After winning 36 provincial championships and training thousands of West Islanders, the North Shore Lions football team is adding another milestone to a celebrated legacy: they’re turning 50.
On Friday night, they marked the occasion with players from past and present.
Some say championships are won when the stands are empty and and if that saying holds true for the North Shore Lions, their championships -all 36 of them- have been crafted in their locker room.
They’re built on those memories that were brought out for one more play, like Charles Desjardins’ football jacket from when he played offensive tackle in 1979.
“I had it dry-cleaned… but it was in much better shape when I was 17,” Desjardins said while chuckling.
“It’s an honour,” he said after hanging the jacket for display at the celebration.
Memorabilia such as old trophies, jerseys and pictures were also displayed to refresh people’s memories.
“Sometimes games were a pain, it was pouring rain, it was cold… but I’d do it all over again,” said Wayne Job.
Job, a former equipment manager, reminisced about what he called one of the best games he watched the Lions play.
“In the middle of winter, we were playing the November classic. It went like two or three quarters over time,” he reminisced.
It was a special game as Job’s co-equipment manager was there to watch.
“Billy was very sick and they brought him to the last game. He wanted to see the championship won. We won it… and he passed away two days later,”Job said with a heavy heart.
“It was a helluva game.”
Long time rivals were also at the celebration, like Mark Lidbetter, a former offensive centre for the West End Astros, turned sports reporter.
“The West End Astros actually were the first team to beat the North Shore Lions because they had come in 1967 and went undefeated for three years.”
“Who knows maybe there’ll be a couple of players from 1970 and I’ll get to have a little dig in with them and say:’ hey, you remember that season?” Lidbetter said with a smile.
But a legacy that’s been going strong for 50 years has got to have a secret and many say it’s those who keep on coming back, to give back, like Steven Donald who now referees.
“It’s always special when I come back here and do a game in my own bark in a way… Friday night lights,” Donald said.
“We care about them, they’re not football players, they’re a part of our family,” Troy White said.
White is the North Shore Lions’ current coach. They are currently the defending provincial champions.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Wayne Job as his son Mike, a former player, was holding his grandson Jaxson and showing him the team’s old pictures.
And by the looks of it, he might have to.
Five-year-old Jaxson says he wants to play football.
While his father Mike thinks he might play defense, Jaxson cuts in to correct him and says he wants to play “a lion”.