Video courtesy of Dale Mackenzie
Not sure about “Golden Years of Lacrosse” as every generation has their day. Not many things the same as they were in the 60’s and 70’s in any business or endeavor. Everything is better, faster, stronger….but, having said all that “something” has been lost in the antiseptic state of the world today.
Sport is a great teacher.
The past in lacrosse gathered up in Huntsville Ontario, one of the hotbeds of lacrosse, (box lacrosse which was the only kind of lacrosse we knew as kids. The lacrosse box was where we met), where many of the greats came from that were the foundation of the Green Gaels and Professional leagues of the 60’s and 70’s.
We gathered at Duffy McCarthy’s cottage on Lake Cecebe which was a home game for some, Jim Higgs Brian Thompson, Bob Peppler all were close to home.
Lynne McCarthy the oh so kind better half of Duffy rolled her eyes as the numbers grew, the fact that she would even consider having such a basket of deplorables at their cottage for two days…was very generous. Good news is that our advanced age, things were actually very quiet by 10pm.
This group was the best in their day and just maybe the best in any day as the many stories would have it. Bobby Allan, Morley Kells both in their 80’s were front and centre in this shindig. Foundation members of the lacrosse fraternity in Canada and the US, along with the late Jim Bishop started the NLL way back in the day.
We arrived in sporadic motions, some taking longer to get out of the car than was the drive up there 3 hours north of Toronto. Once the wheels were turning it was like only a weekend had passed rather than the 45+ years it has actually been as we were all friends now, grateful to meet up once again.
One by one these old bootfaces, many who played before helmets, “just look at them..you can tell”, came down the driveway, name tags were worn because of that initial…hesitation, the turn of the head and then “oh ya, Of course” reaction as hugs passed handshakes as the order of the day.
When Johnny Davis (Gretzky of lacrosse in those days) came hobbling down the slope of the driveway I shook his hand and said “You just made a lot of guys really happy” as we didn’t know he was coming.
The one and only Ron “Groucho” MacNeil, Morley and Bobby led the way for me, over the two days 70-75 showed up and we didn’t lose anyone thankfully. Tears of joy were common, tears of laughter were also heard over and over again. This was a special time.
Just think of all the battles, wooden stick battles where guys could and did break your arm with a one foot slash. Running through the middle was something that took “navy seal” type courage, catching the ball and shooting while arms, legs and fingers were fair game. We actually cut the palms out of our gloves so to hold the stick better, so what if we lost a nail or split a finger, we had others.
The lacrosse in Ontario (where I grew up) and in B.C. in Junior and Senior in the 60’s and 70’s that led up to the Professional leagues allowed those of our generation to take part in competition that was indeed a great teacher.
Intense rivalries, many that went on for years, then teammates in this Pro League. Hard lessons were learned and as we all gathered for this reunion there was a measurable level of respect. In many cases these “kids” had played with or against each other since they were pee wee age.
This respect was earned by every individual, while playing for each other, with each other or against each other, to win. Many of the feelings of those days are still ingrained in us today and in fact have allowed for a growing appreciation of our time in the game as players and the best in our day.
No money really, through most of our careers. In 74 and 75 when the word Professional was used, meaning we would be paid, most of us being young enough and dedicated enough to the game didn’t think twice about relocating to some pretty nice buildings.
The Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, The Spectrum, Boston Garden, Capital Centre, Quebec Colisee (home of Beliveau), Nassau Coliseum and classic buildings in Rochester and Syracuse where many an AHL battle had taken place. These were our homes for the summer, the best players came from all over to play.
Stories are too many to tell in such a space, the heart warming gathering at Duffy’s where Retrolax videos were shown, stats books were there to answer questions…”what year was that?” and former players gathered still with that look in their eye that means business, these were hard life lessons learned in the lacrosse of the day and develop character that runs deep.
This stage of life offers only such fleeting opportunities to do so, and many have already left us from those all star teams of the 60’s and 70’s. Clearly, this was something that brought smiles to faces and will for some time.
Video courtesy of Pat Differ
This was a lacrosse reunion that gathered steam after really starting as a small gathering for Al Gordoneer’s 70th birthday. Al was a star in the day in junior and senior as well as the NLL Pro League, see what you started Al?
The number went from 10 or so which Lynne was fine with to at one time maybe reaching 100. Golf at Deerhurst Highlands, food galore as Duffy worked for weeks getting things right, again Lynne kept saying “how many?”…. weather was great after a dodgy morning Tues and it was on.
A lacrosse celebration was what it was, a celebration of our time in the game, and a celebration of the game today that has grown to global proportions in box and field lacrosse.
Last count 20 countries coming to Langley B.C. for the World Indoor (Box) Championship this Sept (2019), and last World Field Championships in Israel 46 (I think) countries took part. Wow! Next, in July 2022, the World Field Championship will once again be in Canada, Coquitlam BC. Make plans, I am as these things are well worth going to as the World now plays lacrosse.
That is something worth celebrating.