Special to The Lake Report
Fifty years ago this summer, the Niagara Jr. B Kinsmen Warriors did something that has never been repeated.
They won gold at the Ontario Games, the Canada Games in British Columbia and also took the Ontario Jr. B lacrosse championship – all in the same year. An incredible feat.
The Jr. B franchise was started in 1969 by Fred Conradi, Peter Conradi and Stan Ignatzcyk and then only took five years to win the championships.
In 1981, the Jr. B Warriors also won the Founder’s Cup – the Canadian Jr. B championship in 1981.
On Aug. 18, there will be a celebration to honour the 50th anniversary of that 1973. The festivities at the Kinsmen Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake begin at 7 p.m.
After the gold medal win in British Columbia, Jack Gatecliff, sports editor of the St. Catharines Standard, described the Warriors’ season as a “rags to riches” story.
The team was considered the underdog in the Ontario tournament to qualify for the Canada Games but eliminated Whitby and then upset top-seeded Hamilton to qualify for the trip to B.C.
Franchise co-owners Monty Slingerland (coach) and Stan Ignatczyk (manager) then had to scramble to raise enough money to send the team to the west coast. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake chipped in to outfit the Warriors with warm-up jackets and T-shirts.
The team won all four matches at the Canada Games, including the final against Nova Scotia to take the gold medal.
A newspaper clipping from 50 years ago reported, “On their return home to the Toronto airport, the team was met by Lord Mayor Jake Froese, who left a meeting of the town council mid-way to greet the boys personally. Accompanying them home to a homecoming reception at the Royal Canadian Legion headquarters, the Lord Mayor and the team were greeted by a few hundred residents who cheered their arrival in King Street.”
The team still had to compete in the Ontario lacrosse playoffs following the Canada Games. After almost being upset in the semifinals to Oakville, the Warriors defeated Whitby to claim the provincial championship.
A civic reception was held in late September in 1973 to honour the Warriors and other athletes in the community. Goaltender John Skubel was singled out as the most valuable player for the year.
On Aug. 18, the Kinsmen will welcome NOTL Jr. B players from all teams over the years to celebrate the Warriors’ 1973 championship season.