On a powerful Westminster Royals soccer team, Jack Coulter was an elite finisher.
Known to many as ‘Jock’ – he was tagged by sports reporters of the day with such labels as “an opportunist,” “unselfish” and “in a class by himself” -- Coulter had a way of filling the net.
Now, nearly 57 years after his death, Coulter is being welcomed into a class of his peers.
The Canada Soccer Hall of Fame has unveiled an honours group from the nation’s golden era, called the Connaught Series Legends, as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration. Coulter is one of 17 players being celebrated.
There are few around today who could recall Coulter’s football mastery, but lifelong Royal City resident Jack Fulton remembers his former co-worker at the New Westminster Fire Department as a low-key guy who “was one helluva snooker player.”
“(Coulter) was kind of a fun guy, a good guy and a good athlete,” said Fulton, who was 17 years Coulter’s junior. He notes that Coulter also played for the Salmonbellies.
“I remember him coming to our fishing derbys.”
As a member of the Royals, Coulter was a classic finisher who was counted on to score the big goals. In the first Connaught Cup final for Westminster in 1928, the Victoria-raised forward scored four times as they stopped the Montreal CNR 6-1 in their tracks in Winnipeg before a reported crowd of 4,000 fans. It gave the B.C. champions a 2-1 series win and Dominion bragging rights.
On a team captained by future Canadian soccer hall-of-famer Dave Turner, the 26-year-old Coulter counted 15 goals over six matches.
His heroics were not of a one-time achievement, either.
Described by a newspaper scribe at the time as “a heavy player of the bustling type,” Coulter scored the national championship-clinching goal in 1930 as well, as the Royals edged the defending champ Montreal, this time by a thin 1-0 margin.
That year’s series decision was by a much tighter margin, with Montreal outscoring Westminster 5-2 over three games but the westerners taking home the hardware on the strength of two 1-0 wins.
While the Royals would also win the Connaught Cup in 1931, Coulter was noticeably absent as the team lost five players to suspension en route to Winnipeg.
But he returned to the lineup and the national championship at the age of 34, leading the Royals to the 1936 final, where they bested Winnipeg two games to one. Over the semifinals and finals, Coulter tallied 13 goals over five games, including a seven-goal game against the Calgary Callies. For what Howie Morenz was to the NHL Canadiens, Coulter was the same for the Royals -- only on grass.
All told, the New West firefighter racked up an amazing 41 goals over 19 games over three Connaught Series – which covered the regional quarter and semifinals, and the national championship.
His status as a goal scorer garnered glowing media attention during the era of dance contests and Bennett buggies. A Saskatoon Star-Phoenix story called him “in a class by himself at centre forward; he knows where the goal is and drives them hard and true.” The Winnipeg Free Press reporter remarked that Coulter was “a centre forward who looks clumsy and awkward, but deceives his looks. ... (he) can shoot like a bullet with either foot on the run and is the terror of opposing goalies”
Coulter joins previously inducted members from the Royals’ Dominion champions George Anderson, Bill Findler, Trevor Harvey, Aubrey Sanford and Turner in the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.
In 1960, after Coulter succumbed to injuries suffered in a car accident, Findler reflected on his teammate and what he meant in those championship runs: “Jock was the outstanding scorer on a team of outstanding scorers.”