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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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