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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A beary good teammate

Bruce the bear prowls the sideline during a men’s lacrosse practice. // Photo by Alex Powell

The origins of Bruce are unknown by many and kept secret by few. Was he the tip of an old vikings ship that crashed in Bellingham Bay? Or possibly taken from a bar downtown many years ago?

Not many know the real story of Bruce, but one thing is for certain. A 100 pound and 5-foot tall bear statue is the Western men’s lacrosse team’s number one fan.

Bruce has been passed on through the years of the team. Bringing Bruce to every possible game has  become a team tradition, by either driving him personally or taking him on the team bus for away games. The team places Bruce at the 50-yard line and every player gives him a pat during their warm-ups.

Defender Zane Sharif said he enjoys the tradition and regards Bruce as a member of the team rather than a statue.

“We like to joke and say he’s the original lacrosse player,” Sharif said. “He’s never left. He’s never graduated. He’s working on various degrees. I think he’s working on a communications degree right now.”

Coach John Heritage, currently in his first season with the team, said he wants the team to have traditions like Bruce because they can bond over them.

“We like to joke and say he’s the original lacrosse player. He’s never left. He’s never graduated. He’s working on various degrees. I think he’s working on a communications degree right now.”

Zane Sharif

“Having some fun things like that can certainly help build team unity,” Heritage said. “We want guys to enjoy being here and have fun, but also work hard collectively and have each other’s back.”

The team has been successful in recent years. In 2015 the team made it to nationals for the second year running, reaching the semifinals and finishing fourth.

The men’s lacrosse team lift Bruce in the air. // Photo by Alex Powell

Former captain and Western alumnus Lucas Marin was a member of the 2015 team. Marin said Bruce has been with them through it all.

“He’s a great stand up guy,” Marin said. “Long before my time at Western he was there, so he’s seen a lot.”

With no money and a lack of transportation, Bruce is passed around by the lacrosse team and is always given a place to stay, rent free.

Sharif said during the regular season the team sometimes makes it the responsibility of rookies to give Bruce a home, but during the summer he typically stays with upperclassmen. 

Marin tried to start a way to pass around the statue, but realized the team enjoys it more when they just let him travel with no set path.

“We just have more fun letting him do his own thing,” Marin said. “A lot of the older guys like to have him at their house. He just ends up places.”

Whether the lacrosse team
succeeds or not this season is yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain, Bruce will be with them every step of the way. 



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