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.


1 Comment

  1. would love to have seen some of those games growing up in montreal I do not recall muchlax other than in caganawagna……khanawake,,,,,

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