Down Memory Lane - Mark Valastin
Down Memory Lane Articles - by Stan Shillington
Mark Valastin has always been a little left of centre - a happy, friendly giant of a man with a penchant for tripping merrily along a relaxing lifestyle.
During his all-too-short, eight-year senior lacrosse career, Mark had a love affair with souvlaki, being footloose and hanging out at a beach. And he disliked wearing socks.
Years later, his priorities remain unchanged.
"Do what you want to do as long as you are having fun doing it," is Mark's advice. "When it stops being fun, get out of it".
It was Mark's search for fun and his need to try something different that got him into lacrosse. A native of Edmonton, 10-year-old Mark and a group of his buddies wanted to play something besides baseball during the summer of 1965.
"There was no lacrosse in Edmonton at that time," recalled Mark. "Then we saw a sign in a community centre, put up by a fellow named Jim Taylor, recruiting kids for lacrosse. We didn't know what the heck it was, but I got all my pop bottle and paper money, borrowed the rest from my mom, and bought a stick for $5. Teams were set up in three districts and we played in the outdoor, dirt-floor hockey boxes. I played for North Glenora Blues.
"Jim Taylor really did a wonderful job getting lacrosse back in Edmonton. He deserves consideration for induction (into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame) as a Builder".
Mark stayed with the game and, in 1973, was the most prolific member of the Alberta entry in the Canada Summer Games held in New Westminster. Ontario Junior "B" entry from Niagara Falls - led by , Norm Hope and future NHL star Willie Plett - captured the title, followed by Nova Scotia and B.C.'s Burnaby Junior "B". Burnaby boasted , Mat Aitken, , Kelly McLenaghen, Ray Mattinson and . Alberta finished in fourth place but, guess what, it was 18-year-old Valastin who led the entire tournament in scoring with 19 goals and 14 assists, four points better than Wilson.
In 1975, Edmonton participated in the Canadian Junior "B" championship and, although Alberta did not win, Mark was named the Most Valuable Player in the Founders Cup tournament. Coquitlam J-Hawks coach and manager Len Kennedy liked what they saw and recruited the six-foot-four Valastin for the B.C. club's 1976 Junior "A" season.
After registering 47 goals and 51 assists for 98 points in 27 games, Mark was drafted by the parent Coquitlam Adanacs, going second overall behind Hall of Famer .
Over the next eight years in the Western Lacrosse Association, Mark registered 223 goals and 321 assists for 544 points in 196 games and enjoyed the sweet taste of victory in the Nations '80 world box lacrosse championship.
"I enjoyed the fun of playing and the friendship of my teammates", Valastin recently commented. "I played hard and I played to win; but it had to be fun. I retired because the game changed - too much clutching and grabbing".
But the man with the Tom Selleck moustache is again having fun with the game, suiting up with his old Adanacs cohorts for the Coquitlam Oldtimers in Master lacrosse tournaments. He also returns to Alberta each year to join his old buddies of 1965 in a friendly golf gathering at the Mulhurst club south of Edmonton.
Mark's still enjoying life to the fullest and, oh yes, he still hates wearing socks.