History of the A's

 
 

The Senior Athletics Are Reborn

 
 

Senior Boxla Is Back After 15 Years 

by Jack Gatecliff 

The St.Catharines Standard 

May 18, 1999 

It's safe to say that only St. Catharines lacrosse fans 60 years and older watched the last local team win the Mann Cup. 

Before readers rush to the record books, it was October 1946, and the Athletics claimed the national championship at Maple Leaf Gardens over New Westminster Salmonbellies. 

Goaltender Doug Favell Sr., who died early this year, was in the double blue nets, replacing Bill Whittaker who had been handed a one-year suspension by the Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) for cuffing referee Bill Gun following a 1945 loss to the Burrards in British Columbia. 

Under the sometimes curious rules of lacrosse, the Ontario association (OLA) allowed both Favell and Whittaker -- surely the best goaltending lacrosse tandem in history -- to play during its regular schedule. 

The CLA wouldn't budge from banning Bill in the '46 Mann Cup, but Favell walked off with the Mike Kelly Trophy as MVP. 

In the late 1950s, the Athletics, due to lack of support in St. Catharines, moved to Welland. There were few fans there either, but the Switsons (as they became known) won two Ontario championships, then lost to the West. 

The seniors played here sporadically until 1984, and a pro club spent a year in the Gatecliff Arena, but local senior has been dormant for 15 summers. 

That's the end of the history lesson. Now back to the future. 

Thursday, Bill LeFeuvre's dream of a return of the senior brand will be realized with St.Catharines Major A's checking in under head coach Jim Hinkson at the Gatecliff Arena. 

To be blunt, LeFeuvre, who was instrumental in bringing the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame to St. Catharines and has been active with local minor, junior B and junior A teams, didn't get an overwhelming endorsement from those who had seen adult boxla fail after several attempts at a revival. 

"Some people are skeptical," he said this week. "But we've put together a fairly good team and now we need some support at the box office. 

"Hinkson is an experienced guy. He's been around lacrosse for years, and while we didn't have immediate plans for a preseason game, a few hundred fans turned out last week while we defeated Six Nations 17-8 and 10 guys were included among our goal-scorers. 

"We're small but quick -- something like the Buffalo Sabres -- and that speed makes up for any physical disadvantage. I feel we stood up well when the going got rough in the one exhibition. 

"Just in the last couple of days, I noticed a lot more interest among the local lacrosse folk." 

However, there have been injuries even before the 18-game schedule opens. 

"Scott Phair, who was with Victoria last season, is recovering from a shoulder dislocation and Craig Fotopoulis from Kitchener is out with a back injury. 

"On the other hand, we're expecting a lot from Wayne Burke who's attending Brock, lives in Hamilton, but started his minor lacrosse with the Spartans, and Anthony Cosmo, who grew up in Mississauga and was most valuable player with the Burnaby Minto Cup winners last season." 

The A's have three goaltenders -- Cosmo, Tom Still (a veteran of the junior B Spartan Warriors and in Ohsweken), and Ryan Kells, a nephew of former lacrosse-great-turned-politician Morley Kells, who played with the Buffalo (former Niagara Falls) Gamblers. 

Lefeuvre has planned a grand opening with a pig roast and concert in the adjacent Stimers Arena starting at 6:30 p.m. and a before-and-after performance by Shania Twin (not to be confused with Twain) who is apparently a big deal among the younger set. 

Faceoff time against Ohsweken is 8:30 p.m. 

So for the first time in many years there's a lacrosse doubleheader here -- Wednesday the junior Athletics at the Burgoyne Arena, Thursday in beautiful downtown St. Catharines. 

Thumbs Up: To the Receiver General for Canada (whoever he may be) for sending me a rebate on my 1998 income tax. 

Thumbs Down: To the same "gentleman," using the term loosely, who made the cheque out for $2.47.


A's Out To Start Something Big

Athletics play first league game tonight

Plan to show off run-and-gun style

by Alison Rogers

The St.Catharines Standard

May 20, 1999

Never mind the pre- and post-game hoopla that president Bill LeFeuvre has organized for tonight -- the players who comprise St. Catharines' new major indoor lacrosse team aim to woo fans simply with their performance.

Speed is the key to the Athletics' success this season. They're small, but fast, partly by circumstance and partly by design. Coach Jim Hinkson wrote the book on the sport -- a couple of them, actually -- and he'll lead the A's in their run-and-gun style.

"We're not going to win every game," admitted LeFeuvre, as he watched a fiery Hinkson putting the troops through their final preseason practice at Jack Gatecliff Arena Tuesday night.

"But we'll be the most entertaining team on the floor and the hardest working.

"We're not playing an offence-defence style," he added. "We have a vision of how lacrosse should be played, and we're not going to allow any team to walk it up the floor without pressure."

Grant Johnston, the A's captain and a seven-year veteran of the Jr. A circuit who spent last year with Buffalo and won a Mann Cup with the Niagara Falls Gamblers in '97, is sold on the strategy.

Johnston, 24, said he's rekindled his passion for the game, something that was missing the past few years and expects the Athletics to battle for third place this season.

"It will work-- it's proven," said the St.Catharines native who trained eight months for the season that opens tonight.

Johnston points to young guns like Andy Dudun, a 22-year-old who hails from Etobicoke, to become early fan favourites.

"It's big playing here," said Dudun, who saw limited action in the senior ranks last year. "That's why I'm here," said the diminutive speedster. "This year I came to camp in shape."

Goaltender Anthony Cosmo was the early favourite to get the start in tonight's Ontario Major Lacrosse League opener against Ohsweken. A 21 year old Mississauga native, Cosmo helped Burnaby Lakers win the Minto Cup last season.

The jump from Jr. A to major has been a bit of an eye-opener for Cosmo, the 15th overall pick in September's National Lacrosse League draft. "The game's a little faster and the shots are more accurate," he said. "It's new to some of us, but we're young and fast, and we play exciting lacrosse.

"It's all about experience, but I think the same as everybody else, we're not going to get blown out," Cosmo added. "Our special teams are excellent but we've got to stay out of the box."

Should he find himself in goal for the opening faceoff tonight, Cosmo knows that fact alone won't guarantee him playing time this season. Tom Still, 23, a five-year veteran of the St.Catharines' junior teams who faced an average of 100 shots a game with Ohsweken last season, and Ryan Kells, a Buffalo Gambler last season, also want the job.

"Friendly competition between goalies is good," said Still, who's happy to be back in the Garden City. "St. Catharines is special because I played all my junior here, but I think it's a big thrill even for the guys from out of town."

Still is another player who is sold on the Hinkson speed game. "I'm a throw-in goalie, and I like to move the ball -- that's the secret of every fast break and with our size, we need to be fast," Still said. "We're going to be in every game, and that's going to surprise a lot of people."

Johnston, who earned a hefty paycheque with Buffalo last season despite playing just four games because of blood clots in his leg, said he wouldn't trade places for any amount of money.

"This year, for me, is a chance to fulfill all the personal goals I've had as an athlete," he said. "We've set 20 goals for every game and not one of them is winning. We're looking for year-long success. "There's no pressure on us. We're just here to play."

Johnston picks Brampton to top the league, followed by Brooklin, but figures the A's are in a great position to finish third.

LeFeuvre said Hinkson made the final call on player selection, but lauds his coach for assembling "a very gritty group of guys who aren't going to be intimidated."

Just a month ago, online lacrosse prognosticators were picking St. Catharines to finish sixth or seventh, but now the team has moved up to two or three places in the unofficial rankings, LeFeuvre said. "Whatever level we're at today, we'll be better by the end of the season."

As the hours clicked towards game time, the team's sweaters and shorts had to be "retro-fitted" and had not arrived in time for the team's final practice. LeFeuvre said the arena staff also had to put in a lot of work when the arena floor was found to be far too slick for play.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he contemplated how much easier it will be to prepare for the 2000 season opener with all the start-up tasks long since accomplished.

Bonus: Fans are invited to pre-game festivities featuring Shania Twin, who will cover the Timmins' songstress, and a pig roast at adjoining Rex Stimers Arena, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The entertainment continues after the game.


Good News, Bad News For A's 

St.Catharines 22, Ohsweken 5 

New team big winner on the floor, but a box-office bust 

by Bill Potrecz

The St. Catharines Standard

May 21 1999 

Bill LeFeuvre was hoping to sell major lacrosse with a sizzle. For weeks the president of the St. Catharines Major Athletics did anything and everything to promote the A's home opener and the return of major lacrosse to St. Catharines. Unfortunately for LeFeuvre, the sizzle was a fizzle. 

About 500 fans showed up Thursday at Jack Gatecliff Arena -- considerably less than the 2,000 they were aiming for -- to see the A's win their debut 22-5 over a weak Ohsweken Wolves squad. 

"I'm not discouraged," LeFeuvre said. "It would have been nice to have 3,000 but I think we had 700 or 800 -- it was hard to tell. "I think as the season goes on and some of the other teams come in, more people will come out." 

Part of the problem trying to gauge the crowd was the pig roast and pre and post-game concert at Rex Stimers Arena LeFeuvre had arranged to try and make the game a special event. Many fans moved back and forth between the two -- particularly after the game was out of hand which was very early. 

A's forward Bobby Fisher agreed with LeFeuvre that it might take some time to build a fan base. "St. Catharines is a playoff town," said Fisher, one of three players to net four goals. "The Falcons only draw 200 or 300 for the regular season, but then come playoffs, they get a lot more. It's just going to take a couple of people to tell a couple of other people, and so on." 

Despite the relatively poor turnout, LeFeuvre seemed pleased all of his hard work putting together the club had finally come to fruition. 

"It wasn't just me," said LeFeuvre, who is listed as president and manager, but has had a hand in virtually every aspect of the team since getting the go-ahead by the Ontario Lacrosse Association in January for a franchise. "I was front and centre in a lot of things, but we had a lot of good people working on this." 

While the attendance certainly wasn't what the club envisioned, the on-floor product was everything advertised. Head coach Jim Hinkson had been telling everyone that his club would run and gun, and that's exactly what they did. 

"We have to play that style because we don't have the size," Hinkson said. "We've been working hard in practice and it felt good to finally play a game." 

The Athletics didn't take long to get on the board, firing their first goal just 26 seconds into the game. The A's added another before the one-minute mark, and the route was on. 

"I think we're going to have a very exciting team," LeFeuvre said. "It's a big jump from junior to major, but we have a lot of good athletes and a good coaching staff." 

The A's led 11-1 after one period and 15-5 after two. Anthony Cosmo started in goal for the A's and saw most of the action before being replaced late in the game with Tom Still. 

Neil Bomberry started in goal for the Wolves but was yanked halfway through the first and replaced by Steve Fink with the A's up 8-1. 

Retired Standard sports editor Jack Gatecliff and league commissioner Jim Brady took the ceremonial face-off at centre to commemorate the return of major lacrosse to St. Catharines. It was last played in the city for two years in the mid '80s. 

THE SCOOP 

A's 22 Wolves 5 

Standard Star of the Game: A's president Bill LeFeuvre for bringing major lacrosse back to St. Catharines. 

For the A's: Bobby Fisher, Grant Johnston, Bill LeFeuvre, Jr. 4; Mark Cotton 2; Wayne Burke, Kevin Lunnie, Brent Lunnie, Adam LeFeuvre, Josh Black, Blair Ferguson, Kyle Arbuckle, Mike Fishleigh. 

For Ohsweken: Darren Wilson 3; Frank Smith, Mike Shaw. 

Too much scoring: The goals-for box on the sports timer at Jack Gatecliff Arena only goes up to 19.

 

1999 FINAL MAJOR SERIES STANDINGS
Games Won Lost Tied Pts
Brooklin Redmen 18 15 2 1 31
Akwesasne Thunder 18 12 6 0 24
Peterborough Lakers 18 11 6 1 23
Brampton Excelsiors 18 9 9 0 18
Six Nations Chiefs 18 7 10 1 15
St. Catharines Athletics 18 6 11 1 13
Ohsweken Wolves 18 1 17 0 2

Quarter-Final Playoffs: Peterborough defeated St. Catharines 4 games to 1

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