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50 years later: Provincial Cup soccer champions reunite in New West

Reunited and it feels so good: Longtime New Westminster resident ran the Lobbans FC 1974 Provincial Cup-winning team.

The decades melted away as a group of old friends reunited for a long-overdue visit and photo op.

Back on June 2, 1974, Lobbans FC won the Provincial Cup at Empire Stadium. Geoff McCormick and Jim Nicol occasionally meet for coffee but most of the men haven’t seen each other in decades – some since that championship year.

“I mentioned to Jim that it would be nice, for 50 years, while there are still some of us alive, to get together,” McCormick said. “And then it just went from them.”

On June 5, 50-years after the team won the Provincial Cup, several players (McCormick, Nicol, Mike Jackson, Bob Metcalf, and Ian Downs), trainer Hunter Wallace, and manager John Murray reunited at the New Westminster Legion.

“After trying to locate players for about six months, I was not sure who would turn up,” McCormick said. “Some had not got back to me, but when I saw Ian Downs at the front door, the memories started to come back, and I knew then that it had been well worthwhile doing.”

McCormick said he was “over the moon” to see our Murray come through the door.

“He was a wonderful manager, and all his players put out 100 per cent for him,” he said. “It was nice to sit around, with the Provincial Cup on the table, and talk about the great times and achievements we had as a team.”

At greeting each other with hugs and handshakes, the old friends and teammates were soon chatting as though no time had passed at all.

Murray, 93, lives in uptown New Westminster, while other members of that year’s provincial championship team came from across the Lower Mainland.

“It means a lot,” said Murray, his voice choking with emotion.

When Lobbans won the Provincial Cup, team members – for some unknown reason – didn’t have an opportunity to have their photo taken with the provincial trophy.

“I never saw it,” McCormick told the Record. “It just seems to be a bit of a mystery.”

Knowing the 1974 team was going  to get together, McCormick contacted BC Soccer, gave them the low-down on how the team was reuniting and had never had a chance to have their photo with the trophy; BC Soccer agreed to allow McCormick to borrow the cup for the reunion.

A big win

A sports report in the Vancouver Sun in June 1974 described the team’s win.

“Bob Metcalf’s penalty shot goal in the second half of overtime gave Lobbans a 3-2 triumph over Royal Oak Astors in yesterday’s Provincial Cup soccer final,” said the Sun’s story. “It was the first time in the club’s 15-year history that it had won the provincial title.”

In the Provincial Cup game, Jim Rennie “shared the hero’s role” with Metcalf, continued the Sun article.

“He scored two goals, one in each half and was a scoring threat throughout the match. Bob Smith and Keith Wison were the Astor marksmen,” read the newspaper story. “Following a scoreless first half overtime period, Lobbans were awarded a penalty kick, and Metcalf’s shot went straight and true for the winner with only five minutes remaining.”

The win gave Lobbans, the B.C. League’s second-division entry, the chance to compete against the winner of the Alberta-Saskatchewan series, with the winner going to St. John’s Newfoundland in September for the Canadian champions.

Metcalf, who lived in New West for many years before moving to Port Coquitlam, said the team went to Calgary, where it lost. Despite the loss, he said it was a “good trip” and the players were well-dressed, having purchased tailor-made blazers for the team.

Hunter Wallace, the team’s trainer, coordinated fundraising efforts and purchased blazers with the team’s crest from the proceeds of various fundraisers, including social events

“We sold pies, we sold beer,” he recalled. “And we raised enough to take all the players and the committee members back to Scotland to play against our local team.”

Several members on the team had immigrated to Canada from Scotland, including Murray. He’s lived in New Westminster since coming to Canada in 1956.

“I never played soccer in all my life,” he said. “I loved the sport.”

As manager, Murray picked the team and oversaw the team for about 15 years, starting in 1972. He was thrilled to visit with the team members he thinks of often.

“This is the first I’ve seen them since they played. First time in years and years and years,” he said. “They were all good boys. Good boys. Good players too.”