By MIKE BEAMISH
Friday, February 13 wasn’t only a sad and unlucky day for scores of young men who’d counted on a future in professional lacrosse.
A black cat also crossed the path of Bob Allan of Peterborough, Ont., the former west coast lacrosse star with Nanaimo in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
For on that ironic date, when the National Lacrosse League “crapped out” after its second season, Allan found himself with a worthless three-year contract and nine months of unemployment staring him in the pocketbook.
Allan and Huntsville, Ont.’s Jack Bionda were both back at Queens Park Arena Saturday night, reunited with members of ’62 Mann Cup champion against former Vancouver players in the fourth “Oldtimers” game. Vancouver won 18-14.
“I was on vacation in Lethbridge (Alta.) at the time, playing in an oldtimers’ hockey game when I got the news,” says Allan, a bald but trim 41-year-old. “It was a helluva way to start a holiday.”
In January, Allan relinquished a secure position as vice-principal of Thomas A. Stewart secondary school to sign a three-year coaching contract with Philadelphia Wings of the NLL.
[Ed. note—Allan coached the Wings in their inaugural 1974 season, guiding the team to the finals. He begged off the job in 1975 because of his commitments to the secondary school.]
“It was a good contract, and I felt pretty secure,” he says. “Philadelphia had a solid front office and we’d sold 3,000 season tickets before we’d even begun our advertising campaign. If we got this season under our belts, I think we would have made it.”
But right now, Allan is out of a job. He expects to return to his former high school this fall, although at a lesser position, teaching math.
“I’ve at least got a job back,” he says, “although with declining enrollments the way they are, I don’t know for how long.”
Bionda is still much in demand on the “oldtimers” circuit and it’s not difficult to see why. At 42, he still hasn’t lost the sleight of hand moves with a lacrosse stick that dazzled 2,100 fans and still amazes old rivals. He completed his last full season of senior lacrosse in 1964. [Ed. note—Bionda played 7 games for the Portland Adanacs in the professional National Lacrosse Association of 1968, scoring 6 goals]
And Bionda, who spent 10 seasons on the west coast with Victoria, Nanaimo and New Westminster, also created something of a sensation Saturday night by playing one period with Vancouver—his first ever appearance in a Vancouver uniform.
“Well, I guess I’ve completed the cycle now,” he joked.
Unlike Allan, however, Bionda doubts whether box lacrosse could ever succeed at the professional level. [Ed. note—Bionda served as general manager of the Philadelphia Wings in 1974]
“There’s just not enough money around to make a go of it,” he says. “It’s probably remain the way it is the next 100 years.
“It’s a great game for us who think it’s the only game. But for a lot of people, it’s played at the wrong time of year. They say: why sit in a hot, stuffy arena when I could be out on the beach.”
(Vancouver Sun, June 21, 1976)