By Sam Laskaris (photo courtesy of Vintage Lax)

Though it originated in the United States, Black History Month is now also an annual celebration in Canada. The annual observance celebrates and recognizes the numerous achievements of Black people. Throughout February, various former and current members of the Brooklin Lacrosse Club organization who are Black will be profiled.

Today’s story is on FRED UPSHAW.

His career highlight occurred more than 35 years ago. But Upshaw still speaks highly of the fact he was a member of the Brooklin squad that captured the 1985 Mann Cup. Upshaw and his teammates managed to win the national title that year in dramatic fashion. Brooklin lost the first three contests of the best-of-seven series against the host New Westminster Salmonbellies but rallied to win four consecutive games and bring home the Mann Cup.

Upshaw recalled speaking to his boss back home in Ontario following Game 3 in the series.“I said we lost but we’ve got ‘em,” Upshaw said. “Sure enough, we did it.” Upshaw said members of the Brooklin club remained upbeat despite losing the first three matches of the series. “They were all close games that we lost,” he said. “We were still confident. And we just persevered.”

Upshaw still speaks proudly of the way his squad performed with a national title on the line. “I remember the team as a group deciding to pull together and get it done when we down and behind the eight ball,” he said.

Upshaw played for Brooklin from 1981-86 before retiring. He left the game at age 26 as he had moved from Oshawa to Mississauga, where he was working as a manager at the Credit Valley Hospital. Upshaw, however, came out of retirement and suited up for the Brooklin club again for a portion of the 1993 season and for the entire ’94 campaign before calling it quits a second time.

Besides his Mann Cup title, Upshaw can also boast about another feat. “I’m quite proud of the fact I had two sons successful in lacrosse,” he said. That would be sons Cory and Kirby, who both starred at the Junior B level with the Clarington-based Green Gaels before moving on to play in the NCAA ranks south of the border.

Cory Upshaw, the eldest son, played at California’s Notre Dame de Namur University. Kirby Upshaw, who is now a Montreal-based doctor, briefly played at North Carolina’s Pfeiffer University. Cory Upshaw is still playing the game and is an assistant captain with Brooklin’s Ontario Series Lacrosse affiliate, the Merchants Lacrosse Club.

As for Fred Upshaw, he remained involved with the game after his playing days were over. He coached teams that both of his sons played for. A highlight was winning the 1996 provincial Tyke championship with the Whitby team his son Kirby was on.

Fred Upshaw said he didn’t experience much racism while growing up or during his playing career. “A lot of people I’ve talked to though had a lot of it,” he said. “It’s good to get (awareness of Black History Month) out there.”