John Horgan can’t exactly put his finger on when he first became a fan of the Victoria Shamrocks lacrosse team. But in the premier’s mind it has been forever.
“As long as I can remember I have been a fan. My mom got me into lacrosse because I wouldn’t leave her alone. It was a hardship for her because she didn’t have a lot of money and was a single mom,” Horgan said.
“A friend gave me a stick, so that was an expense she didn’t have to have, and she finally relented.”
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The Shamrocks are in Horgan’s blood. Hanging on the wall of his office is a caricature of his father, Pat, set up in the penalty box at a Shamrocks game.
The team also led him to a relationship, now going on 40 years.
“I met my wife because of the Shamrocks. Everything a part of this organization rings well for me,” Horgan said.
“I stopped in Peterborough because the Shamrocks were playing the Peterborough Lakers for the 1978 Mann Cup. And so the Shamrocks would score and one person in the arena would go, ‘Yeah!’ and that was me.”
As the story goes, Horgan knew he had to get out of Victoria for university in order to be successful.
He visited McGill, the University of Toronto and Queen’s, all schools he had heard of. Then, when he stopped in Peterborough for that lacrosse game, fans told him about Trent. The next year he enrolled at Trent University. The first day of school he met his wife.
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Ellie Horgan still accompanies her husband to almost every Shamrocks game. They sit in the same seats and often move around in their row to visit with their friends.
“With the fans I am just another guy. I get a lot grief and a lot of ribbing but not about politics, just ribbing. Get out of the way Horgan, sit down Horgan, stuff like that,” Premier Horgan joked.
“Sometimes people not familiar with my attachment to the team go, ‘Oh there’s the premier.’ But mostly it’s, ‘Hey, John.’ People will respect my space, not that I look for that, but people know on game day people are here to cheer on the Shamrocks no matter who they are, where they come from or what their politics are.
“That’s a bond that only lacrosse fans have.”
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The Shamrocks are trailing the 2019 Mann Cup 2-1 to the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers. Horgan says most of the fans cheering the team on have been supporters for decades.
For those that don’t know, the Shamrocks are one of the best known lacrosse teams in Canada. The box lacrosse team started playing 1950 and since then have won nine national championships, the last in 2015.
There are also many fans, who grew up playing the sport that still dream about suiting up.
“One of my only regrets is I never got to play for the Shamrocks,” Horgan jokes.
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But as premier he does get some special perks. Before the Mann Cup kicked off, Horgan was invited to speak to the team. He has also dropped the ceremonial first ball on numerous occasions.
The players are well aware of when Horgan is in the building. Everyone knows where his seats are and understand he deep interest in the team.
“Having him as an actual fan is cool for us,” Shamrocks attacker Chris Boushy said.
“He comes and takes his time and it feels like he really cares about it.”
Horgan is also known for showing off his team pride away from the rink. When the premier wears a hat, it always has a Shamrocks logo on it.
“I went to a Pacific FC football game and Langford Mayor Stew Young made a presentation of a Victoria Rebels hat, a Rugby Canada hat and a Pacific FC hat because he was tired of me coming to all these events in my Shamrocks hat. That was great but as soon as the cameras were off I put my Shamrocks hat back on,” Horgan said.
It is often dangerous for politicians to rank their favourite things, especially within B.C. borders.
Horgan got in trouble years ago for listing his top five performers among a caucus of more than 30 NDP MLAs. Although he won’t make the mistake a again to rank his colleagues, he is clear on who is favourite B.C.-based sports team is.
“I do love the Lions. They are having a tough season. I have been a Canucks fan since 1971. Orland Kurtenbach was my guy. But for me lacrosse was special because it is what I did. And I grew up idolizing Shamrocks in their day,” Horgan said.
“For me the Shamrocks are number one.”