For Sapperton’s Ed Goss, it’s all about timing.
His glory days of lacrosse evolved out of just playing in New West’s eastside parks many calendars ago.
From Beatlemania to Trudeaumania – the first edition – Goss steamrolled through opposing defences as a teenager with an artist’s stick.
His introduction to the game evolved on a sporting background that included baseball, basketball and hockey. From morning to night, Ed remembers chasing older brother Wayne – a literal speedster – around the neighbourhood.
Fate played a hand when a local coach, looking to fill his peewee team roster, presented the younger Goss a lacrosse stick and invited him to tryout.
“He handed me a new stick and said ‘Ed, I want you to come out,’” recalls Goss. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
“I had a stick in my hand for the next 20 years, every day.”
It was the beginning of a love affair with Canada’s national summer sport, and is the starting chapter in what is now a Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame career.
Goss, an active Realtor in the Lower Mainland, said being inducted into the Veteran Player category on Nov. 14 in his hometown is a humbling experience.
“Better late than never,” chuckled Goss. “It’s a special honour when you get an acknowledgment like that. It feels great.”
A lifelong Salmonbellie, Goss has already been inducted as part of the 1968-72 New Westminster roster that appeared in four straight Mann Cup championships, winning twice.
As former teammate and life-long pal Al Lewthwaite puts it, it was a glorious time to be a boy in the Royal City.
“Skill-wise he was excellent,” recalled Lewthwaite. “He got 50 goals in his first senior season and played both ends of the floor.
“Ed was a very good teammate and always looking out for his guys. You could count on him.”
That early beginning in Sapperton sparked a whirlwind career that took Goss across the continent and into the pro ranks. His stats for the New Westminster junior team were lights-out as he played an integral role in three consecutive Minto Cup appearances, winning the league’s Rookie of the Year award in 1966.
His mark of 11 goals in one game stood for 20 years before Gary Gait, another Hall of Famer, would break it.
The closeness of that junior roster created rock-solid friendships, he noted.
“It was a unique thing, as a group, with eight of us who literally grew up in Sapperton,” said Goss. “Nearly all of us were from New West and to be one of the best teams in Canada was amazing, when you consider how small the city is.”
The senior Salmonbellies didn’t hesitate in calling up the Sapperton sharpshooter early and often.
He joined older brother Wayne in ‘68 on a powerful roster that turned pro with the National Lacrosse Association. They defeated Detroit in the championship series 4-2 in the only NLA championship year for the B.C.-based teams.
From 1969 to ’72, New West marched to the Canadian final each year, capturing the vaunted Mann Cup trophy in 1970 and ’72. In ’71, he earned the Western Lacrosse Association’s Most Valuable Player prize in the playoffs.
“Winning the Mann Cup, especially the first one, was (the highlight). … In 1970 I had the chance to go freight to Japan for Expo and missed 12 games, but when I came back it was like riding a bike, right into the lineup.
“We won the Mann Cup in Queen’s Park and I played on my birthday (Sept. 21), which wasn’t something I did often.”
He had one other year of pro with the inaugural National Lacrosse League’s Maryland Arrows in 1974 where the commitment meant relocating for nearly six months and playing for the owner of Campbell’s Soup. It was a different experience, he said.
“It was a weird year for me, because I had never played with guys we played against, or played against my friends,” said Goss. “It was a good league but so many of the better players just couldn’t commit all that time.”
A shoulder injury and a desire to begin his work life led him to put down the stick, with only a brief comeback attempt in 1977. Even then, after two years away, he still averaged a goal-a-game. His very last game was in Kerrisdale Arena against the battling Burrards where he stood up for a teammate. “I got kicked out of the game and that was it.”
“I was only 26 when I (first) retired,” he recalled. “Everyone else seemed to have their career path set and I thought that’s it… I was fit and could probably have played into my 30s but I needed to get on with a career.”
The memories of his playing days pop up occasionally, but lacrosse was just another part of the old days.
He’s focused on his long-standing realty business and spending time with Alison, his wife of 30 years.
When it comes to his path in lacrosse, he credits older brothers Bob and Wayne – with just 20 months separating Wayne and himself.
“There was no rivalry between us as players or as people,” he said of Wayne, who remains one of the game’s largest legends. “He was left-handed and I was right-handed. We helped each other compete, but his fortè was running, he’d be running to the store, running to the rink… I’d just be chasing after him.”
That bond and love remains strong, as he has taken on an older brother-like role since Wayne’s tragic accident in 1982, which has left the former firefighter and lacrosse Hall of Famer with a long-term disability.
Loyalty is one of his many great traits, said Lewthwaite.
“For me, I could always count on Ed,” said Lewthwaite. “I never had to worry if we played Vancouver, who had their share of goons. I didn’t have to look too much behind me.”
The numbers tallied include 188 senior A games and 216 goals and 274 assists. But what Goss remembers most are the friends and camaraderie of the team.
“Those years were very good years for me, and there was nothing like playing and winning in your own town.”