Legends of the Game

In the forty-ninth edition of “Legends of the Game” we look at the career of Joe Comeau.

From Wikipedia:

Joe “The Quiet Man” Comeau (born June 24, 1940) is a Canadian retired amateur and professional box lacrosse goaltender. A member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Comeau was the winner of four Mann Cup national championships, WLA playoff and regular season most valuable player trophies, seven all-star team inductions and four Nicholson Trophies as the WLA’s top goaltender.

Career:

At the age of 12, Comeau switched from defenceman to goaltender. After four provincial minor championships, he was promoted to the Junior A New Westminster Salmonbellies. He helped lead the ‘Bellies to the 1960 Minto Cup with a 21-1 record and an 0.810 save percentage in the regular season.

Comeau was forced to split his time between the New Westminster Salmonbellies of the ICLL and Port Coquitlam of the Senior B loop in 1962. In Senior B, he led Port Coquitlam to a provincial title. By 1964, he was full-time with the Salmonbellies. He also played a stint with the Coquitlam Adanacs.

Joe turned professional with the relocated Portland Adanacs in the National Lacrosse Association in 1968, but rejoined the Salmonbellies for the 1969 NLA season. The ‘Bellies would win the WLA Conference of the NLA, but lose the final to the Peterborough Lakers. The NLA folded at the end of the 1969 season.

In 1971, 1972, and 1973, Comeau was a WLA playoff champion and won the Mann Cup in 1971 and 1973. He subsequently retired from lacrosse. In 1974, he returned and won yet another league title and Mann Cup and retired again. Late in the 1976 season, his Salmonbellies were suffering a bad season, and he came out of retirement to turn their season around, win the league and a fourth Mann Cup. He then retired for a third and final time.

“Quiet Man” Comeau was elected into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983.  The Salmonbellies dynasty that he was an integral part of was also inducted in 2004.

From Stan Shillington:

Joe Comeau was known as “The Quiet Man”, preferring to let his netminding dexterity do the talking.

And what a statement that made:

His senior career began slowly but, once it went into high gear, Joe backstopped the New Westminster Salmonbellies to four Mann Cups in five tries.

Joe began playing lacrosse as a defenceman in Vancouver’s Renfrew District. However, by age 12 he had become a goalie. After four provincial championships in the minor divisions, Joe stepped into the Junior ‘Bellies’ nets in 1960 and led his club to a 21-win, 1-loss record and the Minto Cup while registering an 81 percent shot-saved average. The following season, he returned to Vancouver with the Lobbans and again topped the Junior goalies with a 78.3 percent average.

Joe was ready for Senior A competition in 1962 – but it wasn’t ready for him; Vancouver had and , New Westminster had and , Victoria had and , Nanaimo had and , and first-year Norburns had and . So Joe whiled away the season in Senior B, leading Port Coquitlam to the provincial title.

In 1964, Joe joined New Westminster – the ‘Bellies were called the “O’Keefes” at that time – in a backup role. The following year, Joe chose the Adanacs of Coquitlam and  later of Portland because work commitments forced Schweitzer (now the Adanacs) into part-time duties.

After the 1968 Portland adventure, Joe returned to New Westminster. In the next four years, Joe took the ‘Bellies to three Mann Cup playdowns, twice capturing the title. Suddenly, in 1973, he retired in order to build an addition onto his house. The Royal City crew used seven goalies that season but went from Canadian Champion to just seven wins and bottom-place finish.

Like Lancelot riding a white charger into the fray, Sir Joe returned in 1974 to take the ‘Bellies back into first place with 20 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. Naturally, another Mann Cup win followed.

Joe sat out the 1975 season, fully intending to enjoy retirement; but, with New Westminster wallowing in the 1976 league basement with a 3-8 record, the 36-year-old Quiet Man again returned. With 12 wins in the next 13 games, the ‘Bellies walked through Coquitlam and Vancouver in the playoffs to earn another Mann Cup challenge. The Hollywood-scripted outcome, naturally, was completed with the Mann Cup championship.

This time, Joe stood by his decision to hang up his goalie equipment for good, leaving the game with seven All-Star Team rankings, four Leo Nicholson (top goalie) awards, the Ellison Trophy (playoff MVP), the Commission Trophy (MVP in league play), and a lifetime 77.5 percent shot-saved average.

In 1983, the Vancouver fireman was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

References:

• British Columbia Lacrosse Association

http://manncup2013.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Mann-Cup-2013-Down-Memory-Lane-Stories-Shillington.pdf

• “Box Players – 1983”. Archived from the original on 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2014-02-10.

• Central Desktop

WLA 2013 Media Guide 13Jan22

• “Team – 2004”. Archived from the original on 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2014-02-10.

Bible of Lacrosse – statistics

• Stan Shillington’s “Who’s Who in Lacrosse” by Stan Shillington Western Lacrosse Association. 2013.

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