Life for most North Burnaby boys about half a century ago revolved around the Confederation Park. Eric Cowieson was no exception.
The ‘Confed Box’ was where Cowieson’s Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame career was conceived and nurtured as he helped Norburn A.C. win several provincial minor lacrosse championships.
“I never strayed too far from the Confed Box,” says Cowieson, who grew up about a block from the park. “I was a soccer player to start with. My coach was [renowned lacrosse bench boss in Burnaby] Dan Mattinson so he sort of talked me into coming out for lacrosse in the summer and I played soccer in the winter.”
It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Cowieson and box lacrosse,
“I don’t know if I was proficient right away. It was just the athleticism of the sport and maybe the physicality too, and I also had lots of friends that played soccer and lacrosse too. I played year round with friends. As I played more it became a huge part of my life,” says Cowieson, who will be inducted into the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame at its annual banquet Feb. 28.
Cowieson went on to star in three Minto Cups, emblematic of Canadian junior lacrosse supremacy, during the four years he played for Burnaby Cablevision, winning in his final year, 1977, when they were victorious in Ontario.
In his junior career, Cowieson played in 104 games, scored 88 goals, 153 assists and 241 points. He was selected in the Western Lacrosse Association draft by New Westminster and went on to play 18 seasons for the Salmonbellies. Although primarily known as a defensive player, he still managed to score at a clip of 1.65 points per game (634 games played, 385 goals, 1,045 points) in both regular season and post-season play.
He holds the record for most games played in the Mann Cup (62) and most Mann Cup series appearances (11) spanning 1980 to
1995, including being named the 1987 Mann Cup’s most valuable player. He holds the record for most WLA playoff games (126) and is third in league games (403), as well as scoring the most career shorthanded assists in the regular season (65) and playoffs (27).
“I was pretty fortunate to play for Canadian championships on many, many occasions. It was really quite a career, I’d have to say myself. To look back it would be tough to pick out highlights,” says Cowieson, who was particularly proud of the Minto Cup championship because it was won out east.
“It was tough to describe at the time, but we look back at the accomplishment and it’s quite something, especially winning back in Ontario.”
In his fifth season, Cowieson was named team captain of the legendary Salmonbellies franchise wearing the ‘C’ for 14 seasons.
“To take over from [Canadian lacrosse hall of famer] Wayne Goss was quite a humbling experience to try and fill his shoes. I got to play with Wayne for three years before taking over from Wayne,” says Cowieson, who retired after New West won the 1991 Mann Cup with a four-game sweep of the Brooklin Redmen.
“It’s a completely different game nowadays, I don’t know if I’d be able to play the game nowadays. I don’t know if I would be able to play either end. I played both ends, you didn’t have to be the best at one end you had to be good at both ends [in his playing days].”
Cowieson still gets together with some of his Salmonbellies buddies by helping out with the alumni and the team’s golf tournament. Although he’s now a Port Moody resident, Cowieson continues to be connected to the hometown of his youth.
“Burnaby was a big part of me. I still enjoy going back into Burnaby,” he says. “A group of us used to play master lacrosse and I played basketball every Thursday at Alpha [secondary] with a bunch of guys that I went to school with.”
It goes to show you can take a North Burnaby boy out of the Confederation Park but you can’t take Confederation Park out of the boy.
(Grant Granger is chair of the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame)
The 18th annual Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held at the Metrotown Firefighters club banquet hall, 6515 Bonsor Ave., Burnaby, onThursday, Feb 28 (reception 6 p.m., dinner 7 p.m.) Tickets are available at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning Rosemary at 604-436-1672.