As a rule, the tightest teams off the field will often be the most successful on it. The 1961-62 Vancouver Firefighters men’s soccer team took this to another level.

Each day Firefighters players and coaches showed up for work together at the Vancouver Fire Department fighting roaring blazes to save the lives of others and sometimes their own. On weekends they gathered for matches at Callister Park as part of a BC and Canadian soccer dynasty.

After narrowly losing the 1961 Canadian championship the previous season, for the first time since 1956 the Firefighters rejoined the Pacific Coast Soccer League, considered Canada’s top league at the time. Midseason they defeated Victoria United to claim the Anderson Cup, the first of many cups this year.

Next, Firemen knocked off bitter rival Vancouver Columbus 5-1 in a one-game final to determine the PCSL championship. Firefighters goalkeeper Ken Pears was named PCSL MVP. The victory earned the team a trip to Los Angeles representing Canada in the Pacific International Soccer Championship against teams from the US and Mexico for the Kennedy Cup, the only athletic trophy to which the late US president lent his name.

In the semifinals, Firefighters won an epic 165-minute marathon match 7-4 over the Los Angeles Kickers via shootout. They managed to recover in time to defeat the Mexico Selects 2-1 in the Kennedy Cup final becoming the first Canadian team to win this trophy.

Back at home, the Firefighters added the Province Cup provincial title to their dream season defeating the Vancouver Canadians 3-1.

In the 1960s the Firefighters won five Province Cup championships in seven years, one Canadian championship, and four PCSL titles in five years.

Team Members: Eddie Bak, Art Bennett, Jim Blundell, Ernie Durante, Doug Greig, Art Hughes, Deryl Hughes (manager), Dave Hutton, Gordie Ion, Al Lenfesty, Jim McGuckin (trainer), Bob MacKay, Terry McKibbin, Norm McLeod, Bob Mills, Gord Nordby, Ken Pears, Gary Stevens, Dave Sullivan (coach), Louis Trischuk, Bud Walton.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

To read more on the career of the 1961-62 Vancouver Firefighters, please see the May 2022 Curator’s Corner article here: