The history of the Brampton Excelsiors is long and storied. They first started playing in 1871, organized by the second Master of Brampton High School George M. Lee. The story goes that he was inspired to name the team “Excelsiors” after the title of a poem by Henry W. Longfellow. In 1883, the team began formal Provincial league play and established the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club.
In 1926 the New Westminster Salmonbellies donated the Mann Cup (which had previously been a challenge trophy) to the CLA and it became the National Championship of senior lacrosse. Only four years later, in 1930, the Excelsiors won their first title. The same year saw a Jr. A Provincial championship as well as the Intermediates’ fifth championship title. The following year, the Excelsiors became the final team to win the Mann Cup playing under the rules of field lacrosse. In 1932 the CLA adopted box lacrosse rules and Brampton would not make the finals again for the next decade. The rest of the 1930’s saw lacrosse become synonymous with Brampton. Playing out of the bowl at Rosalea Park, the Excelsiors would regularly draw crowds in the thousands, a significant portion of the town’s population at the time.
In the 40’s Brampton saw the Mann Cup return again when the team, as the Mimico-Brampton combines, captured their third Mann Cup in 1942. This would be the last one they hoisted for nearly four decades, missing out on another back-to-back championship when they lost to the Salmonbellies in the finals the following year. In 1943 the Brampton Minor Lacrosse Association was founded and formally entered the Ontario Minor Lacrosse Association in 1946. One of the key figures in the early history of the BMLA was lacrosse legend George “Mush” Thompson. The Mush Thompson award is now presented annually by the BELC to a member of the Brampton lacrosse community demonstrating outstanding dedication to the sport.
Though the championship drought at the senior level continued in the 50’s, the decade did see the Jr. A Excelsiors dominate Canadian lacrosse. In 1952 they brought home their first Minto Cup. They again made it to the finals in 1956 but lost to the Mt. Pleasant Legionnaires before winning the cup again the next three straight years. In 1959 future Lacrosse and NHL legend John McCauley, at just fourteen years old, set a CLA record for the youngest player to play on a National Championship team.
The next few decades saw the teams reach the National Finals a few times, but did not manage to bring home another championship above the minor level until the Majors won their fourth Mann Cup in 1980 taking the series 4-1 over New Westminster. After that the team would go on to win another six Cups including back-to-back victories in 1992-93 and 2008-09 (along side wins in 1998, 2002 an 2011), and making it to the National finals an additional four times. Another Minto Cup remains Elusive for the Jr. A Excelsiors though they did reached the finals 1962, 1976, 1994, 2009 and 2018.
In 2018 it was announced by the BELC, amid declining attendance and financial difficulties, that the team had been sold to owner of Detroit-based ‘Bug Juice’, Joe Norton. For the first time in the history of the Brampton Excelsiors, the team was no community owned. During his time operating the team Norton received heavy criticism for his disregard of the team’s history as well as the fans and for heavily promoting Bug Juice, which has not been approved for sale in Ontario.
On November 18, 2020 it was announced by Norton that he planned to relocate the team to Owen Sound, Ontario in what would be the team’s 150th year. This received immediate backlash from Excesliors supporters across the lacrosse community. The integrity of the team’s sale, Joe Norton and the members of the BELC Executive Committee were all quickly called into question. Weeks of fighting on social media eventually led to a petition calling on the OLA to dissolve the BELC Committee. In turn this eventually lead to the formation of the ELLA. In another decision under a lot of scrutiny the OLA Board of Governors approved the sale and move of the team. This vote has since been rescinded after an appeal by ELLA members. A re-vote by the Board of Directors is still pending.
The Excelsiors Lacrosse Legacy Association has taken up the duty of fighting to protect all of this. The history of the Brampton Excelsiors is long, amazing and very personal for many people. It should never have been allowed to get thrown away with such little regard. We hope to be adding this this amazing story again in the near future.