly respected elder of the Squamish Nation in North Vancouver passed away, leaving behind eight sons and 27 grandchildren, many of whom will maintain the marriage of the Joseph name with the game of lacrosse

From Wikipedia:

Stanley “Bunny” Albert Joseph (April 28, 1928 – March 21, 2001) was a Canadian amateur box lacrosse goaltender.

A member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Bunny was the winner of three Mann Cup national championships over the span of a 25-year career.  He is known for his unorthodox goaltending style and longevity as an elite goaltender in the sport.  At the time of his death he was a highly respected elder of the Squamish Nation in North Vancouver.

Joseph started his Senior A career as a teenager. Like his father, veteran of 3 Mann Cup finals Stan Joseph, Bunny started his career with the North Shore Indians. As a goalie, he stood out – not just because of his great play, but because of his unorthodox style. Bunny played with both hands on his stick and the head of his stick to his side at waist level, a style unique even to this day.

In 1955, the Indians folded and Bunny played the 1956 season with Vancouver, before shipping over to the powerhouse New Westminster Salmonbellies. In 1958, he helped lead the Salmonbellies to a Mann Cup victory over the Long Branch Pontiacs. A season later, he would win another Mann Cup against the Peterborough Timbermen, but see severely diminished playing time due to the rise of rookie phenom Les Norman. In the winter he asked for a tryout with the Vancouver Carlings. With something to prove and a new club, Bunny finished off his second season with the Carlings with his third Mann Cup victory. Bunny played two more seasons of Senior A, then took a player-coach position with the Senior B North Shore Indians.

Bunny Joseph would return to the Senior A ranks from 1968 until 1970 with North Vancouver and the Coquitlam Adanacs. He played his final game of Senior A with the Adanacs on July 11, 1970 before calling it a career. He would return to the Indians Sr. B team to dabble for a couple more seasons, but after 25 years he was done with Sr. A lacrosse.

Bunny was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1976.  To this day, Bunny Joseph has played the fourth most games (522) of any Western Lacrosse Association player and has faced and stopped more shots than any other WLA goaltender in regular season (10,747 of 15,302) and season and playoff combined (13,040 of 18,456), all while maintaining a 0.707 save percentage.

References:

– British Columbia Lacrosse Association

– By Year Archived 2014-02-19 at the Wayback Machine

– WLA Past Masters Lacrosse: Hall of Famer Stan Joseph

– Through Lacrosse, Empowerment: How First Nations athletes keep Canada’s national summer sport alive – Megaphone

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