Jack Bionda

One would think hockey is Canada's national sport right? Wrong. For the longest time lacrosse was recognized as the official sport of this country. Only in the 1990s was hockey recognized as an official sport of the nation. Hockey was named Canada's winter sport while lacrosse became hockey's summer sport.

Lacrosse is in some ways pretty similar to hockey. Many of the oldtimers played both sports. Even in modern times you can find NHLers with strong ties to lacrosse - players like Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts and Brendan Shanahan.

Arguably the greatest lacrosse player of all time was John Arthur (Jack) Bionda. Jack was like the "Gretzky" of lacrosse and spent the off seasons playing hockey, including parts of 4 seasons in the National Hockey League.

Jack Bionda's lacrosse career spanned two decades 1945-1968. He spent most of those years on the west coast playing for senior lacrosse teams in Victoria, Nanaimo and Portland, Oregon. He helped his teams win the Mann Cup symbolic of Canadian lacrosse superiority 5 times in 14 years. Several times he was named league MVP and won the scoring championship.

Bionda's career started back east in Ontario however, where he also played hockey. Bionda played in the juniors with the Toronto Marlies for three seasons.

In 1955-56 he played professional hockey in the Toronto Maple Leafs organizations. A tough as nails defenseman, Bionda played most of the season in Pittsburgh with the AHL Hornets. He led the league in penalty minutes and added 7 goals and 17 points. He also got his first call up to the NHL where he played in 13 games with the Leafs. He had one assist.

Jack was picked up by the Boston Bruins in the Intra League draft in the off season of 1956. He played in parts of the next 3 seasons with the Bruins while also seeing time with the Bruins AHL affiliates in Springfield and Providence. Jack played in a total of 80 games for the Bruins, scoring 3 goals and 8 assists with 95 PIM. He also appeared in 11 playoff games, picking up 1 lone assist.

In 1959 Jack's lacrosse career carried him out west, first to Vancouver Island and later Portland Oregon. Jack's move out west became a year round thing for the Bionda family. Jack left the NHL and opted to play in the Western Hockey League during the lacrosse off season. He spent one season with the Victoria Cougars before playing 7 seasons with the Portland Buckaroos.

He developed a reputation as a tough and solid defenseman in the WHL. However he earned an even better reputation playing lacrosse.


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