Down Memory Lane - Canada - 1978 World Lacrosse Champions
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
The newspaper headlines lamented "Canada's Field Lacrosse Team" Suffers Humiliation from U.S." and "Americans Massacre Canadians".
There was little doubt that the 28-4 drubbing was potentially a grave looking to be filled.
But, just one week later, the media exulted in one of the greatest comebacks ever in international lacrosse competition - Canada had captured the 1978 World Championship with a 17-16 double overtime victory over a stunned U.S. team.
One newspaper bubbled: "In what must be ranked as one of the most surprising comebacks since Lazarus strode from the crypt, Canada's field lacrosse team pulled off a latter-day miracle".
The underdog label was pasted on the Canadian team long before it arrived on the playing fields at Stockport, England. Tabbed by British sportswriters as the weakest link in the four-team tournament, the Canadian club was composed of box lacrosse players who were relatively new to the field variation of the sport.
There were, however, two individuals with previous field experience who would prove to be vital factors in the longshot victory - Stan Cockerton, an Oshawa native with All-American status at North Carolina State University, and Niagara-On-The-Lake's Mike French, a former All-American at Cornell University.
Furthermore, the Canadian team was not a fully representative national team as British Columbia was unable to receive government funding for a Western training camp. Ontario undertook to provide the organizational stimulus with token representation - Dave Durante, Dan Wilson, Doug Hayes and Pat Differ - from the West.
The Americans, on the other hand, drew players from the extensive field lacrosse programs at universities in the Eastern States.
From the onset, Canadian head coach Bob Allan and his assistants Don Barrie and John McCauley ordered the players to park their box sticks and practice solely with field equipment.
Hayes, a member of the Canadian team that finished last in the 1974 World Tournament in Australia, credited Allan's leadership for the turn-around. "Our coach (Allan) did a hell of a job preparing us for these games. For one thing, we started from Day One using field lacrosse sticks. We used box sticks the time before".
In the first game of the 1978 tournament, Cockerton whipped in seven goals with French adding three more plus seven helpers to move past the host English squad 21-15. The U.S. took Australia 22-17.
Canada's jubilation was short-lived for, on Day Two, the Americans annihilated Canada 28-4. U.S. scored the first 14 goals even before French put Canada on the board; but the rout on the rain-drenched field continued - 17-2 at halftime and 22-3 after three periods. Meanwhile, Australia downed England 16-10.
Instead of sulking over the Game Two wreckage, Canada shrugged off the loss, had two tough practices and ingested a plateful of pride. Down 4-3 early in Game Three against Australia, Canada whipped in six straight on the road to a 16-13 victory that set up a rematch with the Americans, who had narrowly squeaked past England 12-11.
Canadian goalie Bob Flintoff recalled, "We got our confidence back after we beat Australia. On the bus over to the stadium, everybody seemed really up for the game. We knew we had a better team than what we showed in the 28-4 loss".
The Americans opened the game as if they intended to repeat their earlier conquest of Canada with Cornell great Bill Marino rifling home a short just 15 seconds after the opening faceoff. But Team Canada stunned the Americans with six unanswered goals to take an 8-4 lead after one period. The U.S. rallied to tie the contest and then moved ahead only to see Cockerton knot up the contest 16-16 with seconds remaining.
With the entire crowd of 3,500-plus chanting for the Canadians, both teams went through a scoreless overtime session and all but 20 seconds of a second extra period. That's when Cockerton scooped in the winner, his sixth goal of the game, that gave Canada a 17-16 victory and the 1978 World Championship.
To no one's surprise, Stan Cockerton led the tourney in scoring with 18 goals and nine assists in the four games, Mike French, with six and 15, was named the "Best and Fairest Player" and Bob Flintoff the "Best Goalkeeper".
The 1978 Team Canada Roster:
Goal: Bob Flintoff and Tim Barrie
Defence: Sandy Lynch, Carm Collins, Tom Briscoe, Brian Jones, Jim Branton and Murray Cawker
Midfield: Mike French, Fred Greenwood, Pat Differ, John Mouradian, Jim Calder, Ted Greves, Dave Huntley, Dan Wilson and Steve Mastine
Attack: Stan Cockerton, Dave Durante, Doug Hayes, Jim Wasson, Bob Burke and John Grant
Coaches: Bob Allan, Don Barrie and John McCauley
Manager: Ron Wicks