Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley addresses lacrosse enthusiasts at the Hall of Fame inductions on May 14. DON RICKERS

Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame marks 25 years

John Tavares, captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is revered as a skilled and impactful hockey player. But few recall that before he donned skates full-time he was also a standout in Canada’s other national sport, lacrosse.

Same with Wayne Gretzky, Brendan Shanahan, Dave Andreychuk, Brian Bellows, Paul Coffey, Doug Gilmour, Paul Kariya, Joe Nieuwendyk, Adam Oates, Jack Eichel, Gary Roberts, Joe Sakic, Steven Stamkos, and Jonathan Toews. Plus many others.

Another John Tavares from Ontario, uncle to the Leaf’s captain, is the all-time National Lacrosse League (NLL) leader in games played (306), goals (815), assists (934), and points (1,749). His 2,191 loose balls recovered is the second highest in league history.

Ontario has been a traditional hotbed of the game, as has St. Catharines, with championship teams dating back almost a century. Accordingly, it was no surprise when the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame (OLHOF) was established in 1997, as part of the St. Catharines Museum, located at Lock Three on the Welland Canals Parkway. The OLHOF’s mission is to recognize the historical, cultural, and athletic contributions within the Ontario lacrosse community, and to provide educational information about the game and its rich history.

The OLHOF marked 25 years on May 14, with a celebratory luncheon and induction ceremony.

Three teams were recognized: the Fergus Thistles (Canada’s oldest lacrosse club, founded in 1857), the Oshawa Lady Blue Knights (Canada’s largest and most successful women’s field lacrosse organization), and the 1982 Canadian Women’s Field Lacrosse Team (which won a bronze medal in its inaugural competition at the world championships in Nottingham, England).

Individuals inducted into the Hall were Michael Hasen and Pat O’Toole of Brampton, Reg Hollingshead of Arthur, Len Powers of Peterborough, and Josh Sanderson of Orangeville.

Niagara Regional Council Chair Jim Bradley, a longtime lacrosse aficionado, commended the local members of the lacrosse community who regularly volunteer at the OLHOF, and referenced the impending Canada Summer Games in Niagara, which will include box lacrosse due to a concerted lobbying effort.

“I attended the St. Catharines Old Boys Lacrosse banquet a couple weeks ago, and sitting at the table with some older members, it dawned on me that I was the only one with my original hips and knees,” he laughed, acknowledging that he was a fan, but never a player.

Bradley, a fixture in local arenas throughout the year, reminisced about growing up in St. Catharines, watching lacrosse with thousands of others at the Haig Bowl, as teams competed for Minto Cup (Canadian Junior lacrosse) and Mann Cup (national senior) glory. He also applauded the rise of Ontario women excelling in the game, just as they have in ice hockey.

Canadian Lacrosse Foundation Director Jim Calder, who has been involved in lacrosse as a player, coach, and administrator, as well as an author and storyteller, was on hand to pay tribute to “the intrepid group who launched this sacred space” at the OLHOF, “ensuring the right things happen when it comes to honouring a great game.” Calder has written a trilogy of books on lacrosse, involving the game’s Indigenous roots, the rise of women’s lacrosse, and a collection of personal stories he named Tales of a Lacrosse Troubadour, “a product of the pandemic, and a sort of medicine to me over that period,” he said.

Canadian Lacrosse Foundation Director and Author Jim Calder with his trilogy of lacrosse books. DON RICKERS

Pelham has representation in the OLHOF.

The late Ron Roy was inducted into the Hall in 1997 as a player, having enjoyed a prolific career as a goal scorer in senior lacrosse, culminating in a Mann Cup championship with Port Credit in 1960. Roy also was a successful coach.

Another Pelhamite in the Hall is Marion Ladouceur, inducted in 2020. She started at the grassroots level with Pelham minor lacrosse in 1985, and worked her way up over three decades to the position of president of the Ontario Lacrosse Association, having been active with both box and field lacrosse.

One star lacrosse player, who has been nominated but not formally inducted into the Hall, is Jim Weller, who played minor box lacrosse growing up in Fonthill. After competing at the Junior level in St. Catharines and Hamilton, Weller went south to the University of Massachusetts, where he set school records as an attack man and was a three-time NCAA All-American. Weller continued his prolific scoring with the Canadian National Team, earning tournament MVP, all-star team, and scoring titles at World Lacrosse Championships held throughout the 1980s.

Weller also gave back to the game through coaching stints in Ontario and Alberta.

The St. Catharines Museum, and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame, are open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.