As befitting the annual Victoria Shamrocks homecoming game, there will be a notable nod to the past during the Western Lacrosse Association contest between Victoria (4-2) and the Maple Ridge Burrards (4-1) tonight at The Q Centre.
The Shamrocks warmed up for their annual homecoming fest with a 12-11 victory over the previously undefeated Salmonbellies on Thursday night in New Westminster in a reprise of the 2017 WLA final, won in five games by the ’Bellies.
Tonight will be highlighted by the retiring of the No. 26 worn by Kevin Alexander, who was perhaps the greatest natural goal scorer in lacrosse history. Alexander’s jersey will be hoisted to the rafters, in a ceremony between the first and second periods, and will hang alongside those of Fred (Whitey) Severson and Ranjit Dillon.
It adds to Alexander’s career accolades, which also include induction into the B.C. and Victoria Sports Halls of Fame and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Even two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, who grew up watching Alexander play at the old Memorial Arena, listed Alexander among his personal pantheon of five greatest athletes of all-time alongside Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Diego Maradona and Glenn Hoddle.
In lacrosse circles, Alexander is often mentioned with Gaylord Powless, Jack Bionda, John Grant Jr. and Victoria’s Gary and Paul Gait in the list of greatest players of all-time.
The numbers speak for themselves. Alexander scored 797 goals with 584 assists for 1,381 points in just 300 Senior A regular-season, playoff and Mann Cup championship games.
“It’s neat to have your number retired and I’d put this right up there with the Hall of Fame honours,” said Alexander.
“The Shamrocks are quite a franchise with a great tradition. Those are two special players up there [Severson and Dillon] already.”
Alexander played his first two seasons in the WLA in Nanaimo, after being drafted first overall by the Timbermen, following his head-snapping 217 points in 28 games in leading Victoria McDonald’s Bread to the 1976 Minto Cup national junior title.
Alexander participated in the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, where lacrosse was a demonstration sport.
Upon being traded to Victoria in 1979, he scored the first time he touched the ball as a Shamrock. There would be plenty more where that came from as he won Mann Cups in 1979 and 1983.
Despite all the scoring achievements, the two Mann Cup championships, two pro championships with the Buffalo Bandits and representing Canada four times at the world field-lacrosse championships, it is his teammates Alexander said he remembers best.
“It was always about the guys,” he said.
ON THE FLOOR: Veteran Rhys Duch, whose jersey will also hang from the rafters one day, led the Shamrocks with three goals and three assists in victory Thursday at New Westminster. Tyson Gibson also recorded a hat-trick for Victoria while Jesse King added two goals and three assists, Casey Jackson two goals and two assists, Steve Priolo and Alec Molander a goal each.