A man hits 50 and he presses pause, looks back over his life. Friends, family and colleagues. Kids, jobs and vacations. Loves and losses.
Sometimes, the stories he tells himself are altered by time, by the inexact nature of memory. Often, the moments he reconstructs most precisely — Man, I remember it like it was yesterday — are, when compared to the record, if such a thing exists, not quite . . . true.
But which of us has such a record of our every utterance and accomplishment against which to compare our recollections? Who has the receipts for that legendary zinger in a staff meeting or that long, wet, warm kiss on a cooling summer night — sitting on a log in damp shorts, toes curled in cold sand — that went on — I kid you not, it was 15 minutes before we came up for air — forever?
Who’s to say what’s true?
Greig Bethel has the records and even he’s not sure of the truth.
But here’s what he knows for sure: He just turned 51. He has two daughters: Lily, who’s 19, and Joni, two and a half, and a partner, Jocelyn Hardie. And 30 years ago this very summer, as a young man — a kid, really — he was part of a lacrosse team that was expected to do big things.
And because of that team, because of that season, because his job evaporated during the pandemic, because he decided to open an old box in his basement, he embarked on a storytelling journey.
On, of all places, Twitter.
‘Minto Cup dreams’
#LaxSzn91 Last Shot popped up on the microblogging/social networking app in April of this year. The official handle is @91JrAdanacs and the bio information reads: “Minto Cup dreams. Lacrosse legends and myths in the making. As it happened 30 years ago. Purple and Gold forever. #LaxSzn91.”
The handle and hashtag refer to the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs and their 1991 BC Junior A Lacrosse League season. And if this story is to attempt to deal with the nature of truth, let’s be truthful about this: It should be “Purple and Yellow forever,” because those are Coquitlam colours.
Every kid growing up in the area with a lacrosse stick in their hands knows it, longs to pull on that jersey and run on to the concrete floor at what is now called the Poirier Sport and Leisure Centre — The Palace on Poirier! — and score a goal, top right, maybe, or a bounce shot under the goalie’s arm.
Bethel, who grew up less than 10 minutes away in the Port Moody’s College Park neighbourhood, banged around the local lacrosse box at Westhill Park, began Mini Tyke when he was four or five years old and first encountered his future Adanacs teammates as crosstown opponents. They got together as Peewees and bonded playing Intermediate and Junior in the late 1980s.
Last Christmas, stuck inside, pandemic-tired, the old friends started a team group text chat. And the chat went to that season, the wins and losses — the memories, their memories — and, specifically, how it ended.
A little light cultural anthropology
“The pandemic actually provided me with enough time, once my youngest daughter was back in daycare, to do a project,” said Bethel, who lives in Victoria. “I wanted to come out of this pandemic period with something to show for it, other than just surviving it in a 1,000-sq. ft. condo with a two-year-old and a partner who works at home.”
The project started with a box that had travelled with his parents from Port Moody to Burlington, Ont. to Kelowna and then somehow landed in his basement in Victoria. Inside were newspaper clippings from The Tri-City News and the now-defunct Coquitlam Now, plus game programs from the ’91 season. (Later, some video came into his possession, and he’s working on editing and uploading it to YouTube.)
The mementoes were more than just bits of curling paper for Bethel. They sat at the intersection of his education and his vocation.
At UBC, where he also played football as an 18-year-old — outside linebacker and slotback — he majored in cultural anthropology.
He would eventually go into journalism, a profession that would take him to small-town newspapers and to The Province’s sports department, writing and editing alongside the likes of reporters Howard Tsumura and Steve Ewen, who’d covered his games when they worked at the Now. After a temporary stint editing at The Globe & Mail in Toronto, he made the move into communications with the BC Wildfire Service. Most recently, he worked at UVic and Ocean Networks Canada.
“What appealed to me about [the Twitter project] was, obviously, being able to include all the news clippings and stuff like that. It’s a little bit of creative non-fiction writing, it’s a little bit of cultural anthropology. It’s sports journalism, it’s social history.
“It’s kind of about me as a journalist. Like I said, lacrosse is my true love. I’ve always wanted to write a book or something about this…
“As a journalist… using Twitter as a storytelling tool, [I thought], hey, I can recreate this season as it happened in real time.”
As well, he said, “From working in communications, I knew how to roll out a communications plan.”
The Twitter launch
In April of this year, @91JrAdanacs went live, and on the 28th featured this look-ahead tweet:
– May 9 games/June 7/July 9
– late May, 3 games in 4 nights at Bby and SF back-to-back
– mid June, 2 games in 2 nights vs Bby and at Vic
– early July, 3 games in 4 nights vs Rmd, at NW and at Vic
#LaxSzn91 season/home opener May 1!”
What followed were dozens of game previews and results, as they’d be done today, in the social media age.
“So, when the games would happen, I would roll them out as they would happen in real time,” Bethel said. “Eight o’clock, the game is on: Bam! Here’s some warm-up music” — Soundgarden, Outshined; AC/DC, Thunderstruck; Starship, We Built This City — “We’re in the dressing room, we’re saying this, we’re saying that. Giving people an inside look.”
The tweets also include game reports from local papers, many of them published several days later — no websites in 1991. Who won, who lost, who scored. Where the local boys are in the standings. How they’re performing going into the playoffs.
The playoffs. After disappointing 1989 and ’90 seasons, all those tweets have been leading up to the playoffs and, eventually, to the final game of their ’91 season — and the final game of Junior A for the 10 Adanacs, including Bethel, who will move on to Senior A and the Western Lacrosse Association the next year.
Will it end with a victory?
It won’t start with one, as a July 31 tweet shows:
July 31 Coq vs Rmd playoffs
semifinal Game 1 score:
– Coq 11 Rmd 13
The last game
In 1991, the Richmond Outlaws are the Coquitlam Adanacs’ nemesis. They ousted the A’s in the league final in 1989 and again in the first round of the ’90 playoffs, and Coquitlam wants revenge. More than that, they want a chance to play for the Minto Cup, which is awarded annually to the Canadian Junior A box lacrosse champions.
In an alternating home-and-away, best-of-five series, Coquitlam drops the opener in the old barn on Poirier Street, then Game 2 in Richmond, losing by a single goal.
Game 3 sees the A’s back at home, backs against the wall. Goalie Lance Andre posts an outstanding 45-save performance. Joel Broughton collects six assists among his seven points; Curt Malawsky puts up eight points, including three goals; Chris Gill fires a hat trick and adds two assists; Kevin Brunsch, a beast of a player at both ends of the floor, gets three points, including two goals; and their short-man squad stones the Outlaws during a seven-minute penalty kill in the third period. Final score: 15-12.
Remember that line from the Twitter bio, “Lacrosse legends and myths in the making”? There are three legends in that box score: Malawsky, Gill and Brunsch will go on to be inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Many others on that roster are still involved in lacrosse, from minors to pro leagues, today.
But they and the rest of the Adanacs are up against it in Game 4, yet another do-or-die moment, to use yet another sports cliché. And they’re in the unfriendly confines of Minoru Arena. It doesn’t go well.
“Somehow we’re down 9-6 with 45 seconds left in the third period,” Bethel recalled. “Of course, it looks bad, it looks like we’re going to lose. But it’s lacrosse, right, 45 seconds? You might be able to score three goals in that 45 seconds.”
Are you expecting a miracle? Three goals in 45 seconds, then an OT surge to secure victory and start a series comeback?
No goals. No comeback. No surge.
No more game.
With 00:45 on the clock during a stoppage in play, a Richmond player hits Malawsky. Bethel says teammate Paolo Ciardullo remembers it as a crosscheck to the throat, Malawsky as a cheapshot of some sort. Either way, one of their A’s teammates — Bethel says it was Ciardullo — leaps from the bench, runs across the floor, crosschecks the offending Outlaw and a brawl erupts. Richmond’s coach manages to keep his players on the bench but some of the team’s fans get involved, some even climbing the glass to get on the floor and start throwing punches.
The game is called with that 00:45 still on the clock. Richmond wins. Coquitlam’s season — #LaxSzn91 Last Shot — is over.
Memories, stories and truth
Malawsky went on to a legendary career as player and coach — he played in the Western Lacrosse Association and the professional National Lacrosse League (NLL), has won multiple national championships, and is head coach and general manager of the NLL Calgary Roughnecks, a team that won the league title in 2019. While he doesn’t remember details of that 1991 Junior A season, he recalled how it ended: “Disappointed. Really disappointed the way it finished.”
Of his old teammate’s Twitter project, he said: “You win the championships . . . you remember the guys that you win with. You’re bonded forever. You don’t really think about the teams you don’t go that far with. But this was kind of a neat thing, to reminisce.”
“There’s only one Minto Cup winner each year,” said Bethel. “But there’s also however many losing teams. . . . So there’s this shared experience about not winning something, not achieving these goals.”
But there’s more, and here, he again dives into the stories we tell ourselves and whether or not there’s any incontrovertible truth in our memories. After all, Ciardullo’s and Malawsky’s memories don’t even line up on the hit that prompted the brawl that ended the game that closed out their Junior careers. And Ewen, when asked, doesn’t recall the imbroglio about which he wrote a long, scathing column that started, “I’m embarrassed and disgusted.”
“I think the interesting part of this story is even though we have the facts . . . the truth is somewhere, who knows, in the ether,” Bethel said. “It’s like evaporated in the memories.
“[The project is] also about memories and how they’re pliable, and of course, 30 years later, what are the actual facts of what happened? Because of course memories change and stories change and stories get changed into legends and myth.
“What are the facts? Does it matter? No, it’s all a really great, great story. And it just so happens that I was involved in it somehow, and that I somehow had these news clippings.”
• • • •
From April 30 via @91JrAdanacs:
– #5 Greig Bethel
Scouting report: Gilly’s best pick-and-roll bud.
Inside scoop: Pomo proud. Confusing first name often misspelled.
– 90 @JuniorAdanacs most improved