Nobody in lacrosse possessed a submarine shot as devastating as Fred Doig's torpedoes
Those down-low rubber-ball dandies were heavy and hard enough to leave welts on the arms and body of any goalie foolish enough to stand in the way and that was Ray Masson's job in the years he faced Doig while playing for the Labatt's Blues.
"The image is burned in my brain, I had nightmares about it for years," said Masson.
"Fred would play the top of the odd-man (formation) and they'd work the ball around looking for an opening and if one didn't come up they'd just throw the ball back to Fred. He would wind up for the submarine and it would be like the Red Sea; everybody would just part.
"He would let loose and it was a vertical drop on the stick and a release about ankle height and if you got hit it was by pure luck, and it would hurt for the rest of the game. It's an image I'll never get out of my head. When that stick came up, it was just, oh my God. He'd release the ball and it would disappear and you'd see it rolling between your feet after it came out of the net. It was like the ball weighed 10 times as much as it did with anybody else's shot. Nobody had a shot like he did."
Doig died June 11 at Rotary Hospice House. He was 91.
A celebration of Doig's life is planned for Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Hart Community Centre.
As a player, coach and referee and in his later years as a fan, he was one of the greatest ambassadors for lacrosse the game has ever known. He played at least one game in eight decades and took it to the highest level in 12 seasons with the Victoria Shamrocks, helping them win Mann Cup senior A national titles in 1955 and 1956.
He wasn't dirty, didn't go looking for fights, and he never moved those skinny white legs beyond a steady jog. But he was smart and used his size and skill to rise above the rest as a pinpoint passer and perennial scoring champion of the Prince George Lacrosse Association.
As a defender, Doig was an intimidating force who used his six-foot-four, 230-pound bulk to punish opponents who dared venture into his territory. The follow-through motion of his stick as Doig unleashed the ball was vicious and players and their unprotected faces paid a painful price if they stood too close.
"I can remember trying to chase him down on the old lacrosse floor, especially at the Coliseum, and once he got that ball you just about couldn't get it away from him, you had to double-team him," said Glen 'Moose" Scott, who used to play for the Labatt's Blues. "He could bob and weave and stop and start and do the stickwork so you got so frustrated you ended up taking another penalty. He was the most frustrating player to play against because he was that good.
"Even after he left the game, he had such a love for Canada's national summer sport he continued coaching and mentoring younger kids and helping where he could. His vast knowledge and dedication to the sport was just unreal. Lacrosse has lost a good friend."
Scott, the Prince George Senior Lacrosse Association commissioner, convinced the B.C. Lacrosse Association to name the provincial senior C championship trophy after Doig. That trophy, now called the Fred Doig Memorial Cup, will be presented to the B.C. champions when Prince George hosts the tournament July 28-30 at Kin 1.
Doig started the game from scratch as the city's sole lacrosse pioneer not long after he moved up from Victoria in 1966. He convinced local teens to take up the sport and drew players from out of town on his recruiting trips. He was considered the old man of the game but provided the leadership needed to turn that group of teens into provincial senior champions.
"Fred used that expression that he felt guys would run through brick walls for him and that was true," said Ken McIntosh, who joined Doig on the expansion Macs in 1969, along with his twin brother Neil.
"We were playing Vernon and maybe we didn't like the Stylers but I can assure you we didn't like Vernon. Their star player, David Ogasawara, was a very talented player and a big guy and either the newspaper or radio station phoned up Fred and he said: 'Oh I'm sure he does well, but Ken McIntosh is checking him and I don't think he's going to want to play after this weekend.'"
Doig was a master at using the media to stir the pot and fuel rivalries to create fan interest in the game. Lacrosse playoff crowds at the Coliseum were bigger than hockey crowds for the senior Mohawks. The P.T. Barnum of lacrosse once hinted in a Citizen story that Jack Bionda, the biggest name in lacrosse and former teammate of Doig's in Victoria, was coming to play for the Macs. The game was nearly sold out but Bionda never showed up.
"That was Freddie, he knew how to promote the game," said Tony Ciolfitto.
His first three years in Prince George, Doig was player/coach of the Molson's Old Stylers. He switched to the expansion Columbus Hotel Macs as their 39-year-old player/coach in 1969. The following year, after winning their league, a few days before the Macs were to host the Armstrong Shamrocks that weekend in a best-of-three provincial semifinal, Doig came out with a bold statement.
"It's in the bag," he told Citizen sports editor Doug Martin. "I don't figure people will have to buy any tickets for Sunday. We'll take these guys two straight."
The year before that, the Macs lost the first game of the best-of-three league final to the Inn of the North and Doig was unfazed.
"There's no way those guys can beat us," he said. "It's as good as over. We'll beat them in the second game and then win the third game. It's already decided."
That's exactly how it turned out. Nowadays, no coach would dare give an opposing team any incentive to make them feel they aren't a threat. For Doig, it was a recurring theme.
No matter what the score at the end of period, his intermission speech would always include this nugget: "It's a can of corn." It was Doig's way of saying, "we've got this," and his teammates believed him.
"He was the one who taught us the most about teamwork," said Ken Goss, a former Mac forward. "You knew that you played for the crest on the front, not the name on the back. We might be up four or five, but Fred would always say, 'Hey guys, two goals down.'"
Born in Trail, Doig joined his first youth lacrosse team in Rossland in 1939 and also played football. After graduating high school, Doig moved to Victoria to join the Canadian Navy, later becoming a Victoria firefighter. While on the job, he helped deliver two babies. In 1966 he and his wife Marion moved to Prince George, where he could pursue his love for moose hunting and fishing, and he worked as a car salesman at Kodiak Motors and at B.C. Tel before getting hired at Northwood Pulp and Timber.
The Macs won the 1970 B.C. championship in two games over Nanaimo Native Sons and went on to claim the national title by default when the Eastern champions from Quebec declined making the trip to Prince George. Doig then announced his retirement from the game and the four-team Prince George Lacrosse Association held a dispersal draft to create parity.
But he returned the following season playing defence for the Inn of the North and repeated his retirement speech at the end of the season. That became a running joke, year after year. His playing days pretty much ended in 1977, after 42 years in the game, when he lost three fingers on his left hand in a mill accident. He played just one game that season in the North Central Lacrosse Association for the Canada Hotel, dressing as the Masked Marauder in a game he hyped earlier in a Citizen article to try to boost attendance.
Dave Jenkins was a hockey goalie who backstopped the Alberta Golden Bears to the CIS national championship in 1964. Five years later, he was just beginning his law practice in Prince George when the Old Stylers found themselves without a goalie. PGLA commissioner John Steeves, a lawyer, knew Jenkins' background in hockey and convinced him to join the team and Jenkins became Doig's project, utilizing an unfinished vacant floor at the old B.C. Tel building on Sixth Avenue to turn Jenkins into the goalie who would eventually backstop the Stylers to the 1974 President's Cup senior B national championship.
"I was terrible at first and Freddie took it upon himself to spend about a year with me," said Jenkins. "He took me up there every night in the winter, about five nights a week, and continually shot at me. If you were interested in the game and had any kind of keenness for it, he would do whatever he could to help you succeed. Fred brought kids out of the woodwork to play the game and try to create in them the same sort of love for the game that he had and he did a wonderful job of it. He was the driving force behind the game in this town.
"He knew everybody in the game and went to all lengths to interest athletes who hadn't played the game and made them into pretty good lacrosse players."
Long after he quit playing, Doig stayed involved as a referee and coached his son Brett and grandson Drew in minor lacrosse. His Fred Doig Lacrosse School was a month-long venture in the summer, which taught hundreds of young players the game. At age 70, in 1998, Doig retired from his job as production supervisor at Northwood Pulp and Timber and he returned to senior lacrosse that year as coach of the Yellowhead Inn Red Dogs, just so he could coach Brett. He played a game that year against the Steamers Pub Devils and scored a power-play goal.
Doig, who would have turned 92 today, lived his life as a well-respected gentleman who never publicly uttered an unkind word, even for those he didn't like. He and Marion, his wife of 58 years, had five children and also raised two grandchildren. They danced through their lives as best friends and did everything together, sharing their love for each other with those close to them.
Fred had been in a coma for several days before he died but just before he passed away, with Marion by his side, he puckered up for one last kiss.
Nobody in lacrosse possessed a submarine shot as devastating as Fred Doig's torpedoes