THE BC LIONS FIRST SEASON AS REMEMBERED BY LEGEND NORM FIELDGATE
Norm “Mouse” Fieldgate played with the BC Lions for his entire career from 1954 to 1967. He is widely considered one of the best Canadian outside linebackers to have ever played the game. Following his amateur career, Fieldgate was recruited by CFL legend and first head coach of the BC Lions Annis Stukus, to join the BC Lions for their inaugural, 1954 season and over his career he played tight end, defensive end, linebacker, anddefensive back. He achieved the most success as a linebacker. Fieldgate was one of two “original” BC Lions who won their first Grey Cup Championship in 1964 (Norm and By Bailey). He was also the longest serving original Lion, with a career that spanned 14 years and 223 games. His #75 jersey is one of eight numbers retired by the BC Lions. Following his retirement1967, Fieldgate started his own company, and worked for the BC Lions as president in the 1980s. He remains active with Lions’ alumni and charitable events in the greater Vancouver area. He has received almost every award and honour offered in Canadian sports and football . For more information visit his Player Profile.
Q: How did you come to join the BC Lions?
Norm: I was playing in the Junior Football League in Regina and in 1953 Annis Stukus called me to Vancouver to play with the Cubs. We played a number of exhibition games against UBC and some American teams. Stukus was pulling together players to prepare for 1954 season. This was because Vancouver was admitted to the Western Interprovincial Football Union. I was pretty excited coming from Regina to play for the BC Lions.
Q: Tell us about the BC Lions joining the WIFU?
Norm: In the 1940’s there were three teams from the west – Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Calgary. Next to join was Edmonton. BC was not able to join the league because they did not have a stadium. This changed when Vancouver hosted the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. The by-product was the building of Empire Stadium which now clinched our chances of joining the league.
Q: What do you remember about the first season?
Norm: I remember the mud. Empire Stadium was built on a bog and whenever it rained it turned into major mud flats. The other teams hated playing there in bad weather. It didn’t matter how fast they were the mud gave us a level playing field advantage. We were used to it. We only won one game that first season but the scores could have been a lot worse. There was one game in the rain when a punt didn’t bounce in front of the player but instead burrowed deep into the mud. Players on both sides just stood and stared at it.
Q: Who won the first game?
Norm: Winnipeg but we gave then a good run. By Bailey scored our first ever touchdown in the first half and we held the lead until the 4th quarter. Winnipeg beat us 8 to 6 in that game. A pretty good showing considering we were the underdogs up against the established powerhouse teams.
Q: What are your favourite highlights of that first season?
Norm: We played 7 home games that year plus one exhibition game. We were not a great team but our fans were great. Rain or shine they came out to support the team. I would definitely say the highlight of the year was those fans being there and cheering us on through the 1954 season.