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Tuesday May 5, 2009

He was so well liked even the opposition helped him

Special to The Globe and Mail

Gordon Gair just loved taking that long-handled racket and stuffing the solid rubber ball into an opponent's net.

The epitome of Mr. Gair's highlight-reel career in lacrosse came in 1946 when he scored 100 goals for the Barrie Lakeshores, 14 of them coming in one game against the Orillia Terriers on Aug. 24.

Gair won the Jimmy Murray Memorial Trophy and the Querrie medal as the Ontario Amateur Lacrosse Association's Senior series outstanding player in 1946. So it was no surprise that he was chosen to the Canadian all-star team that represented this country at an international tournament in Baltimore that year.

Gair grew up playing lacrosse in the historical Mimico district in Toronto's southwest-end with his three brothers, Norman, Jack and Lloyd. He began his playing career with the Mimico juveniles in the early 1930s and found his way into the senior ranks in 1934.

In 1936, he won the league scoring title with a runaway 80 goals and 12 assists for 92 points. After a spat with Mimico management, he moved on after the 1941 season, playing first for the Etobicoke Indians. Later, he played for the Toronto Lakeshores, the Brampton-Lakeshore squad and Barrie. In that uplifting season of 1946, he scored 100 goals and added 37 assists to pace the league in points. He finished seven points ahead of Bill (Ham) Nelson of the St. Catharines Athletics and nine ahead of teammate Vince Reddy.

In the final game of the 1946 regular season, Mr. Gair did what has never been accomplished since in Canada - he scored 14 times and added six assists. It was a game that appeared to have been designed in such a way that he would get most of the goals and points to spite the unloved Mr. Reddy, so that the latter wouldn't win the scoring title. Mr. Reddy was not widely admired by opposing players, while Mr. Gair was universally liked and had done so much for the game.

"Gordon was very modest when he talked to me about that 14-goal game," recalled Canadian lacrosse historian Larry Power. "He told me the Orillia players decided to take it easier on him so he could win the scoring title."

When Mr. Gair packed in his career in 1950 at 34, he had scored 709 regular-season goals, which still ranks as the fourth highest total in Canadian history. He was elected to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame.

"I never saw him play but he was a huge competitor and had a great will to win," said his son Graeme, who was also a lacrosse star and is the father of Jackson Gair, a star in the game in his own right.

For his prolific scoring ability and statistics, Mr. Gair had every right to be a bit boastful but he chose anonymity instead.

"He was never one for awards and publicity," his daughter Patricia said.

According to Mr. Power, "He said he never saved old scrapbooks."

GORDON GAIR

Gordon Gair was born Aug. 17, 1916, in Mimico, Ont. He died in Powassan, Ont., on April 23, 2009. He was 92. He leaves his wife Reta and children Patricia, Graeme and Susan.

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