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Prime Minister Harper in New Westminster to visit Lacrosse Hall of Fame
Many New Westminster residents don’t know their city is home to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, or if they do they don’t know where it is.
Stephen Harper does.
Last Friday, Chuck Puchmayr, one of the hall’s governors, was going about his business when he got a call from the Prime Minister’s office. The PM was out for the Grey Cup festivities and had a couple of spare hours between events and he wanted a private tour. Even though Puchmayr is a former NDP MLA, he was happy to oblige. But he did have to keep his mouth shut.
“It was top secret. I was not allowed to tell anybody,” said Puchmayr. “The place was crawling with people in black suits wearing ear pieces.”
Puchmayr said Harper is writing a hockey book and a couple of his subjects had lacrosse connections he wanted to check out. Among them were hockey legend Edouard (Newsy) Lalonde, one of Canada’s best lacrosse players in the first half of the 20th century. The hall and the prime minister will be exchanging research on the players.
During Harper’s hour-long visit to the hall, which is tucked into a room at the Centennial Community Centre, he also saw pictures of former Liberal prime ministers Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Lester B. Pearson in their lacrosse-playing college days. Lacrosse, though, was the only topic of conversation between Puchmayr, Harper and a prime ministerial aide on Friday.
“It was not political at all,” said Puchmayr.
Puchmayr and the hall have been working with Heritage Minister James Moore, an Adanacs fans since he grew up in Coquitlam and now lives in Port Moody, to tap into some funding for a pending move to the new Downtown civic centre, slated to open in 2013.
Currently the hall is only open by request, but at the civic centre it will be open at the same time as the other facilities there. Having it there will also allow for school tours.
“It’s kind of been a secret that people don’t know about,” said Bob Stewart, who was inducted into the hall as a builder in 2010.
The Canadian Lacrosse Foundation (CLF) has kicked in $40,000 to help the hall with the transfer. Puchmayr said the hall will easily be able to raise the rest of the $80,000 needed for a bare-bones move.
On the move
The new hall will be about 1,400 square feet, slightly larger than now, but with an additional area for preparing items. However, the hope is to find a little more money to pay for computer kiosks to tell stories and to get some cases that will facilitate rotating displays.
“Because the square footage isn’t much, we have to be selective in how we display our stuff,” said Puchmayr. “We’re going to make it work.”
The glass on the new displays will also drastically reduce the light reflection and glare that make it difficult to get a close look at many of the hall’s current displays. It often takes several different head angles to read some of the handwritten names on photographs or small print artifacts.
Puchmayr said the hall will be able to work off of the synergy of being together with the New Westminster Museum and Archives and a civic art gallery.
“Everything will be modern and digitized and yet still preserve the legacies,” said Puchmayr, who will be resigning as a governor next week when he is sworn in as city councillor, to avoid any conflicts.
“I wouldn’t want to excuse myself from every decision that has to be made on the civic centre.”
The current displays include the original Mann and Minto cups, emblematic of Canadian senior and junior lacrosse supremacy. There’s also a 19th-century lacrosse stick, one of only two known to exist. Another governor, David Soul, wore archival white gloves when he brought out a little green book simply entitled Lacrosse with a gold-embossed stick on the cover. It was published in 1869 and contains the rules and instructions on how to play the game. The title page, as Soul pointed out, declares Lacrosse: The National Game of Canada.
A new addition to the displays will be a special one-kilogram Royal Canadian Mint silver coin to honour the 375th anniversary of the first European observation of lacrosse in 1636. On one side it depicts First Nations lacrosse in the early days.
Five of the coins were set aside for the Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) and the hall was able to obtain one thanks to the CLF. After receiving it at a recent meeting Soul was petrified to let out of his sight on his return trip from Montreal. He even talked airport security into letting him watch the screen as it was X-rayed on the conveyor belt before boarding.
“We’re just going to cash it and go to Vegas,” Puchmayr joked as he held up the heavy coin that is 10 centimetres in diameter and 99.99 per cent silver. “[Harper] didn’t even know Canada had minted the coin.”
Before the PM left, Puchmayr made Harper an honourary inductee, although Harper’s athletic exploits never went much beyond playing pickup hockey as a youngster. “He’s a self-proclaimed non-athlete,” said Puchmayr.
Harper wrote in the hall’s guest book “Thanks for the tour and for preserving an important part of our national history! Stephen Harper November 25, 2011.”
It was the first entry in a new guest book that Puchmayr, Soul and Stewart know will fill up quickly when the hall moves Downtown because so many more people than just the Prime Minister will know where it is.