Silver Medal Rewarded For Golden Effort

During the last number of years I have taken in some world class sporting events. In 1999, I travelled to Madison Square Garden, New York City to watch Lennox Lewis fight Evander Holyfield for the “Heavyweight Championship of the World”. During the 1990’s I’ve witnessed professional sports played throughout Canada and the USA at the various levels: NHL, NBA, MLB, CFL and the ex-Canadian Soccer League. As a fan, none of these events would ever replace the most recently played 2002 National Challenge Cup. Words can’t describe the feelings which I encountered as I watched my beloved Laurentians come so close and Oh! So close it was.

Laurentians Ambassadors

From the beginning of the Nationals on Thursday, October 10,2002, television and radio stations from CBC and Newfoundland’s NTV moved in to capture the story of the St. Lawrence Laurentians in their quest to capture gold. Maybe it’s the fact that the small town of St. Lawrence continues to show up annually and represent Newfoundland and Labrador at these senior men’s soccer championship that amazes soccer fans. Len Slaney was there to promote and explain the Laurentians situation to the various media personalities. Len stands very tall when talking about St. Lawrence and the Laurentians and his enthusiasm was most pronounced when he spoke on CBC Newsworld.
Don Turpin has taken care of the Laurentians publicity for the past 50 years. During this tournament, Don did radio reports, colour-commentary and newspaper reports. His dedication and love of his job can be judged by the fact that he has been receiving chemotherapy treatment for the past six months but was there for all of the Laurentians games. The following day, after the Nationals, Don resumed cancer treatment. At this tournament, it was a great pleasure for me to do a segment of "Coach’s Corner" with Russ Murphy, Don Turpin and Rick Farrell as part of the CHCM broadcast team.

Players show support

As the tournament began the star soccer players of the past started cheering. I witnessed the following individuals encouraging the Laurentians to go for the gold: Herb Slaney, Wils Molloy, Reg Farrell, Gerald (Moose) Fitzpatrick, Keith Walsh, Norm Kelly, Bren Slaney, Carl Ferrie, Keith Farrell, Frank Haskell, Joe Turpin, Junior Doyle, Leo Turpin, Phonse Cooper, Jack Simms, Ed Kelly, Eugene Banfield, Dion Kettle, Roger Slaney, Noel Doyle, Leo Loder, Keith Jackman, and Glen Doyle. I’m sure there were others present but due to the large crowds it was impossible to see everyone.

Game One

Newfoundland vs. British Columbia:
As the Laurentians played their opening game against Victoria Gorge, during the opening twenty minutes they appeared as if they had been let out of a cage. They pressured their opponents with Richard Kelly scoring at the 6 minute mark. The remainder of the first period and the rest of the contest, St. Lawrence displayed the Laurentians logo, they held on by - Desire, Determination and Dedication. The Laurentians defeated the B.C. representative 1-0, winning on pure guts. The stars of this contest were the Laurentians defence and their goalkeeper, Pat Byrne. Striker Richard Kelly also put on a brilliant performance.

Game Two

Newfoundland vs. Quebec:
Quebec was represented by Panellinios squad. Early in this game, Richard Kelly demonstrated his offensive prowess and scored at the 12 minute mark. He scored from a hard low shot that seemed to catch their goalie napping. For the remainder of the first period and up to the 87 minute mark of the second period, the Laurentians were pressured, giving up numerous quality scoring opportunities. At this point, the Laurentians finally succumbed to Quebec’s attack. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. The Laurentians played their first two games under the lights at King George V pitch. Maybe, this could be an opportune time for St. Lawrence to finally get lights erected on their home field. The stars of this contest were the Laurentians goalie, his two goalposts and the crossbar. All had been creamed during the game.

Game Three

Newfoundland vs. Alberta:
The winner of this contest would advance to the final to play for gold. For the first twenty minutes, Calgary took it to the Laurentians, scoring at the 9 minute mark. It appeared as if the Caledonians would romp the Laurentians. But at the 24-minute mark, Laurentians Alex Turpin, starting for an injured Paul (Manager) Slaney, made the most of the Laurentians only scoring opportunity. Alex scored on a great individual play giving the Laurentians a 1-1 tie, which stood for the remainder of the first half. Right up until the 68 minute of the second half, Calgary dominated play and appeared to be headed for the gold medal contest. With 22 minutes remaining, the turning point of the game was when the Laurentians put in the veteran Harry Kelly and moved Clinton Edwards into midfield. The Laurentians quickly responded with Chris Caines and Richard Kelly scoring in the remaining 20 minutes. This allowed the Laurentians to defeat the Alberta team by a 3-1 margin. With this victory the Laurentians were assured of least a silver medal and the party began. Hillview Terrace Apartments and Normie’s on George Street will never be the same!!
Again, the stars of this contest were the Laurentians goalie and his defence.

Laurentians Go For Gold

Newfoundland vs. Manitoba:
Were we witnessing a miracle? By now, we were into our fifth consecutive days of great weather plus the Laurentians, after being outplayed in all three games, still had managed to get by some very stiff opposition from B.C., Quebec and Alberta. At this point it appeared that Manitoba was a beatable opponent. As the game began, the Manitoba team carried the play for nearly 30 minutes but when Paul (Manager) returned and played on with what was later diagnosed as a broken leg, the Laurentians fought back, but the game remained scoreless. The second period saw the Laurentians dominate as both goalkeepers put on a goaltending clinic. What goalkeeping it was! The Laurentians peppered the Manitoba goalie and the Laurentians keeper Pat Byrne, when called upon, would answer back. It was the best display of goalkeeping that I’ve ever witnessed. These goaltending heroics carried on for the remainder of regulation time and the score remained at 0-0.

Golden Goal

In overtime the Laurentians continued to dominate but at the 20 minute mark, Manitoba scored, squashing the golden effort put forward by the Laurentians of 2002. St. Lawrence captured silver. Certainly, a solid effort filled with golden memories but it will always remain to me and all Laurentians fans as "a heart breaking loss".

President’s Remarks

After the completion of the Nationals, the President of Calgary Soccer, Mr. Bill Malone came to St Lawrence to see for himself what this community is all about. Mr Malone made the following remarks during his visit, "The National’s in St. John’s were an eye opener for all of the visiting teams, they have never seen fan support like that before, it was awesome to see. The town of St. Lawrence may think they are a small town, that nobody knows, they are so wrong. When people in the rest of Canada talk about soccer in Newfoundland, they never mention Newfoundland, but they refer to St. Lawrence as if it were Newfoundland." Once again, thanks Laurentians and to Paul, Bob, Harry, and Scott, it is players like you that have kept us, "The Soccer Capital of Canada".