Lacrosse Hero; Kevin Alexander

Kevin AlexanderIn our next visit with a Hero of Lacrosse, we speak with a player regarded by many as one of the most pure goal scorers the game has ever seen; the Victoria Shamrocks Kevin Alexander.

I unfortunately, never got to see Kevin play, but in looking at his career scoring statistics, I was amazed at the numbers he amassed.  Kevin was a fierce competitor and wanted to win.  Notice his response to my question about going back and changing one game if he could  (he would change them all until his team won). 

I asked my friend, and regular contributor here Derek Keenan for a few words on his former Buffalo Bandit team mate and Derek obliged:

Without question, the most gifted and talented finisher I have ever seen play the game of lacrosse. He had the ability to make really good goalies look awfully foolish and ordinary. He was an extremely smart player who had the ability to adapt well to different game situations. He also had the ability to adapt well and change his game as he aged. He was not a big guy but deceptively strong and quick. Later in his career he turned himself into an excellent face-off man in the indoor game and the field game.

As an 18 year old I was a “pick-up” for Peterborough at the 1979 Mann Cup against Victoria. Kevin played for Victoria. He scored a goal on a power play that I had never seen before and don’t think I’ve seen since. From the right shooter spot he threw a back hander to the far, lower left corner of the net and it was no fluke. You could certainly tell that he placed that shot exactly where he wanted it to go.

Victoria Shamrock, Buffalo Bandit, and member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame; Kevin Alexander.

Enjoy the read…

GM: At what age did you begin playing lacrosse and what got you involved?

KA: I started playing organized lacrosse at 5 years old. My older brothers played, so I played too.

GM: Who were some of the players you remember idolizing as a youngster?

KA: Mostly Shamrocks Bill Munro, Ron Jay, Ranjit & Nirmal Dillon.

GM: In your first three years of Junior A lacrosse, you were the Rookie of the Year, Scoring Champion (all three years), a first team All-Star, you won a Minto Cup (1976) as well as the Minto Cup MVP. Recall if you can your time in Junior with Esquimalt.

KA: We had a great bunch of players with an outstanding organization in Jr. “A” in Victoria. We had the best coaching (Bill Munro) & manager (Bob Reid). As with every successful team, there were no egos & everyone knew their role. We knew each other very well. We lost the B.C.’s in 7 games in ’75, & won in 7 games in ’76. That brings people together pretty tightly. After that, the Minto Cup was inevitable. It was Victoria’s first since 1962.

GM: Who were some players you played with on those teams?

KA: There were some great players on those teams, like Bob Cool, Jim Boyd, Doug Angrove, Ken King, Dave Lowdon, some not “household” lacrosse names, but spectacular role players.

GM: You excelled in Field Lacrosse as well as Box Lacrosse. Did you prefer one game over the other?

KA: I can’t say I really preferred one game over the other. It almost seemed like whichever one I was playing at the time was my favorite.

GM: Describe the honor of being named best midfielder in the 1986 World Field Lacrosse Championships.

KA: That was special. I have won many awards in lacrosse, & that one surprised me the most. Again I was playing with some great players so I was able to look good on the field.

Kevin AlexanderGM: In your Senior Box Lacrosse career you won two Mann Cups (1979, 1983) and I thought I had read you were the MVP in 1979 as well. Can you tell us about those Championships?

KA: I was on the ’79 & ’83 winning teams, but I did not win the MVP in ’79. That honor went to a well deserved Ivan Thompson. Quite honestly that is the only award in lacrosse that I never did win, that, (looking back) I would like to have. I probably had a chance in ’84 in “The Boro” (Peterborough, Ontario) but that year it was won by my good friend, sometimes teammate & great lacrosse player, John Grant (he didn’t need the “Sr” then). Anyways the ’79 win was very big for Victoria, it had been a long time (1957) since they had won the Mann Cup, and so it was special to be part of. There were also a few players who had been around for a long time, including the “lean years”, so it was a nice way to send them out.

1983 (as was ’79) was another very talented group of players. Bob Cool, Jim Lynch John Crowther (MVP) and Mac Maude to name a few. Both years we played very good teams from “The Boro” making special friends along the way. They finally got us back in ’84. Damn!

GM: What lacrosse accomplishment would you say you are most proud of?

KA: I don’t think I can really pick out just one single thing. I always tell people that I was the only person (kid) who was the WLA Shamrock water boy at 13, and played a game the next year when I was 14. I was also proud to play 5 games the next year when I was 15, and averaged 3 goals per game. That was fun. I think I also still have a few records (that Gaiter’s let me keep) that I was proud of. A couple of them are, the fastest 3 goals in the WLA (13 seconds) most consecutive games scoring a goal, I think that was about 42. Also looking back, my lifetime Jr. A 7 points per game average is kind of neat too. Like all records, they are as much my teammates as mine. They might all be broken now, I really don’t know. Representing Canada for 12 years was special too.

GM: You also played in Buffalo for the Bandits, winning two indoor Championships. Describe your time in Buffalo.

KA: Absolutely fantastic! The 2 years in Buffalo were as much fun as any. I think because Johnny Mouridian assembled such a great team, it was fun to just be part of it. I was one of the oldest guys in the league, but the travel worked out fairly well (only missed 2 flights) and I got to play with superstars like Derek Keenan, Darris Kilgour, & John Tavares, in front of 16,325 fans every home game. Hard to beat.

GM: Many of our past interviews have included you in their list of the best shooters they have ever seen. What do you feel you did to make you so good?

KA: A lot of practice combined with a very good understanding of the game, and an extreme desire to win. I had lots of confidence, good teammates, and could hit pretty much any spot I aimed at, with any shot.

GM: You’ve coached a little in the NLL, most recently with Calgary in 2006. Would you like to get back into Coaching?

KA: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Actually since 1994 the CLA has banned me for “life” from coaching or any other aspect of the Canadian game. The CLA says I owe them about $3500 from our trip to England in 1994. I disagree. It’s too bad because obviously I could do a lot to help our great game, at many levels, but they want to keep me out. So if I coach or, whatever, it would be in the NLL, or somewhere else, but it looks like not in the CLA.

GM: What do you think of the Box lacrosse game that is played today?

KA: The game today is good. The players are “bigger, stronger, and faster”. As with most “modern” day sports there is usually too much individualism (selfishness). Many players put themselves before the team (this always has disastrous results). I can’t say much bad about the “offence defense” style of play, as we always did that at “crunch” time, but it should never be used in the minor systems. Too many young players are becoming one dimensional.

GM: In 1991 you were entered into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. What were your thoughts joining so many other greats in the exclusive list?

KA: That was pretty neat too. I was told I was the youngest living player inductee in history, so I thought that was ok. To be there with so many all time great lacrosse players is a very special thing.

Fun Questions

GM: Who do you feel was the best player and goalie you ever played with, and against?

KA: Best player with would have to be Gary Gait, but super humans don’t count so either Ivan Thompson or Bob Cool.
Best player against – Geordie Dean, he could do it all.
Best goalie with and against – Larry Smeltzer, hands down. Damn I wish we had the big nets they have now when I was shooting on him!

GM: If you could play one more game, where would it be, and who would be playing?

KA: Where: Memorial Arena – Victoria or Peterborough.
Who: Victoria & Peterborough. (I’ve seen the conditioning of some of those guys now)

GM: Give us your all-time greats Power play.

KA: I’ll give you 2 & they can be inter mixed, but I have to play!
1. Derek Keenan, John Davis, John Tavares, Ivan Thompson.
2. Gaylord Powless, Ron McNeil, Paul Gait, Gary Gait, John Grant Sr.

GM: If you could go back and change the results of any lacrosse game,series, or Championship, would you, and which one would it be?

KA: Yes I would. In fact I would change them all until I my team won them all! If I only had one, it would be the 1986 World Championship game against the U.S. Those World Games always seemed to get away from us. I’m sure glad the guys did it last time around.

GM: What do you feel is the one thing lacrosse did for you, that you otherwise might not have done or experienced?

KA: It would probably be the amount of travel. I did a lot of travelling through lacrosse that I otherwise may not have. The other thing that always sticks out is the very special people who are involved in the game. People who are not only great lacrosse people, but just great people, most, friends for life. A good example is those “Boro” guys like John Grant, Bob & Jim Wasson to name a few. We fought to the death on the floor, but now we are just like brothers when we see each other.

There were others Stu Aird, Johnny Mouridian, Derek Keenan, and many U.S. guys, the list could go on forever because lacrosse is just full of great people.

GM: Kevin, this was great, thanks for your time.

KA: Thank You.

Lacrosse Hero; Hall Of Fame Goalie Rod Banister

Rod Banister

When I think back to the number of lacrosse games my father took me to as a kid, there are so many great memories over the years. Of those, of course, you always remember your home town heroes and all of their wins and Championships. But every so often you see a lacrosse player or goalie on another team that leaves an impression on you (yes even at the age of 9).

I first saw Rod Banister play lacrosse here in my home town of Whitby, in 1977 at the Minto Cup Championships. My dad and I were at every game, cheering on the Whitby CBC Builders, who were playing the Burnaby Cablevision team. It was a great start, but tough finale for my dad and I as we both witnessed the big bad Western team take away what was supposed to be ours…..the coveted Minto Cup (in 6 games).

As upset as we were, we had to applaud the Burnaby team on a great effort and specifically their goalie (Rod), the Minto Cup Most Valuable Player that year.

What we had no idea of at that time, was that Rod would go on to win two more (consecutive) Minto Cups, three Mann Cups, be entered into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and have an unbelievably profound effect on our game and the goaltending position.

When I went searching for some Heroes (of which he was one of my targets), Rod answered my call, and he has graciously shared with us some stories of his playing days along with a couple of pictures.  In the picture at the top he is being interviewed in the ’77 Minto Cup by the man synonymous with lacrosse, the legendary Jim Bishop, and Hockey Hall of Famer, Brian McFarlane.  The picture below is a great action shot of Rod playing in New West Minister.

Ladies and gents, one of the best ever at the goaltending position, Rod Banister.  Enjoy. 

GM: Describe playing minor lacrosse in British Columbia.

RB: I began playing lacrosse in 1968 when I was 10 years old and played minor for the Hastings Bluebirds. We were a small organization who played out of an outdoor box near the PNE in East Vancouver.  Unfortunately, the box is now a parking lot. Two of my team mates from those years, Derek Dickson and Paul Dal Monte, played on the same teams with me all the way through minor, junior and the WLA and Terry Bingley played minor and junior with us. When I was entering Midget, our association merged with a nearby association, Grandview, and the combined organization became the Vancouver East Bluebirds and our Junior B team was the Junior Burrards.

GM: Who were your influences in the early stages of your playing days?

My Mother was probably my biggest influence as her family had been long-time fans of the Vancouver Burrards and the PNE Indians while she was growing up. She would tell stories about how thousands of fans would pack the PNE Forum for games and the thrill of watching the legendary Jack Bionda. She was very excited when I said I wanted to start playing and both my parents were really supportive. Dave Duff, Bob Worden and Gerry Taylor were my main coaches in minor lacrosse; local Hall of Famers Bill Barbour and Bill Chisolm would help out from time to time on the finer points of the game.

GM: What made you become a goalie and did you start as such?

RB: My coach stuck the fat kid in net and the rest was history! In my first year they put all the kids new to lacrosse on the B team but, unfortunately, we competed in the same league against the A teams. We would regularly get beat 15-0, 17-0, 20-2, etc. but I would get 100+ shots a game so it was probably a good (albeit painful) initiation. When we were getting beat so badly that year I thought about switching positions but that was likely the only time during my career that I did (ok, maybe a few times in senior after getting bruised up in practices).

GM: Give us some of your heroes while growing up.

RB: When I first started playing, the National Lacrosse Association was going so I remember going to games at the Coliseum in Vancouver where the Canucks played and thinking that the sport was on the same level as the NHL! Some of my early idols in those days were goalies Skip Chapman and Don Hamilton. Later on when the Burrards moved to the PNE Forum, I would regularly go to games and looked up to goalies like Dave Evans from Vancouver and Joe Comeau from New Westminster. I do remember seeing Buff McCready play for Brantford and was amazed at how incredible he was at breaking out of his own end with the ball.
Rod Banister

GM: In 1977, 78, and 79 you played an integral role as a member of the Minto Cup Champion Burnaby Cablevision team. Describe those teams and the run of consecutive Championships.

RB: Our GM, Jack Crosby, who unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago, and coach, Dan Mattinson, had put together a powerful line-up so I was fortunate to have been invited to play junior there. We just missed getting to the Minto in ‘76 and then dominated the west in ’77 going 27-1. After such a strong season, we got quite a shock in the Minto when we dropped the first two games to a fast-breaking Whitby team. Fortunately, we regrouped and were able to come back to win the next four. The ’77 team was the strongest of our three championship teams from that era. We had a great deal of depth at both ends and a good mix of graduating and young players. Offensively, Dan Wilson, Danny Perreault, Derek Dickson, John Krgovich and Ken Sim were incredible players and defensively we had guys like Eric Cowieson, Matt Aitken, Terry Bingley, Ray Mattinson and many others who did a great job at shutting Whitby down.

The next year was a rematch as Whitby traveled to the west and we played the series out of Queen’s Park Arena in New Westminster. Many of the same faces were with Whitby: goalie Wayne Colley and leading scorer Ken Colley, John and Bryce Jordan, Cam Devine. For Burnaby, we had graduated a number of our top players from the ‘77 team but the younger players had elevated their game. Perreault was a leader that year and a lot of the scoring came from him, Dickson, John Swan and Lloyd Simons. Again, we dropped the first game but went on to win the next four.

We lost a large number of graduating players after ’78 and were not expected to make it to the Minto in ’79. That year, the CLA decided to go with a three team, round-robin format (BC, Ontario and Alberta) with a one game final. The series was held in Calgary and the final was televised live on CBC. We had split the two games against Peterborough during the round-robin and won a hard fought battle in the final. They had a very young team that year and were probably not expected to beat Oshawa or Whitby in the east. They were lead by Shawn Quinlan in goal and Larry Floyd was their main goal scorer. It came down to the wire with us coming out on the winning end 8-6, including an empty netter. Tournament MVP, John Swan, had a great game scoring four of our 8 goals and Lyle Robinson added two. Just recently, a team-mate sent us all a DVD of that game and it was amazing to see how tight the game really was (and if you like the short-shorts from that era, it was something to see)!

GM:  Again in 1981, 89, and 91 you won Mann Cups with New Westminster. Were most of those players the same group from Junior?

RB: In the WLA, there is a draft of graduating players so our junior team was pretty much spread around across three different teams. I was drafted by Victoria but traded to New West before the 1980 season started. NW had been rebuilding in the late 70’s after winning four Mann Cups in the early 70’s. There was a good mix of veteran/future Hall of Famers like Wayne Goss, Steve D’Easum, Brian and Bobby Tasker, Dave Durante plus a number of young players from both the Burnaby (Dickson, Dal Monte, Sim, Cowieson, Krgovich) and New West Junior teams (Steve Manning, Mark and Ivan Tuura, Dan Richardson). We gelled quickly and went to the Mann Cup in ’80 losing in a very rough series to Brampton. We did not have a great regular season the following year barely squeaking into the playoffs but then went on a tear and won 12/13 including four straight in the Mann Cup versus Brampton again.

Casey Cook had become our GM before the 1980 season and he was a master at getting the cream of the crop out of the draft (Robinson, Geordie Dean, Doug Zack, Bobby Johnston, Todd Lorenz, Rob Dick), finding ways to sign free agents (Manning, Hieljtes, M. Tuura, Mang), trading for some awesome players (Durante, Wilson, Neilson) and bringing in some great players from Peterborough (Ogilvie, Stevenson, Quinlan, Hiltz, Vilneff, Shaughnessy). Casey kept making the team better and better and deserves a lot of the credit for the team being at or near the top every year for about a 15 year span.

I was very fortunate to have played on some great NW teams and alongside some unbelievable team mates, many who are in the Hall of Fame or soon to be. We were always known as a strong defensive team, so that certainly helped make my position more enjoyable. We stressed D first and then took our offensive opportunities as they presented themselves. We had many great two way players and in my opinion, Geordie Dean and Ben Hieljtes, rank up there with the best two way players to ever play the game.

GM: What did you (or do you) find to be the biggest difference in lacrosse in the West vs. lacrosse in the East?

RB: As I mentioned, we got quite a shock when we first arrived in Whitby in 1977. We were known as a run-and-gun team in the west but it was a whole different ball game in the east. The eastern teams were much faster in their transition from defence to offence and/or breaking off of their bench than what we were used to. Also, the eastern goalies were great at starting the break out and hitting the breakaway pass. When you think about goalies like Colley or Quinlan, not only were they good stoppers but they were very good at sparking that fast break.

GM: Looking at your lacrosse resume, you have won a slew of individual awards / Championships; you’ve been an MVP, and so much more. What lacrosse accomplishment are you most proud of?

RB: All of the championships were fantastic experiences and any time you set a goal at the beginning of the season and accomplish it, there is a great deal of satisfaction at the end of the day. If I had to pick one accomplishment, it would probably be the three year Minto run we had in Junior. Our ’77 team has the honour of being the only BC team to have won the Minto, when it was played in Ontario, in the past 54 years! Heading into the ’77 championship, the press made quite a big deal about BC teams not having won in Ontario since 1953. It’s quite incredible when you think about all of the talented teams that have headed east to compete for the Minto only to come home empty handed.

Also, and I am not 100% sure if I am correct on this, but I believe our ’77-‘79 team is the only box team from BC to have ever won three consecutive championships: Minto or Mann. I think a few field teams in the early part of the 1900’s won more consecutive championships but I think we are the only team with three straight championships in the box era.

GM: In 2001 you were inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Give your thoughts on receiving that honour.

RB: Needless to say, it was an incredible honour as it is the pinnacle of a lifelong involvement in the sport. It was very emotional as I found out I was going into the Hall just days after my Dad had passed away. I was very fortunate to have played for two great organizations in New Westminster and Burnaby and I certainly owe a great deal to the team mates I played alongside. The actual induction ceremony was very special as I was inducted the same year as our New West captain, and former Burnaby team mate, Eric Cowieson, and the 1978 Canadian field team, who won the World Championship, amongst others.

GM: Are you still involved in lacrosse today?

RB: This will be my third season as an Assistant Coach with the Victoria Intermediate Shamrocks (17/18 years old). Unlike Ontario, in BC most players play two years of Intermediate lacrosse after Midget and before they go on to Junior, so the level of play is quite good. Prior to coaching with the intermediates, I was an assistant with the Junior Shamrocks and was the goalie coach for the Vancouver Ravens. It is pretty cool seeing some of the players you had in Junior, and even minor now, do well in the NLL.

GM: What are your thoughts on today’s edition of the Major and Pro game?

RB: I am really happy to see the sport grow to the level it has. It has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, to get it to where it is today. The athletes today are incredibly fit, dedicated and talented and it is great to see the game being played in so many places and getting TV exposure. To be honest, I am not a big fan of the O-D system that dominates today. I preferred the fast breaking, run-and-gun style of the old days and also miss the two-way player. I think the nets in the NLL are about three inches too wide; given the size of the equipment, the goal size did have to increase but I prefer the 4 X 4.6 that are currently in use in the WLA and Major league and used to be used in the NLL.

GM: So what occupies your time now, after lacrosse?

RB: Well, we have a three year old daughter, our first, so that has had us hopping for the past few years; loads of fun! We moved to Victoria ten years ago and really enjoy the lifestyle on the island. This past December, I kind of semi-retired from a 26 year career in the educational publishing business so I am now doing consulting work.

Fun Questions

GM: Who were a few of the best shooters you ever faced?

RB: Kevin Alexander could score from anywhere and could pick a corner like no one I have ever seen. Other great snipers were Wayne Goss, Dan Wilson, Dave Durante, John Grant, Bob Cool, Brian Evans, Ron MacNeil, Derek Keenan, Dan Perreault, Brian Tasker, Doug Hayes, Ken Colley, John Jordan, Bruce Turris, and Mike Thomas. Later in my career came along the likes of John Tavares, Gary and Paul Gait, Jim Veltman, Johnny Wilson, Dan Stroup, and Russ Heard. I am probably missing loads of people that deserve to be included here!

GM: If you could change any one lacrosse game or event, would you and which one / where?

RB: Without a doubt, if I could turn back time, it would be the 6th goal (against) in Game 7 of the 1985 Mann Cup. We were tied 5-5 with about 3 or 4 minutes left in the game-Ken Colley had the ball-he was a lefty and was cutting across the top toward his wrong side, I was following him across and thought he would go for a low shot to the short side. As he was coming across, he suddenly flipped a strong back hand from the outside, similar to what you see Tracy Kelusky do these days, my weight was going to my right but the shot went to my left side, I reacted and dropped to my knees and was lucky to block the shot with my left thigh, as I went to trap the ball one of our defenders came in the crease and tried to scoop up the ball. I am not sure if I distracted him when I tried to trap it but unfortunately the ball somehow flipped off of his stick and went right into the net. We lost game seven 6-5.

GM: Give us who you would put out on your “All Time Greats” Power Play. And who would take the shot?

RB: Boy, that is a tough one given all the great players I played with and against and the way various generations of players cross over each other. I will cheat a bit and do a west and east version from guys who played in the 80’s: from the west, I would have Ben Hieljtes, Dave Durante or Brian Tasker at the top, Geordie Dean at the right shooter, Kevin Alexander on the right crease (although he could just as easily play the top or shooter spot), Wayne Goss on the left shooter and Jim Meredith or Jim Lynch on the left crease (Meredith could play the top as well). From the east, I would put John Grant or John Jordan at the top, Derek Keenan at left shooter, JJ Johnson at left crease, Phil Scarfone or John Fusco at right shooter and Bobby or Jimmy Wasson at right crease.

GM: Your most memorable lacrosse experience is……

I really can’t pick one, all of the championships were absolutely terrific but I also remember things like traveling to Ontario to play in the first ever PeeWee National tournament in 1970, spending two (Canadian) winters in Australia coaching/playing box and still being in touch with some of the Aussies almost 30 years later, the ’85 Super Series against the US, the way the lacrosse community rallied in support of Wayne Goss night, the launch of the Ravens. Winning my first Mann and Minto Cups will always be the most special.

GM: What is one thing you feel lacrosse did for you that you otherwise would have missed out on?

RB: It would definitely be the camaraderie of being part of a team; setting goals and doing everything you can to accomplish them. In New West we had a real family environment and we went through all the ups and downs of life together. I would not have wanted to miss the experiences and friendships that the sport has given me. I also think that some of the lessons learned on the lacrosse floor and in the dressing room have helped me a great deal to survive in the business world.

GM: Rod, this has been a heck of a lot of fun, thanks so much for doing this.

RB: Thank You.

Terry Lloyd – Lacrosse Hero

Terry LloydIn our latest edition of Lacrosse Heroes we speak with Terry Lloyd. Many that follow lacrosse know Terry for a number of different lacrosse reasons.  First, for those just at this years Lacrosse Festival, Terry is the Peewee Team Ontario Manager.  But Terry also played for the Oshawa Green Gaels, and played pro in Philadelphia in the mid ’70’s. He is well known in Ontario in the Minor Field Lacrosse game and is the driving force behind the Oshawa Blue Knights organization. He also serves on the Executive of the Ontario Lacrosse Association.  One of the nicest guys involved in the game today in so many ways, and he really is one of our best promoters. Enjoy the read.

GM: Describe how and at what age you became involved in lacrosse.

TL: I lived on Eulalie Ave. and the city installed a box at Bathe Park. It only took a couple of days before Ed Kolodzie came around selling sticks for $2. I was about 10 at the time.

GM: Who were some of your early heroes or influences in the game?

TL: Some of my early heroes were obvious to most Oshawa kids at the time; the 1963 – 1969 Gaels, especially my older brother Larry.

GM: You played for the legendary Oshawa Green Gaels organization starting in 1969. Describe that experience and some of your memories of playing there.

TL: Actually I started playing for the Gaels in 1970 after the 7 Minto Cups. My brother being on the team I saw every game and was amazed by all the team members.

GM: Did you ever play for Jim Bishop, and what was he like in the ‘60s / ‘70s?

TL: No, in 1970 Bob Hanna took over the Gaels from Jim. I do know from the experiences Larry had he was very strict but fair.

GM: In 1974 and 1975 you and Larry both played pro lacrosse in Philadelphia, which we’ve got some video footage of. Give us your most vivid memories of playing in Philadelphia.

TL: My most vivid memories playing in Philadelphia was to meet my wife Vi and playing with my brother. All of our careers he was an age group above and I finally had the opportunity to play on the same team. I only played with my brother in Philadelphia where we both had a good couple of years.

GM: Describe how and when you became involved in getting the Oshawa Blue Knights field lacrosse program started.

TL: In 1979 Stan Cockerton, my brother Larry, Ian Barrie and Sandy Lynch started the Sr. Men’s Blue Knights so many players from the Gaels started their field lacrosse days. In 1983 Bill Langley and Terry Rowland took a Peewee team to England to play. The following year we started the Minor Blue Knights. The original cities were only Oshawa, the Beaches and St. Catharine’s. It has been a fun 23 years.

GM: So what do you prefer more to watch or to play, field lacrosse or box lacrosse?

TL: I am going to throw you a curve by saying box outside. Over the years field lacrosse has held a bit of an edge over box.

GM: For the last two seasons now you have been involved with the Team Ontario Peewees as Team Manager. Describe that experience and working with Derek Keenan and his staff if you can.

TL: Working with Derek and other Team Ontario personnel has been a great experience for me. Derek is able to teach the players important skills while making the experience fun. Only having four days of practice together, it is amazing that the players can come together as a team. Seeing the players achieve their goal of a Canadian Championship was very gratifying for me. This year’s team from the players to team staff to parents is the reason why I keep involved in lacrosse.

GM: What do you think of the current game of box and field lacrosse and how they have grown in Canada in the past 10-20 years?

TL: Box – Being old school I don’t like offense – defense. Most teams now play a combination of both. The players of today are unbelievable! All of the strong minor associations are still strong but beware the new centres are creeping up. My only pet peeve being an offensive player is the size of the goalie equipment. In minor something has to be done about it.
Field – World Champions for the second time in 30 years. That alone will make the game flourish. Hopefully the U19 Team will continue the trend.

GM: You were recently (deservingly) entered into the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame. Describe that honour.

TL: I was really surprised when the Committee called and told me. I am very grateful of the acknowledgement because so many people from family, friends, players, coaches, therapists, parents, volunteers and even bingo players helped me to achieve the honour.

GM: You also recently assumed an Executive Role with Ontario Lacrosse. How did that come about and what are your duties.

TL: The previous Field Director left the position due to personal reasons. The Ontario Lacrosse Association asked me to take over the position until the OLA Annual General Meeting. My duties are to oversee Field Lacrosse in Ontario with a lot of help from many volunteers.

Fun Questions

GM: If you could go back and play another game, would you choose Field or Box Lacrosse and at which venue?

TL: I would play box in one of these three arenas Children’s Arena in Oshawa, the old Whitby Arena and the old arena in downtown Peterborough.

GM: What is the one thing you feel lacrosse has done for you, that you otherwise might not have done?

TL: The one thing that lacrosse has done for me is to let me meet people from around the world who are just a passionate about lacrosse as I am.

GM: Who is the best you ever played with, played against, or saw play (can be a few answers)?

TL: Played with – Larry Lloyd – Playing with my brother made me elevate my game.
Played against and saw – Jim Higgs – He could do it all on the lacrosse surface.

GM: You were known as a sniper that could put the ball in the net. What goalie did you not want to face when you were shooting?

TL: The best goalie I played against was Merv Marshall. He was quick and very athletic. Merv didn’t need all the equipment some goalies use today.

GM: When people mention Terry Lloyd, what is the one word or phrase you would hope they would say that describes you?

TL: I hope when people mention my name they say I was a promoter of the game.

GM: Terry, thanks for doing this for us

TL: Thanks Gary for the opportunity

1931 Pro Lacrosse Montreal vs. Toronto

Another video provided by Wamper and his Bible Of Lacrosse. This video shows a Pro game played between Montreal and Toronto. A few points to note about the game then:

1) First the crease and net go right to the end boards so that there is no room for anyone to go behind the net.
2) Notice near the end of the video, even though the players are not wearing helmets, when emotions start to run high they have no problem swinging their sticks at each others heads, and
3) The ref is wearing a tie and it looks like dress pants.

Note: If you would like to use this video on your site, please first obtain consent from me and / or the Wamper.

September 28, 1974 Philadelphia vs.Rochester Videos

A big thank you must go out to Wamper’s Bible of Lacrosse site for providing the videos below.  The first two are courtesy of one of our recent Heroes of Lacrosse, Philadelphia Wings’ John Grant (#12).  He had an outstanding reach as witnessed in one of his goals here, while on the other he shows that using the wooden stick, he was one of the players in the day that could still pick the corners of the net.

The third video is one of the Wings Terry Rowland (#27) using his size and strength in driving to the net and scoring on Merv Marshall.

And lastly, there is one of Jim Wasson (#16) of Philadelphia, using his quickness on a much larger defender, driving the net and also scoring a nice goal.

A Great Guy, and an All Time Great…..Gil Nieuwendyk

In our latest edition of Lacrosse Heroes, we had a chance for a little question and answer time with Gil Nieuwendyk. Many know of Gil’s brother Joe as a recently retired NHL hockey player, but those that have followed lacrosse know Gil as one of the Whitby Warriors and Brooklin Redmen’s all time great players. Gil was as offensively gifted as they came in the day of the wooden stick. Together, Gil and his brothers Joe and Rick, to my knowledge are the only three to all play a Junior game in Whitby on the same team. A classy guy, from a great sports family…..enjoy!

GM: At what age did you start playing lacrosse, and where?

GN: My older brother and I both got into lacrosse because back then our parents of European descent wanted us to play soccer…after 1 practice the coach of our community team in Port Whitby said I was not good enough to play on the team, but they wanted Rick who was 7 at the time. Rick refused to play without me. A few days later my dad won a prize on a raffle ticket he bought at the service station he owned in Port Whitby, a gentleman came by the house to award Dad $200 dollars for second prize and noticed myself and Rick playing soccer in the backyard. My Dad told him the story of what happened at soccer practice and the man suggested that we try lacrosse. It turned out the man was the president of Whitby Minor Lacrosse and Dad used his winnings to register his 6 and 7 year old sons in a sport he had never seen or heard of before.

GM: Who would you say influenced you most in your early years of lacrosse?

GN: Growing up playing minor lacrosse in Whitby the B&R Transporters Jr. B lacrosse club had the biggest influence on me and inspired me to excel to do my best. They were all local players and when they won the national title the excitement it created in the community was unbelievable and I knew from that point that winning a national championship would be awesome.

GM: Who were some of your lacrosse heroes while growing up?

GN: I didn’t have any heroes growing up but the guys I played with in minor lacrosse I admired the most. We hung out together and always had our lacrosse sticks in our hands, some of us even slept with our sticks. Our meeting point every morning during the summer was the Peel Park outdoor lacrosse box and we would play for hours. Scott Ravary, John Waddell and Tim Tran were a few of the guys that made lacrosse fun and made growing up with lacrosse a way of life. We use to go back to Tim’s house after lacrosse for a swim and that’s where I enjoyed talking lacrosse the most. Without a doubt the one person that had the biggest impact into the type of player I became was Elmer Tran. Elmer was a tremendous lacrosse player in Jr. and Senior and he went on to play in the first professional league in the late 60’s. We would listen to the stories about how the game was played and how it should be played. He offered advice and suggestions that helped us to become winners and better lacrosse players, but most of all he cared about the game and wanted us to enjoy it as much as he did. He said he played with a little bit of skill; a lot more grit and a whole bunch of heart; that’s the kind of player I wanted to become.

GM: You were a member of the 1980 Whitby Warrior Minto Cup team that was recently inducted into the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame. Describe both the Championship and the honour of entering the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame.

GN: I have been lucky enough to play with some great players over the years and enjoyed a tremendous amount of success especially in 1980 with a Minto Cup championship. That year our power play was outstanding and in the Minto Cup a bigger and tougher New Westminster team that had never lost on home floor that year did not believe our power play was as good as the numbers said and they paid for that mistake. We won in 5 games because of a great game plan from coach Jim Hinkson, super goaltending from Rob Mclean, tough defence from Al MacDonald, Rick Nieuwendyk, Eric and Andy Perroni, and an outstanding power play led by John Jordan at the top Cam Devine, Terry Martinelllo in the shooter spots and Ed Derks and myself on the crease. Last summer we were honoured as a team and inducted into the Whitby sports hall of fame. What made that special event important to me was that my wife and kids were there to share the moment with me.

GM: You also won 3 Mann Cups while in Brooklin. Give us your thoughts on that run in 85, 87, and 88.

GN: Winning 3 Mann Cups in the late 80’s was the highlight of my career, especially the first one in 1985. For 2 years we thought we had the team to go all the way but a great Peterborough team always seemed to get the better of us until finally in late August 85 we beat them, that was our Mann Cup right there and what ever happened after that was gravy and we played that way for the first 3 games of the Mann Cup with the mentality that just being there was good enough. At the banquet we were embarrassed by the organizing committee during the speeches ‘HOPING BROOKLIN COULD WIN 1 GAME SO WE CAN BREAK EVEN AT THE GATE”. That’s all we needed and we rallied 3,000 miles away from home with only a handful of fans to win 4 games in a row. The first time an eastern team had won the Mann Cup in the west. We came together as a team that week in B.C. and continued the momentum for the next 4 years.

GM: You’ve played with and against some of the greats of the game. Recall some of the best you ever played with and against.

GN: I’ve played with and against some superb athletes in my career and would list as follows:

BEST GOALIE: Barry Maruk and Wayne Colley
GOALIE HATED TO PLAY AGAINST: Shawn Quinlan and Ray McWhirter
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Gerard Cowie and Andy Perroni
HARDEST HITTER: Dan Dunn and Rick Nieuwendyk
SMARTEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Fred Upshaw and Blaine Harrison
BEST LOSE BALL GUY: Mark Evans and Al Macdonald
MOST DETERMINED: Larry Floyd and Derek Keenan
MOST TALENTED PLAYER: Jayde Gibbs and Ken Colley
PLAYER YOU’RE GLAD HE’S ON YOUR TEAM: Doug Evans and John Fusco
SMARTEST PLAYER: John Jordan and Phil Scarphone
BEST PLAY MAKER: Adam Oates and Kevin Vansickle
MOST GIFTED: Joe Nieuwendyk

GM: Many folks in Durham Region witnessed some great matches between Whitby and Oshawa over the years. Are there any games that stand out above the others?

GN: In 1992 the Jr. A Whitby CBC Builders finished first and we could pick our first round opponent, in a cost saving measure and a chance to increase the attendance we picked Oshawa who finished 3rd although we won every game during the regular season, it was still close. Big Mistake as Oshawa inspired by our selection defeated us in 7 games. What a series back and forth great goaltending and heavy hits every game, it was a season filled with great plays. Game 7 was outstanding, Oshawa’s best players came to play and Hank Bennet, all 5’5″ of him made some unbelievable saves to give Joe Rosnick a chance to win it with 2 minutes left. We came close to tying it but it was not meant to be.

GM: In 1981 Whitby and Oshawa fans saw you and your two brothers (Rick and Joe) play together at the Civic Auditorium. You and Rick were veteran Junior players at the time while Joe was still 14. Describe that experience and the emotion you felt playing lacrosse with both of your brothers.

GN: Playing with both my brothers was quite a treat, Rick and I played on the same team since we were peanuts but to have Joe play Jr. with us was special. Joe in my opinion was the best Jr. lacrosse player back then and would have set all kinds of records if he had not committed himself to his hockey career. Naturally being brothers we kept a close eye on one another. Rick always looked out for me and so it was my turn to look out for Joe, luckily for me the entire team made sure Joe was looked after because I was not a tough guy. I remember that game in Oshawa Dan Gravel was giving it to Joe pretty good; nothing dirty but hard hits. I thought I’d do something about it and hit Dan with a solid cross check during a line change. He was a Jr. A hockey player and pretty tough when it came to physical play and my cheap shot didn’t even phase him. It got him mad so he started chasing me the rest of the period; thanks to Randy Gallas who decided to step in and go to blows with Gravel. That game in Oshawa probably was more special for our Mom than it was for us, she has always been our biggest supporter and to have all 3 boys on the same team must have made her proud.

GM: Give us your all time Power Play setup

GN: My all time power play would look like this:

Point: John Jordan
Left Shooter: Ken Colley
Right Shooter: John Fusco
Left Crease: Ron McCoy
Right Crease: Neil Atkinson

GM: You are now coaching in the Halton Hills minor organization. How have you found coaching vs. your playing days?

GN: I find coaching to have the same intensity as playing but more controlled, you still feel the same emotions after a win or loss as you did as a player but now as a coach it seems to last longer. I’m trying to teach the same game plan we were taught in Whitby and Brooklin to the Halton teams I’ve coached; fast break, tough defensively and great stick skills. So far so good.

GM: Who do you feel was the best goalie or two you ever had to face?

GN: The best Goalie ever in my opinion that I had to face…. Wayne Colley, every day at practice.

GM: What do you think of the offence / defence style of game today?

GN: I’m not a big fan of the front door / back door players it seems that only half a lacrosse player is being developed, it also takes away a lot of the flow with the constant line changes. I think it has a place in the higher levels but needs to be tinkered with for the benefit of the fans. The Halton Midget team I coached last year we introduced a hybrid type game with 3 players going both ways and 2 making changes, it still allowed for the fast break and improved our defence. This year’s Bantam team everyone plays both ends of the floor.

Fun Questions

GM: Your most fond memory of lacrosse is………

GN: 1972 winning Canadian Pee Wee championship and riding on a fire truck through the streets of Whitby,

GM: What do you feel lacrosse did for you that you might not have otherwise done?

GN: I’ve met a lot of great people because of lacrosse and probably would never have gone to the Brooklin Legion.

GM: Rick, Gil or Joe… who’s the best shooter?

GN: Joe makes the best shooters.

GM: What is your greatest lacrosse accomplishment?

GN: After winning the Mann Cup on home floor in 1988 and calling it a career giving my stick to a 10 year old boy in the stands and seeing the smile it brought to his face.

The Best Ever? Canada’s Own Gary Gait….

He`s been referred to as the Michael Jordan of lacrosse. He`s been referred to as the Wayne Gretzky of lacrosse. Past players include him in their list of greats to ever play our game. Current players include him in their list of greats they played with, and / or greats they always idolized. I`m speaking of Gary Gait; the player that has changed the face of lacrosse and helped to take our game from pockets of Canada and the United States, and put it on the National and International Stage. A player that has shattered countless records both in field lacrosse and box lacrosse, many of which may never be broken.

I first had the chance to meet and compete against Gary in a Minto Cup Canadian Junior “A” Championship in 1985. Gary, his brother Paul, and a few others the likes of Tom Marachek, travelled with the Victoria Esquimault Legion to my hometown (Whitby) to face us, the Warriors, with the likes of Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts and others. Little did I realize at that time, that I was competing against someone that (in my opinion) would go on to have the most positive effect on the game of lacrosse ever. While our Warriors were successful in the seventh game of that series, Gary would go on to dominate for years to come at the Junior, Senior, and Professional levels. He still plays the Pro field game and is the current Head Coach of the NLL Colorado Mammoth.

Ladies and gents, my interview with arguably the best ever…..Gary Gait. Enjoy!

GM: Describe your minor years playing lacrosse with Paul in Victoria.

GG: I grew up playing lacrosse in Victoria and when Saanich no longer wanted to play in the greater Vancouver league my dad started a new club that would. This allowed for Victoria lacrosse players to play in the best league in the province. It was great to play with Paul and others. There was a group of about 7 or 8 guys that played together since Peewee all the way through Junior.

GM: Who do you credit most for helping you learn the game of lacrosse?

GG: Ron Mac Neil and Tej Dillon were the first coaches that motivated me and taught me how to learn the game. They were my Peewee and bantam coaches.

GM: Tell us who you idolized in lacrosse while growing up?

GG: I idolized the entire Victoria Shamrocks team when I was little.

GM: Many coined the term “Air Gait” for the in the air type goals you used to score (many from behind the net). How did that type of move come to you?

GG: The air Gait came from working on shots from practice. Teams sometimes played a zone and did not pressure behind. It made sense that you could dive from behind and then shoot before you landed in the crease. After being stuffed by the goalie a few times I started dunking it off the pipe rather than just shooting when you got in front of the goal.

GM: Describe your time at Syracuse, winning the 3 National Field Championships.

GG: Syracuse was an eye opening experience! I learned much about life and lacrosse. I thank them everyday for giving me the opportunity. Coach Simmons truly made it an incredible experience. The Championships were just a bonus!!

GM: After so much success in B.C. box lacrosse what brought you to Ontario to play?

GG: I played in Ontario because I went to stay with my girlfriend (now wife – Nicole) in Toronto for the summer of 89. It made sense being at Syracuse, just a short drive from Toronto.

GM: Brooklin Redmen fans watched your first ever game against your brother Paul (you in Brooklin, Paul in Six Nations). Was it a little nerve racking prior to the game knowing your team mate since you were 4 was now the opposition?

GG: It was not a big deal to play against Paul. We competed against each other almost everyday of our childhood.

GM: Many know and respect you as a player that rarely showed a lot of emotion in games. However, you finally showed a fair amount of jubilance at last years World’s. Is it safe to say that the excitement of that team’s success is what got you to dance a little?

GG: The world championship was a life long effort. I first tried out for team Canada in 84 while in high school. After 22 years of trying it was worth dancing for when it happened!!!

GM: I cannot begin to list your on field or on floor lacrosse accomplishments. If you can, give us a couple that you are most proud of, or bring back the fondest memories.

GG: I am proud of all my Championships! I appreciate the fact they cross over from indoor to outdoor.

GM: How difficult was the decision to retire from the game?

GG: I have never retired from pro field – look for me in the near future – NLL outdoor? I have retired from the NLL and International play.

GM: Do you still get the urge to gear up and get out there.

GG: Yes – I love to compete.

GM: What motivated you to be the best?

GG: I love to set goals and then try and reach them. It was an internal challenge to always try and be the best!

GM: If you could go back and only play one more game would it be a box or field game and where would it be?

GG: The 3 greatest places I ever played and would love to play again are: NCAA final 4, Victoria – Mann Cup, and the Pepsi Center. They are the greatest venues in lacrosse!

GM: You have so many kids (and even current NLL players) that look up to you for what you’ve done. What would you tell kids today that you did to get you to where you are?

GG: I would tell those kids “Go after your dreams!” Don’t ever give up on any sport that you love to play – even if you don’t make the pros!

GM: How has the transition to Coaching been so far?

GG: I have always coached. I started as a kid and continued at the University of Maryland. I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to coach and win in my early years in the NLL and MLL. I will continue to strive to be the best coach I can be!

Fun Questions

GM: You’ve been literally everywhere with the game of lacrosse. Give us a few of your favourite cities you’ve been able to visit.

GG: Adelaide, Australia – London, England – Vail, Colorado are my top cities to have fun and play.

GM: If I told you that you cannot pick yourself or Paul; give me your all time greats Power Play.

GG: Tom Marechek – Kevin Alexander – Ron MacNeil, John Grant Jr. or Senior, John Tavares.

GM: What is your most memorable moment in lacrosse?

GG: London last summer is the topper for me in lacrosse!

GM: What off floor lacrosse accomplishment are you most proud of?

GG: Touching the lives of thousands of kids and inspiring them to play the game.

GM: What one sports person (past or present) would you most like to sit and chat with?

GG: Tiger Woods – I’m looking for some golf tips!

GM: Gary, I thank you for your time.

GG: Thank You.

Lacrosse Heroes – John Fusco

So just where do you begin when speaking about a player that has won 2 Minto Junior Lacrosse Championships, and 5 Mann Senior Lacrosse Championships? John Fusco started his Junior career off with a bang in 1981 winning his first of two Minto’s, while also receiving Rookie of the Year honours. Twenty years later he called it a day and left behind many memorable nights of lacrosse, a slew of Championships, personal awards and a legacy as one of the greatest Brooklin Redmen of all time. Ironically John’s style of play earned him the respect of his team mates and his opponents. While he was always atop the scoring charts league wide season after season, those numbers were only beaten by his penalty minute totals.

Today, John is still very active in the community with the Brooklin Redmen, and is coaching Minor Lacrosse in Whitby. Enjoy.

GM: Who were some of your lacrosse heroes when you were younger?

JF: I grew up just down the road from the Luther Vipond Arena and I loved going down there on Saturday nights and watching the Redmen with guys like Stan Cockerton, Greg Williams, Ken Colley, Wayne Sorichetti, John Reed, Bram Wilfong, Bob Burke. I didn’t have any one favourite I used to just love watching all of them

GM: In 1980 you were named the Rookie of the Year and also won a Minto Cup in Whitby. Who were some of your team mates that season?

JF: They were mainly local guys that grew up playing out of the Willow Park Box or the Peel Park Box. Guys like Bill Eyre,Eric and Andy Perroni, Brian Reed, Dan Mark, Ed Derks, Gary Crawford, Gil and Rick Nieuwendyk, Jamie Roach, Jim Brady (coach), Jim Hinkson (coach), John Jordan, John Parrot, Lorne Briscoe, Mark Brown, Marty and Randy Gallas, Rob McLean, Terry Martinello, Al MacDonald, Cam Devine, Dave Cruickshank

GM: Describe the honour of that 1980 team getting inducted into the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame.

JF: It is certainly a great honour to be recognized by your home town but to be honoured in a community that has such great sporting history and to be able to achieve this with a number of players I grew up playing lacrosse with is even more special.

GM: You won two Minto Cups with Whitby (80, 84) and five Mann Cups with Brooklin (85, 87, 88, 90, 2000). Can you pick one that stands out as the most memorable?

JF: Although they are all special the most memorable has to be the 1985 Mann Cup. Being down 3 games to 0 and coming back to win the next 4 in Queen’s Park Arena was an unbelievable feeling. We beat a great Peterborough team to get there and then we were able to go on a seven year run of being in the Mann Cup.

GM: During your time in Junior and Senior who were some of the greats you’ve played with and against?

JF: In Junior the guys I remember playing with and against the most are Kelly Mitchell, Adam Oates, Derek Keenan, Larry Floyd, Doug and Mark Evans, Eric/Andy Perroni, Gil/Joe Nieuwendyk, The Gaits, Ben Heiltjes.

In Senior many of those same guys plus the great Peterborough players like John Grant Sr (near the end of his career) John Grant Jr (start of his Senior), JJ Johnston, the Wassons, Paul Evans, John Tavares, The Kilgours, Jim Veltman, Shawn Williams, Wayne Colley, Glenn Clark.

GM: For some of those that maybe weren’t there, describe the atmosphere in the old Luther Vipond Arena and some of your most memorable nights there.

JF: On any given night the arena was full and and hot and dimly lit and it felt like the fans were standing right above you. They were loud and very supportive of the Redmen. We had the board bangers that would be set up in the visitors end and were constantly taunting the opposing team. There were even rumours some of the refs refused to go there because of the intimidation factor. I remember the 85 playoffs against Peterborough and there were about 1400 fans there from Brooklin and Peterborough. They were lined up 5 and 6 deep and when we came up from our dressing room in the basement it was so loud I had shivers down my spine. For me it was a dream come true being able to play there in my hometown rink.

GM: What do you feel you did that allowed you to play the game for as long as you did?

JF: I don’t think there was any one thing that allowed me to play. I was very fortunate to always have the support of my mom and dad, especially when I was younger, and then my wife Sandy and kids Krista, Nick and Katy. I was lucky they loved the game as much as I did and would follow the team, sometimes even ride the buses with us so I never felt like I was leaving them behind to follow my passion.

GM: You were not just a goal scorer; you had your fair share of time spent in the penalty box. What was your most memorable battle throughout your career?

JF: I think the one that stands out to me is one I had with Myles General from Six Nations. I remember trying to dodge his punches and then it seemed like I had to jump up to try and hit him.

GM: What advice would you give to kids that aspire to play at the Major Series Level?

JF: I think now the skill level is getting to such a level that if you don’t have your stick in your hand all the time you will be left behind. There are very few guys now that can’t handle the ball. So many players now at the major and NLL level are playing year round so there fitness levels are always high, gone are the days that you have a 4 week training camp to get in game shape, you only have about 5 practices now so if you haven’t been playing all winter you had better be in great shape or you won’t be able to keep up. There is also a big jump from Junior to Major, keep in mind that generally with the funnel process from Junior B, to Junior A to Senior to Major there is not a lot of spots available. The ones that are going to get the opportunities have to have skill, conditioning, commitment and probably the biggest thing, character.

GM: Give us your thoughts on the players and game style being played today in Major Series Lacrosse.

JF: I think like most sports the players are bigger, faster, stronger and more skilled. I would love to watch old style lacrosse 5 up 5 back. Can you imagine how fast and exciting the game would be? There would be endless odd man situations and the scores would still be higher. I bet they wouldn’t even have to make the nets bigger.

GM: What is your most memorable lacrosse experience?

JF: For me, growing up in Brooklin it was an honour to just play for the Redmen. Though looking back and being part of those teams that went to 7 straight Mann Cups and just recently being inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame are a couple of the things I am most proud of.

GM: What did lacrosse do for you that you otherwise might not have done or achieved?

JF: On a personal note I went out west for the Peewee Nationals when I was 12 and I never forgot that, so when my son’s team was in Peewee we took them out for a couple of tournaments and I hope all those kids have the same great memories as I did. I think in the bigger picture it is great just to be a part of a game where the game is bigger than all of the individuals.

GM: You’ve already joined the Coaching fraternity and last season coached your daughter in girl’s lacrosse. How have you found that?

JF: I also coached my son’s team for many years but coaching the girls for the first time last year was a truly enjoyable experience. We had 2 teams in the house league and from there we wanted to put a team together for some tournaments. Mike Pfeiffer, Michelle Wormald and I pretty much begged the girls to come out so we could get enough players. We finally had enough to put a team together and from the first game where we lost 11-0 to our last game where we lost by 1 or 2 goals these girls probably worked harder and improved more than any team I have ever worked with.

OK, so here are a few fun questions for you to ponder.

GM: Give us your All Time Power Play.

JF: There are too many to chose, most of these guys can play anywhere…

Top- John Grant (either) , John Jordan, Kelly Mitchell
Shooter- Joe/Gil Nieuwendyk, the Gaits, Cockerton , Ken Colley, Tavares, Shawn Williams
Crease- Mike McKee, Dale Kernohan, JJ Johnston, Ben Heiltjes

GM: Who was the goalie you remember having the toughest time scoring on?

JF: Shawn Quinlan, Steve Dietrich, Barry Maruk

GM: Who do you most enjoy watching play for the Redmen today?

JF: Williams, Prout, Nash

GM: You played a few games in 2006. Do you have another comeback in the works?

JF: No I think I better stick to the bench, it was fun while it lasted though.

GM: Thanks for your time John.

JF: Thanks Gary

Lacrosse Heroes – John Grant Sr.

For the young kids of today that play lacrosse and watch the NLL, they know who John Grant is. Ask someone that played or watched the game 20 years ago and they know who John Grant is too. However, there are two John Grants. The Junior Grant it currently scoring points in the NLL at a record setting pace, while the Senior Grant simply wreaked havoc on opposing goalies and defenders with his extraordinary long reach and incredible stick skills. And to emphasize my point, these were in the day of wooden sticks and leather stringing. There was not a lot of the trickery available with those sticks. But he was able to do it.

As mentioned in my first piece on Tuesday, John now donates much of his time to enhancing the lives of many young kids up in Sudbury in a lacrosse organization he helped start a few years back.   Below is our conversation.

GM: Who got you into playing lacrosse and what age did you start playing?

JG: The Peterborough Minor Lacrosse Association along with Campbell’s Dairy offered free chocolate milk at the Civic Arena in the south end of Peterborough. It didn’t take long for the news to travel throughout the neighbourhood–free chocolate milk. We raced down to get our freebie but we had to go on the floor first and play lacrosse. The PMLA had a barrel of sticks for us to use. At this time I was age 8.

GM: When you were younger, who did you idolize in lacrosse?

JG: Bobby Allen – the Master! and Johnny Davis and my brother Roger.  They had awesome stick skills.

GM: In 1972 you won the Minto Cup with Peterborough. Describe that team and that year if you can.

JG: In ’72 we had a very young team. There were only 5 players who were last year Juniors. The rest were first and second year. In 1971 we played in the Minto Cup in New Westminister against the Richmond Roadrunners and lost in a 7 game series of which 3 games went into overtime. We gained so much experience from the ’71 series that we couldn’t wait for the season to start in ’72. We were so motivated and all our thoughts were to get to the Minto Cup that was to be played in the East and hopefully play the Roadrunners again. We went 28-0 in the ’72 season. Our wishes came true. We defeated the Roadrunners 4-0! The younger players on that team were amazing. Bobby Wasson, Randy Bryan, Paul Evans, JJ Johnston, Guy Legault, Jan Magee all went on to win 3 more Minto Cups. Other players of note were Jim Wasson, Gord Floyd, Lenny Powers, Phil Morris and Greg Thomas.

GM: Describe your thoughts on the original NLL league and your time in Philadelphia?

JG: The original NLL was probably 2 of the best years of my lacrosse career. When you think about winning a Minto Cup in ’72, then a Mann Cup in ’73, getting drafted and playing with the Philadelphia Wings in ’74 & ’75…what a ride! There were many experiences in those 2 years…appearing on the Mike Douglas TV Show & having a mock game with Gladys Knight and the Pips…meeting many of the top sports personalities of the era ie: Julius Irving, Jim Brown, the 1974-5 Philadelphia Flyers to name a few ( oh yes–not a sports personality but meeting Elvis Presly was definitely a highlight). 1974 also marked the appearance of John Grant Jr. on the scene. The Philadelphia Wings had his baby photo in the centre of their program…predicting that he would also become a lacrosse star in the future!

I will always remember my first game in Philly…we were at the hotel watching the Flyers win their first Stanley Cup…we took cabs from the hotel to the Spectrum, where the Flyers had just played…we had to walk 1/2 mile as the Flyer fans were still celebrating and blocking traffic…here we are- walking through this maze of people with our bags and sticks–they had to clear out all the hockey fans from the arena and at 8:05 we started our first pro game with 17,000 plus new fans in attendance. It was the most incredible feeling that you could imagine.

GM: When the Pro league folded, the Ontario players in that league were not allowed to play upon returning to Ontario. What was the reasoning and how long did you have to wait to play again?

JG: I believe it was 2 years and there was no obvious reason other than that certain teams held power over the OLA and prevented the players from playing. I didn’t play again till 1978. At that time I had to decide whether to play for Team Canada (Field Lacrosse) in the Worlds in England or Senior for the Peterborough Red Oaks. I decided to play for my country. With 3 small children I couldn’t afford the time to do both.

GM: Some of the greatest games I was ever fortunate enough to witness when I was younger were Brooklin – Peterborough matches. Describe your memories of some of those contests or play-off series.

JG: Peterborough vs. Brooklin games were the equivalent of Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs. Both organizations carried a rich tradition and the atmosphere in the arenas was always electric…showing community pride and championship spirits. Saturday night at the Luther Vipond Arena was as good as it gets in lacrosse.

GM: Who were some of the greatest players you feel you ever played with and against?

JG: There were so many…Johnny Davis, Jimmy Wasson, Paul Evans, Stan Cockerton, Rick Dudley, Paul Suggate, Gil Nieuwendyk, JJ Johnston, Kevin Alexander. I know I am missing many more but there is only so much room on the page.

GM: Who were some of the coaches you had that you felt helped you the most?

JG: Don Barrie taught lacrosse in the Peterborough Minor Lacrosse House league in 1961 and Bobby Allen coached me in Senior and in Pro.

GM: You’ve not played the game now for a few years. What do you think of the new style lacrosse (offence, defence) and the athletic ability of the players today?

JG: I personally do not like the offence/defence style. The great thing about lacrosse is the transition and when you have to stop at mid-floor to change players it slows down the game. Many teams have to put their better offensive athletes on defence ie: Chris Driscoll/ Toronto Rock, was a top goal scorer and is now regulated to play defence. Ask him if he’d like to play offence/defence. Most of the players are playing year-round and look after themselves physically better than the old days.

GM: Everyone in lacrosse knows your son (Junior) as quite possibly the best player in the game. It must make you very proud to see his accomplishments in the game, but also the amount that he is giving back to the game off the floor.

JG: My wife and I and our 2 daughters are extremely proud of his accomplishments in all facets of the game. It’s great seeing not only him but other players talking to parents, kids and fans after the games. That’s what makes this game so special…our lacrosse players are so accessible to the public.

GM: Being honest now, who has the better back hand shot, Senior or Junior?

JG: In 1974 it was Senior, in 2007 it’s Junior!

GM: What is your most memorable lacrosse experience you can share with everyone?

JG: It was taking a group of Sudbury Novices to the Lacrosse Festival in Whitby in 2005. I was driving in front of the Iroquois Park, seeing tents, an inflatable rink, and 100’s of kids with lacrosse sticks. It was truly an amazing sight. Feeling and seeing the excitement in not only our kids, but their parents, was awesome. We were fortunate enough to go to the ‘D’ semis with every game we played full of energy and excitement for these new converts to our game. I have played and/or coached in Provincial Championships, National Championships and World Championships but seeing these kids, and their dedication and determination and heart let me know that the future of our game is secure.

GM: What accomplishment in relation to the game are you most proud of?

JG: Father & son relationships aren’t always easy especially in sporting families. Much pressure is put on the son to follow in dad’s footsteps. As much as winning a Mann Cup meant the world to me, seeing my son win his first Mann Cup 20 years later was even more rewarding.

GM: Most people are aware of your work with getting the Sudbury Minor Lacrosse Association started up. What would you say was the one most important thing you said to the kids when they first decided to play?

JG: Spend time with your stick.

GM: Give us your all time greats Power Play if you would.

JG: Johnny & Terry Davis, Bobby Allen, Cy Coombes, JJ Johnston, Johnny Fusco, Joe & Gil Nieuendyk, Paul & Gary Gait, Terry & Larry Lloyd, Paul & Brian Evans, John Tavares, John Grant Jr.

GM: John thanks for your time.

JG: Thank You.

Lacrosse Heroes – Hall Of Fame Goalie Wayne Colley

In the second of our series of “Lacrosse Heroes”, I decided to keep with the goalie theme and asked for some question and answer time from #41. Anyone who has followed lacrosse over the last 20-30 years knows who # 41 is. I’m speaking of course of Hall of Fame goaltender, known best for his days with the Brooklin Redmen, Wayne Colley. In a career spanning some 17 years, Wayne has certainly left his name synonymous with lacrosse goaltending. His countless championships and awards are too many to mention. However, more importantly, to this day Wayne is still giving back to the game he once excelled at by helping kids learn and prepare for the position, in addition to coaching.

On a personal note I remember watching Wayne play both in Whitby (you’ll see the old CBC Builders jersey in the picture) and Brooklin….and for my money there was nobody better at the position. Wayne was a hero to many a kid, especially those that played the position. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with him and hope you enjoy his comments.

GM: What age did you start playing in goal and who got you into the net?

WC: Well it was novice when I first started playing out as a “sniper” but our goalie at that time went on vacation at play-off time and I was a “little” over weight and guess what. We won the all Ontario’s in “D” division. Not because of me. LLoyd Gibson started me in lacrosse and what a man he was. Jack MacDonald was my first coach who talked me into playing goal and he was very patient with me.

GM: You started playing Junior A lacrosse in 1974, and in 1978 scored a goal. Describe if you can, how that happened.

WC:Back then the goalies stopped the ball and started to run with it so someone would come and get you to create the odd man. It was different back then than today. When I looked up floor the other goalie thought they had the delayed penalty but it was us and I had the empty net to shoot at. I think I picked the top hand corner?

GM: Is there any significance to the number 41 you wore in goal?

WC: Ya for sure. My first year of junior I wore # 4 for the Oshawa Green Gaels as that was the only large sweater left. My best friend John MacDonald and I got in a car accident and he wore # 14 . He was buried with his lacrosse stick and wearing # 14 which to this day is retired for the Green Gaels. When I got back to Whitby Junior “A”, I reversed the numbers to 41 as 14 was taken. That still to this day is my favourite number. A lot of people have followed my foot steps with this number but don’t know the background till now.

GM: In all of your years of playing you played with some greats. Can you name 2 or 3 that stick out in your mind as the best players?

WC: Wow I played with, against and seen a lot of great players. Bob Burke, Stan Cockerton, the Gait twins, Cam Devine, J. J. Johnson, Phil Scarfone, my brother Ken and a whole bunch out west. I could not pin down a couple. My all time favourite is Terry Bullen. Not sure why though I loved the way he played.

GM: What opponent (or 2) did you fear most shooting on you?

WC: Can’t think of any one right now. Could that hurt me?

GM: Describe the 1985 comeback out in British Columbia where you were down 3-0 in games and won the Mann Cup; what happened?

WC: Well I was away at a very difficult time in my life and at home in Ontario was my wife waiting for a new born. When we were down 3-0 my new daughter Jamie-Lee was born. After a couple of beers on our off day and maybe a bit longer (you might nail down the time with coach Peter Vipond). I told the press and everyone else “WE” will come back to win four straight. The rest made history. (Vipond was not mad at me anymore after that)

GM: Like so many other players, you began to Coach after your playing days came to an end. Describe how any of your Coaches influenced the way you Coach.

WC: All of them. I played for some great coaches. I took something from each one of them. Ron Pither, Jim Hinkson, Jim and Butch Brady, Elmer Tran, Bob Hanna and my favorite Peter Vipond.

GM: You’ve won a Founders Cup, Field and Box Provincials, 4 Mann Cups, you are in the OLA Hall of Fame (1999), CLA Hall of Fame (2006), Whitby Sports Hall of Fame (2004), and have so many other accomplishments. If you could pick one lacrosse award or accomplishment you are most proud of, what would it be?

WC: Well to be very honest, just knowing that I put something back into the game of lacrosse is enough for me. I kept many a kid off the street and out of trouble. I met a lot of friends along the way and that in itself is more than any award did for me, and trust me I have lots. Just the memories.

GM: What do you think of the game today; whether it is the NLL, Major Series Lacrosse, or Junior Lacrosse?

WC: Well old time lacrosse is 100 times better than today. You don’t have to wear any equipment or see any one get involved like in the past. Run off and on the floor? I don’t like it at all.

GM: Give us your all-time Power Play set up using any players past or present.

WC: Well I know I will miss someone but these are the ones I can think of right now. In Goal – Pat Baker, on left crease JJ Johnson, left shooter one of the Gaits and point the other Gait. On the right side crease Adam Oates and shooter Phil Scarfone. I got no place for Joe Nieuwendyk but he could be the water boy like I remembered him years ago. There are a lot of others for sure!

GM: Wayne, this was great, I thank you for your time.

WC: Thanks for thinking about me.

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