Yesterday I mentioned how the Six Nations Chiefs finished 1-14-1 in their first season of Senior A lacrosse with a very talented but young group of players, many of whom had won the Minto in 1992. After that season, the Chiefs hired Brampton coach Les Wakeling, who had just won his second straight Mann Cup with the Brampton Excelsiers. Wakeling took a group of Brampton players with him that included John Tavares, Randy Mearns, Gary Walker, the Kilgour brothers, both goalies Bill Gerrie and Steve MacMillan, and a few others. Coach Wakeling blended those players with a good young core from the Minto Cup winning Arrows and added a few more players (including Paul Gait) to get an instant Mann Cup contender. However there was still a lot of work to be done.
In 1994, the Brooklin Redmen added Gary Gait to a lineup that included John Fusco, Peter Parke and Tom Wreggit while Brampton still had Troy Cordingley, Jim Veltman and added Bob Hamley and Jeff Wilfong.
In one of the best seasons Senior Lacrosse had seen in years, the Brooklin Redmen finished in first place by a three points over second place Six Nations, which was just two points ahead of Brampton. In the first round of the playoffs, the Redmen swept Peterborough while the Chiefs and Brampton had a series for the ages. The fact that Brampton had a “hate on” for Les Wakeling and the departed Brampton players only made the series even more dramatic. You have to give a tremendous amount of credit to the Brampton organization for surviving the loss of so many players to the Chiefs and justice might have been served if Brampton had won that series but the Chiefs rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win in a hard-fought 6 games.
Things didn’t get any easier for the Chiefs in the next round. After sweeping Peterborough, the Brooklin Redmen spanked the Chiefs in the first two games and looked well on their way to an easy victory. We were embarrassed. Brooklin was not just beating us, but they were laughing at us and that pissed us off. In the dressing room after game 2 John Tavares said to me, “we won’t lose another game.” I felt the same way. We won Game 3 in overtime and took the series in 6. Gary Gait scored 28 goals in just 8 playoff games that year and after defeating him and his Redmen, we knew we would not be stopped and we took the Mann Cup in 6 games against the New Westminster Salmonbellies.
That was a start of three straight Mann Cups for the Chiefs. In 1995 we added Cordingley and Jamie Batley to the lineup and no one came close to us in Ontario that season. We defeated the Salmonbellies for the Mann Cup in a nasty brawl filled series that became known as the War on the Wooden Floor.
In 1996 we had become so accustomed to winning that anything but a sweep over the visiting Victoria Shamrocks would have seemed like a blemish on the season. We won the Mann Cup in 4 games that season. The fact that we never bothered to order rings for winning the 1996 Mann Cup is further evidence of how accustomed to winning we had become (much to the dismay of the players who won their first Mann Cup with us).
In 1997, we lost the Kilgour brothers, Mearns and Steve Fannell to the new Niagara Gamblers. I guess we knew how Brampton felt and fittingly it was Brampton that put an end to our season when it knocked us out in the first round.
Until the final few minutes of our last game I still thought we would pull through and win another Mann Cup. It was a good run, though. Three Mann Cups in a row for the Chiefs and for a few of us it was five straight. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the group that won five in a row and the coach who led us to victory.A longtime TV analyst for lacrosse, Shanny calls games for TSN. Shanny won five Mann Cups as a player and is the voice of boxla in Canada. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @sbdshanny.
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