THE MOST ENDURING SOCCER LEAGUE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
The British Columbia based Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL) recently celebrated its 75th anniversary
By Richard Howes (Originally published in the Winter 2007 issue of BCSA Magazine)
The British Columbia based Pacific Coast Soccer League (PCSL) recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, very likely making it the oldest soccer league in the Pacific North West. The pioneers of this league could not have anticipated how their original four team league would evolve.
The PCSL offers wonderful playing opportunities for men and women in premier and under 21 reserve divisions, for talented players from Canada and the United States of America who are interested in a high level of competition and the opportunity to travel the Pacific Northwest for league games and tournaments during the summer.
The Pacific Coast Soccer League is an inter-city, cross-border league with a season that runs typically from May to August. Member clubs are drawn from across the Pacific Northwest in cities from the British Columbia interior, the Fraser Valley, the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, through Washington State and Oregon at times.
Although proud of its honourable seventy-five year pedigree, the PCSL was not the original soccer league in the Pacific North West. The earliest record of the formation of a league in the Pacific Northwest appears in The Vancouver Daily Province of Monday July 27, 1908 in which it was reported, "The Pacific Coast Association Football League was organized at a meeting in Victoria on Saturday. Con Jones of this city is the first president of the new league and Will Ellis, secretary-treasurer. R. Heindmarch of Ladysmith is vice-president." The Pacific Coast Association Football League included teams from Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Seattle. By 1910 there were seventeen senior teams in the league.
Con Jones, president of the new league, was an immigrant from Australia, a Vancouver tobacconist and sports entrepreneur. He built Con Jones Park for his Vancouver field lacrosse team and for soccer on land purchased from John Callister in 1920 but never paid for in full. The park included wooden stands completely surrounding the field of play and was bounded by Renfrew, Oxford, Kaslo and Cambridge Streets, across from the Pacific National Exhibition. Con Jones Park was destroyed by fire on the night of July 29, 1934 but was rebuilt soon afterwards. Con Jones died without issue in 1942 and the park reverted to Mrs. Ada Stevenson, niece of the then deceased John Callister. Mrs Stevenson deeded it to the City of Vancouver on the condition that it be renamed Callister Park for her uncle. Callister Park was soccer's home in Vancouver for more than five decades.
The Pacific Coast Soccer League was established on August 30th, 1930 with Bill Findler at the helm. It comprised four teams: St. Andrews and St. Saviours from Vancouver, the New Westminster Royals and a team from Nanaimo.
The season opened on Saturday September 27th 1930 with the clubs competing for the Con Jones Memorial Trophy. St. Andrews played St. Saviours at Con Jones Park and one day later Westminster Royals played Nanaimo South End in Nanaimo.
The St. Andrews team in the PCSL was considered by many to be the soccer team of the 1940's. They won every cup competition they entered in 1947: the Mainland Cup, the Province Cup, the Anderson Cup, the Dominion Cup and the PCSL Championship. North Shore United achieved a similar record in 1949.
In 1957, the first year that Canada participated in World Cup qualifying, the Canadian national team for the first two games was selected entirely from the Pacific Coast Soccer League: the then current Canadian champion Halecos, the most successful Canadian club of all-time, the Westminster Royals, Vancouver St. Andrews and North Shore United. Each of these teams at one time or another had by then already won the Canadian championship (the Challenge Cup).
In the early years the Sun and the Province newspapers gave the PCSL much press coverage. The league has counted amongst its players some of the very best local talent including such standouts as Sergio Zannatta, Sam Lennarduzzi, Bob Hazledine, Bobby Smith, Peter Greco, Ken Pears, Errol Crossan, Harold Hanson, Glen Johnson, Gerry Heaney, Ike McKay and classy imports such as Peter Simpson to name but a few. The Vancouver Royal Canadians for a time enjoyed Bobby Robson as head coach, who went on to manage the English clubs Fulham and Newcastle FC and eventually became England manager.
After the 1959-1960 season, Pacific Coast Soccer League president Bill Findler commented that the season aggregate gate attendance had been 39,980. By the 1962-1963 season, aggregate gate attendance had risen to 86,000. This was at Callister Park which sadly was demolished in 1971 and never replaced.
With the demolition of Callister Park the league transferred its games to the astro-turf at Empire Stadium. The honor of scoring the first PCSL goal in the first game of the first season at Empire stadium went to Geoff McCormick, well known local youth soccer coach and general manager of the Surrey United Performance Academy. Sadly, spectators that had flocked to Callister Park every Saturday and Sunday did not like the cavernous Empire Stadium or the astro-turf and crowds dwindled. The PCSL was also faced with competition from the North American Soccer League established in 1966 and joined by the Vancouver Whitecaps in 1973.
By 1973 the Pacific Coast Soccer League, the Mainland Senior Soccer League and the Intercity Junior League merged to form the BC Senior Soccer League, which in due course became what is today the Vancouver Metro Soccer League (VMSL).
Shortly thereafter however the Pacific Coast Soccer league was reconstituted as a separate entity offering a summer season, and has continued to thrive as an independent league ever since.
The PCSL has always been well regarded for the quality of its players. The league has produced all star teams that have played against many of the great touring teams. From the heady days at Callister Park where the list of touring teams included Tottenham Hotspurs and soccer legends such as Sir Stanley Mathews, until more recently when PCSL players have acquitted themselves admirably against clubs such as Millwall, Sunderland and Heart of Midlothian from Britain.
Committing summer to practices and games is what players do for the "love of the game." It drives many to make it all work. With vibrant and competitive men's and women's premier and burgeoning under 21 reserve divisions the future looks bright for the Pacific Coast Soccer League.