It was August 1959 when two best friends Bruce Wanless and Wayne Thompson left with the Brampton Excelsiors Jr. A lacrosse team to battle for the Minto Cup, the treasured national trophy, in New Westminister, BC. After a hard fought battle the team defeated the home team “Salmonbellies” and brought home the trophy. Both Bruce and Wayne became sports celebrities’ in the small town of Brampton. They would go on to be inducted into the Ontario and Canadian Lacrosse Halls of Fame. Wayne’s father “Mush” Thompson, also was inducted as a builder of the sport (and was the coach of that Jr. A team as well back in 1959).
Little did they know, these two best friends would have a grandson (and Mush a great grandson) doing almost the exact same thing almost 60 years later. That boy is my son Josh Thompson. My dad is Bruce and I married Wayne’s eldest son Mark.
We grew up in the world of lacrosse watching our dads play. We heard the stories of “back in 59 when they went west….”. My dad would reminisce about how they beat the team who had won the Minto Cup the past 3 years in a row, the fun they had on the train, the stop at Trail, Manitoba for a quick game and few stories I won’t repeat. They had a blast!
It was those types of memories that created a special bond between the players, their wives, and eventually their kids. That team became their family literally. Bruce and Wayne and their wives were best friends. They vacationed together, went to the Wanless family cottage together and eventually had 3 grandsons’ together. Reflecting back, it was amazing how a sport became such a part of my life when I had never played.
You can imagine the pressure on Josh with Mark and I as parents- that he would play, and he would be good! It’s in his blood right!? His grandfathers and great grandfather all played, father, uncles and six older cousins played. It was a no-brainer.
In the early years, we did what every good over achieving parents would do who had such linage in their child’s blood. We signed him up for lacrosse when he was 3 years old. Makes sense, right? Josh was a shy kid (still is) and wouldn’t go out on the floor unless I went with him. When he was 6 years old, he was a little more interested in the big arena lights, then the lacrosse ball. He seemed a little lost sometimes, but he stuck it out and so did we. One of the hardest things to do was to manage expectations of how talented Josh should be based on his ancestry.
Fast forward to his second year of Junior (at age 18) when he tried out for the Brampton Jr. B Team and made it! He had played a year with Caledon Jr. C team and wanted to push himself. I remember his Dad warning him that he may want to stay with Jr. C, as he would run the risk of not being played. He was coming in from an outside club and was not as talented as those who had been on the team for a few years. At Jr. level, there are often more players than they need just in case of injuries and suspensions, so not being played is a very big reality. Josh made the decision to go for it anyway willing to take the risk! That year he won the Rookie of the Year Award, and the next year Best Defenceman.
Here is the cool thing, and the whole point of this story. Josh is now playing the highest level of lacrosse for his age group. Because he wanted to, not because we pushed. He accomplished this all by himself. We supported of course, by doing the usual parent taxi-ing to games and practices, along with volunteer hours of coaching, running tournaments and being on the Executive Board. But his drive to “go to the show” was his, and only his.
This week, he is in Calgary, 59 years later, playing for the Minto Cup which incidentally has not been won again since his grandfathers in 1959. We all have our fingers crossed that Brampton Excelsiors can bring the cup home from the west again….but hey…No Pressure!
Good luck boys!
PS. If you are curious, Josh’s Grandpa Wayne is the player holding the roses (he was captain), and Grandpa Bruce, is the player on the left with cowboy hat with his had in the air and the #1 sign.