Ranjit Dillon smiles as he sees his familiar #5 emblazoned on a banner that will soon hang from the rafters at The Q Centre.
“I’m glad they added the ‘R,’” he laughs, referring to his initial. “There are a lot of Dillons around.”
Many of them from his own family, he could have added, as Dillon had 10 brothers and sisters, including Nirmal Dillon, a longtime Victoria Shamrock and fellow Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Famer – both brothers were inducted in 2005.
The pair were introduced to the sport in their teens by lacrosse coach Doug Fletcher. Before that, Dillon says he didn’t even know what lacrosse was, but he took to the sport quickly.
“I really have to give so much credit to [Fletcher],” he said. “He was the godfather of minor lacrosse. He would be out there at Stevenson Park on Saturday morning … running up and down the floor with us and telling us what to do. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would have happened.”
A bantam team was soon formed and the squad came to be known as Punjab United because much of the roster was made up of Indo-Canadians.
Dillon’s game continued to develop through his teens and he helped lead the Junior Shamrocks to the 1962 Minto Cup.
He joined the senior Shamrocks in 1966 and for many years he was one of the few bright stars for the club during a rare stretch of futlity for the storied franchise.
The club finally came out of its slump towards the end of the 1970s and Dillon – who played in a club record 443 games by the time his career was over – finally won that elusive first Mann Cup in 1979, the team’s first in 22 years.
“It just worked out absolutely perfectly looking back at it now,” he said. “To win it at home after the fans suffered all those years, it was a dream come true. Like it was scripted.”
He retired with 450 goals and 788 assists, leading the Western Lacrosse Association in scoring in 1967, but he’s quick to point out that his proudest work came in the defensive zone. In today’s game, substitutions are common as a team transitions from defence to offence, but that wasn’t the case when Dillon was sporting the green and white.
“Defending was my main love in lacrosse … when I played defense in lacrosse I worked really hard at doing a good job. The offense just happened,” he said.
In addition to his inclusion in the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame, Dillon has also been inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Even with the numerous honours he’s earned over the years, Dillon says Friday’s ceremony will be particularly special.
“Hanging the sweater, it’s so far out there that you can’t even think or dream or imagine it happening to you. It’s just the most special award you can give any player of any sport … I’ll probably pinch myself the day after and wonder whether it’s really true.”