History of the A's

 
 

Joe Cheevers Takes Over The Helm

 

THROUGH THE SPORTS GATE 

(Selected Excerpts) 

By Jack Gatecliff 

The St. Catharines Standard 

 

Friday May 14, 1965 Joe Cheevers heaved a sigh of relief earlier this week when he finally obtained the signatures of Bob McCready, Ron Roy and Gary Moore. 

The most prolific one-two scoring punch in senior lacrosse, Moore was considering retiring (he has been transferred by his employers from St. Catharines to Welland), while Roy had a firm financial offer from Port Credit. 

Goaltender Bob McCready had been listed as a “holdout”, but President Jim Lomore got him on the dotted line yesterday. 

The full team, which lost by a whisker to Brooklin in the semi-finals last season, is now back plus juniors Hugar and Doberstein. Pat Cheevers and Butch Conradi may also turn out when their scholastic duties at McMaster and Rutgers, respectively, are completed. 

“We are permitted to sign 25 players and we’ll have exactly that many,” says Cheevers. “So many of the players are working shifts that we’ll need all 25 to be sure we’ll have a full team every game.” 

Doug Smith, who only played occasionally last year, will be out full time and Jack (Scotty) Gallaway returns after three years away from the game. 

Cheevers ranks Peterborough and Brampton as the top opposition for the Athletics with Brooklin “still dangerous” simply because they have the brilliant native of Port Dalhousie, Pat Baker, in goal. Brooklin, however, has been weakened defensively by the transfer of their fine defenceman Ron Ruttan to Peterborough. 

This seems to be a column devoted primarily to the Cheevers family with Joe and son Pat already mentioned. However, Joe and Bette’s No. One son Gerry received further honors today with his nomination as the first team all-star goaltender with the American Hockey League Rochester Americans. Gerry, who blocks shots in the winter and scores goals for the senior Athletics in the summer, had a tremendous season. 

He had the lowest goals-against average in the league, was a vital factor in the Americans placing first in their league and winning the playoff championship and has now been officially recognized as the best guardian in minor professional hockey. We’d guess that he’ll earn approximately $2,100 in bonus money in addition to his regular salary. 

Wednesday May 19, 1965 – Jim Lomore, starting his third year as president of the Athletics, is confident that his club can regain the Eastern championship they last won in 1963. “There seems to be a new feeling on the team this season,” said Lomore. “We’re getting more players out to practice than ever before. In fact the turnout is better than we had at a good many games the last two years.” 

Undoubtedly the reason for the renewed interest among the players can be traced back to a team gathering last winter. Joe Cheevers, who had coached the Athletics during the final couple of weeks and in the playoffs last summer, was invited. 

“I wasn’t too sure whether I wanted to take over the team for a full schedule,” he said. “But when I saw that so many of the players were really serious about the game, I decided to accept if the job was offered.” Before the night was over the job WAS offered and Joe HAD accepted. 

The Athletics started working out at the Queen Elizabeth Community Centre three months ago, transferring to the Haig Bowl soon after the artificial ice surface was removed and they’ve been practicing three times a week ever since. We’d hazard a guess that the A’s have had more serious workouts this year than they held in the three previous seasons combined. 

Cheevers returned as coach with his eyes open. “I realize that many of the players are working shifts,” he said. “I don’t expect them to miss work to play lacrosse. After all there isn’t enough money in the game to put steak or even hamburger on the table. And most of these fellows are married with families. What I do expect though is that every player will be out for both home and away games when they aren’t working. They gave me their word they’d honor that commitment before they signed.” 

Because of the varied hours of employment the Athletics will sign the maximum 25 players, thus assuring a full 15-man roster for all 24 games. 

On paper the Athletics have a team capable of winning the Eastern championship and earning a trip to the west coast for the Mann Cup finals against the British Columbia champs. As far as experience is concerned there isn’t a senior team in the country that can touch them. 

Derry Davies, Ted Howe and Doug Smith are all starting their 15th season of senior lacrosse. To digress just for a moment, the three players mentioned above were members of the only junior team ever forced to win the Minto Cup twice in one season. In their last year in junior they helped the Athletics win the Ontario championship, then swept what was billed as the Canadian finals in three straight games over the western champions in New Westminster, B.C. 

Fred Conradi was sponsor-manager-president of the junior A’s but couldn’t make the trip west because of business. In charge of the club for the western jaunt were Coach Doug Cove and the late George Cleverley. 

“The team had boarded the train with the Minto Cup and were actually going through the Rockies when they received word that they would have to play another series…again for the Canadian championship…in Winnipeg.” Conradi recalled this week. 

“I had a call from Doug (Cove) and he asked me what they should do. From that distance all I could tell them was to play the series but make sure they got enough money to cover the extra expenses. Believe me by that time the funds were running mighty low.” 

Winnipeg wasn’t expected to offer much opposition but in the first game the Athletics just managed to scrape through on a late goal by Ted Howe. The next game of the two-game series was strictly a St. Catharines show and the team retained the championship they had won less than a week before. 

Davies, Howe and Smith aren’t the only players still with the local senior club who have a long lacrosse background. In 1958 when Conradi moved the team to Welland, Mike D’Amico, Ronnie Roy, Justin Howe, Dave Hall, Jack Gallaway, Brian Woods, Gary Carr, Smith and Ted Howe all played with the club that won the Ontario senior title, then lost in the Mann Cup final in Vancouver. 

And of course players such as goaltender Bob McCready, Gary Hind, Gary Moore, Gerry Cheevers, Tom Teather, Brian Thompson and Pete Berge aren’t exactly in the rookie category. 

With the addition of three or four juniors and the enthusiasm that Cheevers seems to have instilled in the “elder statesmen,” the Athletics should be in for a good season.

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