Like so many east side kids from Vancouver, a young Domenic Mobilio used to sneak into Whitecaps games at Empire Stadium through a hole in the fence. Seeing the on-field derring-do of the Caps in the glory days of Bobby Lenarduzzi and ‘King’ Kevin Hector while fans sung “White is the colour…” was this ten-year-old’s introduction to world-class soccer in British Columbia.

Soon enough it would be his name ringing out from the top of the Swangard bleachers after yet another clutch goal: “Thank you very much, Domenic Mobilio!”

The rebirth of professional soccer in Vancouver in the form of the 86ers coincided with the emergence of Mobilio. He was one of the first two players signed for the 86ers inaugural season in the Canadian Soccer League in 1987. All of 18 years old, he scored in his very first 86ers appearance and never looked back, totalling 170 career goals over 14 seasons—the second-highest scorer in North American professional soccer history behind only the New York Cosmos’ legendary Giorgio Chinaglia.

In the heyday of the CSL, ‘DoMo’ was one of the league’s superstars and remains the CSL’s all-time leading scorer. In 1989, he was a key member of the 86ers team that set a North American professional sports record by going 46 straight games without a loss and led to one of four-straight CSL titles the 86ers would claim. In 1991, he set the CSL scoring record tallying 25 goals and earning the CSL MVP award. It was one of six seasons in which he was named a league all-star.

In the off-season from the outdoor game, Mobilio played indoors for the Baltimore Blast, Edmonton Drillers, and stints with three other Major Indoor Soccer League teams over 11 seasons. A form of soccer that prizes the ability to finish and finish often, he thrived in the indoor game scoring 458 goals.

Internationally, he garnered 25 caps representing Canada, scoring three goals. The biggest of which was the equalizer in the famed 1-1 1994 draw with Brazil in Edmonton a few months before the Brazilians won their fourth World Cup.

In 2001, the Whitecaps retired his number 10 jersey and have since awarded the club’s leading scorer with the Domenic Mobilio Golden Boot Award. He continued to pass his knowledge of the beautiful game onto those he coached at Coquitlam Metro-Ford and as an assistant with the Whitecaps.

While driving home from a men’s league game in 2004, he suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 35. The BC soccer community was devastated and support and condolences poured in from all over. They say the measure of a man is the number of friends that he has. Dom had thousands evidenced by the hundreds who wrote messages on the Coquitlam City Soccer website and the thousands who signed a petition to have a street named in his honour. At the 2007 Canada Soccer Hall of Fame induction dinner, dozens of family and friends flew in from all over North America to see him honoured.

When Mobilio retired after a distinguished career as one of the best pure finishers in all of Canadian soccer, the Vancouver soccer scenery had changed dramatically from the days of sneaking into Old Empire. The “Old Fair Lady of Renfrew Street” had been buried and the heart of BC soccer transplanted to Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium. The Whitecaps name had died, but had been recently resurrected. And there was also Mobilio’s impact.

He left behind an unmatchable legacy of skill, kindness, and generosity that touched thousands in the soccer community across Canada and beyond. From humble beginnings scrambling in the back way through a hole in a fence, he strode out the front door held in the highest esteem among the giants of his beloved sport.

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