The following is an editorial written by Gord Dunphy for the Southern Gazette in early 2000s.
Flashback: “Remembering the Gee-Bees”
By Gord Dunphy – email@example.com
Archie Bunker and his wife, Edith, sang the song “Those Were The Days”. The same song could be sung about the early years of Grand Bank Soccer.
Grand Bank Athletic Association
In 1912 The Grand Bank Athletic Association purchased a piece of land and through their hard work the real estate was altered into a multi purpose recreational ground where the sport of football originally started. Afterwards, in 1919, Aaron Buffett, a Grand Bank businessman, donated land on Marine Drive for a football field. This field later was named “Stoodley Memorial Field” in honour of Samuel Stoodley, a former mayor and a soccer great.
In the early 1920’s football games were arranged with the locals usually playing seamen from various fishing boats that had docked in Grand Bank. By the 1930’s and 1940’s organized and scheduled football games against Fortune and St. Pierre became a regular event in Grand Bank.
All Newfoundland Championships
In 1950 Jack U. Rabbits became President of the St. John’s League and saw a need for an All-Newfoundland Championship. Competing for this championship were a team from the Burin Peninsula and a team from St. John’s. The provincial trophy was called the Jack U. Rabbits Cup, with Holy Cross representing St. John’s winning the First Provincial Championship.
In the 1950’s Grand Bank football became much more structured and tryouts to make the towns football team became intensive. The regular inter-town games usually ended in scraps rather than handshakes. Three times in the 1950’s Grand Bank won the Burin Peninsula Championship, but could not win the Provincial title. In 1954, Grand Bank, after winning the Burin Peninsula Championship, entered provincial competition. However, the Grand Bank squad, who ended up in a three-way tie with St. John’s and Corner Brook during the playoffs, withdrew from competition. Fred Tessier, President of the Burin Peninsula Amateur Athletic Association, informed the Newfoundland Football governing body that due to work commitments of the players from Grand Bank, they would have to pull out of the competition. Although the team left upset, Charlie Snook was voted the Most Valuable Player in the tournament, the first Grand Bank player to win such an honour.
In 1958, Grand Bank, again representing the Burin Peninsula, hosted the Provincial Final. Corner Brook Royals and St. John’s Guards, along with Grand Bank, competed for the provincial title. Former soccer star Charlie Snook, who had moved to St. John’s for employment, along with a former Grand Bank team mate, Lloyd Stoodley, played for the Guards and walked away as Provincial Champions, adding insult to injury, by beating their hometown in the championship game.
Grand Bank was taking note that their opponents- Holy Cross, Feildians, Guards, and Laurentians wore a logo symbolic of their respective soccer clubs. The Grand Bank soccer personalities decided to separate from the other sports in town and would operate under their own sport and name. A local contest, offering a fifty dollar prize, would allow the winner to decide the name of the soccer team. The “Gee Bees” submitted by Lena (Stoodley) Fizzard won the contest.
Colonial Broadcasting System Trophy
Grand Bank hosted the Provincial finals in 1960, the year they were awarded the All-Newfoundland Soccer Championship. The Gee Bees having beaten St. Pat’s in St. John’s played host to Corner Brook in a three game, total goal series. They won the Provincial Title by outscoring their opponents 10 to 2.This became Grand Bank’s first All-Newfoundland Soccer Championship. Grand Bank won the Colonial Broadcasting System Trophy in 1962 on Jubilee Field in Corner Brook as the Rabbits Cup had been retired in 1960.
Some of the Gee Bee’s top performers in the 1960’s were, Goalie:Gord Grandy, Fullbacks:Clar Brooks & Ray Stoodley, MidField: George Hickman, Al Buffett & Malcolm Osmond. Forwards Eli Lee, Tom Rose, Max Hollett, Newman Bartlett, Alf White ,Harold Hollett , Manuel Bolt & Bruce Buffett .Coach’s : George Welsh & Henry Lee.
Daily News Trophy
The newly formed Provincial Junior Championship (Under 20) was organized in 1961. The Grand Bank Junior Gee Bees won the provincial title and the Daily News Trophy in 1963. In 1963 and 1964 the Senior Gee Bee’s, although a power house on the Burin Peninsula, fell short at the Provincial level. The remaining years in the 1960’s, with the exception of 1969, saw the Laurentians and St. John’s competing for the Senior Title. Again in 1964 the Grand Bank Junior team won the Burin Peninsula title only to fall short in the Provincial final to the St. John’s Guards.
Key contributors to the Junior Gee Bee’s were goalie Keith Welsh, players Clayton Welsh, Max Hollett, Harry English, Bill Matthews and Frank (Red) Fizzard and coach Newman Bartlett.
Gee Bee’s 1st Challenge Cup Title
With the game quickly progressing, it was early in the 1970’s that the present soccer pitch on Riverside East replaced the Stoodley Memorial Field. In 1970 the Grand Bank Gee Bee’s were crowned All Newfoundland and the Burin Peninsula Champions, certainly reaping the benefits of a strong junior system. It was not until 1974 that Grand Bank won the Provincial Challenge Cup and the right to represent Newfoundland in National Challenge Cup Competition.
Tribute to Fred Tessier, “Mr. Soccer”
Fred Tessier, known provincially as “Mr. Soccer”, spent twenty-seven years as president of the Grand Bank Soccer Association and twenty-four years as president of the Burin Peninsula Soccer Association. It is through his hard work and dedication that the community of Grand Bank is enriched with great soccer memories.
Although, at present, soccer may be played at only the minor level in Grand Bank, the Newfoundland Men’s Canada Games Soccer Team utilize Grand Bank as their home field. The President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association, Clayton Welsh and the President of the Burin Peninsula Soccer Association, Newman Bartlett are both products of the Grand Bank Gee Bees.