#07 Paul Parnell
Down Memory Lane - Paul Parnell
New Westminster Salmonbellies is a lacrosse club with a long and proud reputation of developing home-grown talent.
But, every so often, the Royal City heroes import a little seasoning from Eastern Canada to spice up the definite brew that stimulates success.
Some came for a short time – Bill Wilson, Hank Munro, Jack Bionda, Pete Anthony, Andy Shaughnessy – while others, like Ed Downey, Bill Wilkes and Craig Stevenson, take root in the community.
All distinguished themselves in the ‘Bellies’ red and blue but, arguably, none reached the heights of stardom and longevity attained by Paul Parnell.
No one – to repeat NO ONE – in Canadian senior box lacrosse history has played more games than Paul; 587 in the West and another 84 in his hometown of Peterborough. Only John Davis, another Peterborough product, has accumulated more points, 2,053 to Parnell’s 1,918.
Paul was born March 28, 1938, in Peterborough, an Ontario hotbed of lacrosse in the summer and hockey in winter. It was the early 1950′s and Peterborough had captured four consecutive Mann Cup titles. It was only natural for Paul and his buddies – Cy Coombes, Larry Ferguson, Ron Jay and Pat Baker – to emulate the local heroes into a lacrosse setting.
He played one year of PeeWee, two of Bantam, two Midget seasons and one Juvenile year before stepping into the junior ranks in 1956 at the age of 17.
So outstanding was his play that the senior Peterborough team added him to its roster for the 1956 Mann Cup championships, a loss to Nanaimo. Paul was again picked up for the 1957 Mann Cup tournament but, hours before play was to begin, the Canadian Lacrosse Association disqualified the Ontario representatives for insisting on playing an ineligible player.
The following year, a few days after turning 20, Paul moved permanently to the senior level.
His second season as a senior Peterborough member saw him once again in a Mann Cup final. The trip to New Westminster didn’t produce a national title for the Ontario Champs, but for Paul, the journey changed his life.
Paul met a young lady named Joan, and was so smitten that they became engaged just five days later. He moved West in 1960, joining his childhood teammate Ron Jay in a Victoria uniform.
But New Westminster was where his hopes (and love) remained. In stepped Harry McKnight and Jack Fulton, two dynamic Royal City fireman who had molded a woeful ‘Bellies’ club into a national champion in 1958 and 1959. With much bafflegab and an undisclosed amount of cash, the pair wrestled Paul’s transfer to New Westminster, a transaction described as the biggest heist since the sale of Manhattan Island.
Thus began a 15-year Salmonbellies career chock full of memorable highlights; one, undoubtedly, 1965. Now happily married, a father of one and a member of the New Westminster Fire Department, Paul was named the Vic E. Andrews Trophy winner as New Westminster’s Athlete of the Year. And what a year it was – scoring champ with 71 goals and 38 assists, the WLA Most Valuable Player Award, First All-Star Team status and a Mann Cup championship.
And then there was 1972, Paul’s second season as playing-coach. Hobbled by torn ankle ligaments and a badly swollen black eye, he led his charges to Mann Cup victory, winning MVP honours for both the B.C. playoffs and the Mann Cup showdown.
Paul led by inspiration and hard-work ethics – coaching wasn’t his favourite past-time. Although he was named coach-of-the-year for 1971 and 1972, Paul decided to concentrate only on his floortime in his remaining playing years.
When he retired at 37, following the 1975 season, Paul laid claim to 23 WLA longevity and scoring records. Entering the 2000 season, he still held or shared 13 of them.
Parnell won five Mann Cup rings in nine attempts and was a key member of the 1968 North American professional lacrosse champions. In addition, he was a member of Team Canada that participated in the 1974 World Field Lacrosse championship in Australia.
Paul was a 14-time league all-star, the WLA MVP in 1965, the WLAL playoff MVP in 1972, the Mann Cup MVP in 1970 and again in 1972 and the WLA scoring leader in 1965. In his 16 seasons with Victoria and New Westminster, the five-foot-nine, 175-pound Parnell accumulated 921 goals and 880 assists for 1,801 points and 136 hat tricks in 587 games. Add his 84-game Peterborough statistics to this – 68 goals and 49 assists for 117 points – for a fantastic 1,918-point, 18-year career.
Parnell continued his involvement with lacrosse after hanging up his playing stick, coaching the Junior ‘Bellies in 1977 and spending several years as a director of the senior club. Meanwhile, his success with the fire department was flourishing. He rose to captain, then deputy chief replacing Fulton and finally, on January 1, 1987, to the chief’s office once held by McKnight.
Paul was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1980.