Burnaby lacrosse dynasties inducted into Hall of Fame

Sports dynasties and Burnaby may not be something that rolls off the tongue these days, but there were times when the locals were considered to be versions of the Montreal Canadiens, New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys.

In fact, for some time the city surrounding the lake had a thing for dynasties – lacrosse dynasties to be specific -- and for winning when it counted in a dominating manner.

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The Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame is going to celebrate two parts of that equation later this month, when they induct Dan Mattinson as a builder and the Burnaby junior Lakers 1996 to 2007 teams into its elite membership.

They are being inducted Oct. 27 at the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in New Westminster.

Mattinson was the coach and a key orchestra leader when it came to the Burnaby Cablevision teams from 1974 to ’83, which racked up six B.C. junior A lacrosse titles and three consecutive Minto crowns. Those squads, already honoured by the hall of fame, established a pinnacle for domination and set a foundation for the following generation.

Working in tandem with Burnaby’s father of lacrosse and hall of famer Jack Crosby, Mattinson guided a number of superb squads to the game’s top peak, winning three national titles from 1977 to 1979.

“Dan was pretty calm and not one of those yellers or screamers,” recalled former player Derek Dickson.

“He had plays and strategies we’d work on in practice, but when it came to game time he’d just open the gates and let us play.”

During those three years – of which Dickson was part of the first two Minto titles, the team was virtually unstoppable, going 47-4-1 in the regular season and taking six provincial titles. They’d beat Whitby in the national showdown both times, including once in Ontario.

What Mattinson did was make sure the team worked well together and were ready every game, said Dickson.

“It was a slightly different game back then, perhaps more physical game but we weren’t in it to fight our way through,” he noted. “(Mattinson’s) style was to choose talent over brawn and let things go from there.”

Paul Dal Monte will be there at the induction ceremony on Oct. 27 in New Westminster’s Anvil Centre, home of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, inducted as a coach with the powerhouse 1996-2007 Lakers. He also played under Mattinson on the three Minto cup wins in the 70s.

“The big thing with Dan was he believed in playing a fast, up-tempo pace with a heavy emphasis on skill, passing and shooting and lots and lots of movement. The other thing I remember was the conditioning and fitness. I lost track of how many times we ran around Burnaby Lake, a 10-k track, and that’s something I took from him (to the Lakers),” recalled Dal Monte.

Flip forward a generation when friends Dave Lough and Dal Monte put together a plan to rekindle that championship brand. The Burnaby junior lacrosse program – in fact B.C. as a whole – was finding it hard to compete with the nation’s best. After the Cablevision’s 1979 Minto title, Ontario would proceed to decimate B.C. at the national tournament, winning all but one over the next 18 years.

The Lakers, under Lough and Dal Monte, took the last three of those losses but dropped two of those in Game 7 – one in overtime. Then in 1998, all the hard work and dedication paid off for Burnaby again, the first of five national titles over the next eight years.

“Who knew what we’d accomplish (in 1995), but we both got into it for one reason, and that was to compete for a Minto Cup every year. We told the guys who were coming out for the team that first year and at first they may not have believed it, but after we got to one and then got to two (Minto finals) it just became part of our expectations. … Players wanted to come play for us and they did, and the expectations were high but the players thrived on that.”

Dal Monte stepped aside after the 2002 season and was succeeded by Curt Malawsky, who joined Lough and Remo Spagnuolo to continue the tradition, adding two of those championship banners.

The list of players who toiled and celebrated together is an impressive one – including the likes of Kaleb Toth, Anthony Cosmo, Cam Sedgewick, Lindsey Plunkett and John and Kevin Olson.

So many great players, so many great moments created the tapestry of a winning program.

Dal Monte said it wasn’t just magical, but a special bond that formed when players pulled on the green, black and white jersey to play for each other.

“That camaraderie that existed with (the Cablevision teams) was pretty evident at (a reunion last summer), and the camaraderie of the Lakers’ era is quite as strong, too,” said Dal Monte, who remains involved with the game as the commissioner of the Western Lacrosse Association.

 “We had a lot of great players and collectively as a group we were good and we had a winning attitude. The guys did not accept losing.”

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