Archie was born in 1927 and he clearly had a love of the sport from a tender age. Stan Shillington, in writing the history of BC Lacrosse, commented that during the late 1930s, a skinny little blond kid picked up a lacrosse stick in New Westminster and pronounced he had found his game. Older, wiser box lacrosse buffs chuckled, pointing out that, although the youngster was lightning-quick, he was too slight to endure the rough and tumble sport.
But Archie Browning built a net in his back yard and practiced until he could put that ball between the posts from any angle. After that, he attached a lard tin to each top corner and shot for the tins. At 17, he and lifetime buddy, Whitey Severson, tried out for the New Westminster Junior team, but were cut because both were considered too small. Not to be denied, they then tried out, and made, the Adanacs Senior club. As a matter of fact, Archie won the 1945 Rookie of the Year award by notching 61 points. After six years of stellar play elsewhere, Archie arrived in Victoria and commenced a run of eight seasons with the Shamrocks.
His hard work and shooting accuracy earned him accolades and he was named the Western League's playoff MVP in 1953. He captured the Western scoring title in 1951 and shared the same award with Severson in 1952. Archie took part in seven Mann Cup Championships in his career with three of those as a Shamrock. After two seasons coming up just short, the Shamrocks found the answer and they defeated their traditional rivals from Peterborough in the national final. The Daily Colonist headlines read "Victoria Goes Wild as Shamrocks Take Coveted Mann Cup."
Archie was one of the games truly great players and columnist, Denny Boyd, once wrote, "I think Archie Browning is the greatest lacrosse player I have ever seen. Jack Bionda has more flamboyance and more tricks, but I have never seen anyone who could do more offensively or defensively, who could shoot with such fantastic precision, or who played as hard as this little blond with the bleached eyebrows."
Archie wasn't just one of the brilliant lacrosse players of his generation. He gave back to the community in many ways including coaching junior box lacrosse between 1953 and 1958. He spent more than a decade as President, Director and Head Coach of the Esquimalt Minor Lacrosse Association, and he was a widely respected policeman on the Esquimalt Police Force.
Sadly, his life ended on November 18, 1989 at the age of 62, a victim of cancer. Two years later, the community he served, both as an athlete and a policeman, honoured him by officially renaming the Esquimalt Sports Centre the Archie Browning Sports Centre.
SPONSORED BY THE VICTORIA SHAMROCKS LACROSSE TEAM
He was born Fred Robert Severson in 1928, but his childhood buddies called him Whitey because of his ash blond hair. His talents for the game were recognized at an early age. On July 14, 1944, Whitey was playing for a juvenile team when he was approached by coach Jack Wood, who asked him to play for the Salmonbellies. Whitey was just 15, one month short of his sixteenth birthday.
"I couldn't get on the floor fast enough," Whitey later recalled. "It was the biggest thrill of my life. We beat the Burrards 22 - 11 and I got one of the goals. I'm sure Walt Lee, the Burrards goal tender just stepped aside and let me score."
Whitey's career was launched and the next year he and his good pal Archie Browning joined the New Westminster Adanacs. The mid-1940s was box Lacrosse without helmets, so it wasn't long before Whitey and equally blond Archie Browning became known as the Gold Dust Twins and the darlings of Royal City fans, particularly when they Ied the Adanacs to the 1947 Mann Cup title.
In 1951 both Archie and Whitey joined the then new Victoria Shamrocks franchise, and that's where he remained until his retirement from the sport. Of his career 1202 points in senior lacrosse, 869 were accumulated while wearing the Shamrock colours. Undoubtedly, his statistics would have been much higher if he had played in today's game, as the rules governing the awarding of assists became less stringent after 1968 when the Inter-City Lacrosse League became the Western Lacrosse Association.
Whitey's accomplishments in his athletic and civic careers are truly impressive.
As a Scoring champion he led the ICLL scoring three times. In 1949 he was co-leader with Jim Anderson and Harry Buchanan, in 1952 he was co-leader with Archie Browning, and in 1953 he was the solo scoring champion. When Whitey retired, he had established a personal record of 1110 points in Western Lacrosse. As a playmaker he led the ICLL in the assist column in 1952, 1953 and 1950.
Some of his records were pioneering as he was the first player in Western senior Lacrosse to play in more than 100 games, the first to reach 500 assists and the first to garner 1000 points. Those impressive statistics were rewarded with success and he participated in six Mann Cup series, winning gold with the Shamrocks in 1955 and 1957. The latter win was particularly sweet as he was player-coach.
As a coach Whitey offered his knowledge of lacrosse wherever it was wanted. He willingly helped at every level from kids through junior and into senior. Further, following his playing career, Whitey took up the whistle and refereed 189 senior games.
His lacrosse accomplishments are legendary and after 80 years of organized box lacrosse in all of Canada, only 10 players have played more than Whitey's 540 games. Also, his career 557 assist total is thirty-first highest while his 1202 point total stands thirty-second.
Whitey has also given back to his community in so many ways. He served as a Saanich alderman from 1972 to 1979 and he was Deputy Chief Severson when he retired from the Victoria Fire Department in 1985.
SPONSORED BY THE VICTORIA SHAMROCKS LACROSSE TEAM