By Paul Carfagnini
The fascinating story of the Thorold Beavers will be among many local sports accomplishments celebrated at the 11th annual Thorold Runway of Recognition at Club Capri on March 28. Members of the Beavers soccer team will be at the banquet to relive their glory days in 1969 when the Under 12 soccer team won the Ontario Cup, but there is much more to our story.
Of course, the highlight of the Beavers’ story is the thrill of victory in the big stadium in Toronto when the team won the provincial championship in the final game versus Sudbury. A goal by Gary DesRoches blasted the Beavers to victory. Goalkeeper Perry Winfield was unbeatable and registered one of many shut outs in the championship season.
The personal experience for me playing on the Beavers as the team captain was tremendous training in leadership. We were united together as a group for a common goal, which was an invaluable lesson in teamwork, always striving to win together in the pursuit of excellence.
Reflecting on the summer of 69 and remembering the Beavers championship season brings back fantastic memories. I fondly remember the thrill of victory was awesome for the boys from a small town; Thorold population was approximately 10,000 people at the time. It was amazing to see the Beavers exuberance extend beyond the players, Coach Frank McArdle and Manager Guy Furney; the amazing community spirit fired up a celebration for parents, local soccer fans, and community leaders. There was no team bus for the Beavers in those days. A group of parents drove us in their cars, and after the championship game in Toronto we rushed back into town for a spontaneous parade hoisting up the cup and honking horns.
The team included a strong line up: John Perri, Angelo Ferrato, Gary DesRoches, Paul Carfagnini, Anton Thun Patrick DiFelice, and Terry Pizzacalla. second row, Randy Quinn, Joe Iantomassi, Lou Stoyanoff, Vincenzo Segreto , Perry Winfield, Gil Woods, Tom Charlton, Stan Muntz, Denis Hartleib. Back row, manager Guy Furney, Vincenzo’s nonna and top team cheerleader, Coach Frank McArdle.
Teams have fans and many have cheerleaders, but no team of the time was inspired more than the Beavers’ super fan. Beaver Half Back, Vincenzo Segreto’s grandmother attended most games, and the white-haired elderly woman dressed in black would often cheer the team to victory in Italian chants, (some say she also prayed for divine intervention in the championship game.)
The 1969 Beavers was the first team from the Niagara Region to triumph as provincial soccer champs. In those days, teams from small towns would play in the same group as teams from big cities such as Toronto, London, Ottawa or Hamilton. It was a daunting task for the Beavers from a relatively small town Thorold to compete with Sudbury in the final. In previous years, the Beavers faced big teams from Scarborough .
The victory was incredible when we size up the competition with little old Thorold playing teams from big cities. It was an era in Ontario soccer when one bracket of teams was used across the province for each age group. As a result of the Beavers victory, Thorold gained a ton of respect in the sport, and I believe the accomplishment inspired local organizers and players to shoot high. In the 70’s, soccer gained more popularity in Thorold and across the Niagara Region. A few years later more Thorold teams triumphed in provincial championships, which goes to show us in Thorold that it is not the size of a city’s population the sets the score, but the game comes down to the strength of your spirit to win. It is about the unity in community.
Actually, the Beavers story goes back a few years prior to 1969 when the team had advanced to the Ontario Cup finals in 1968 and 1967. The disappointment of defeat in those two seasons actually inspired the Beavers to keep on playing hard to win in 1969. Above all, the lesson I learned from the Beavers is the power of perseverance. In 1967 and 1968, I also played on the Beavers teams that qualified for the Ontario Cup championship games but it was not our time for victory; defeated by Scarborough and Sudbury. In 1969, a few changes in the player line up, new coach; a different outcome was achieved for the team. Beavers never give up, work hard every play, every minute, every game. Yes, in the Beavers’ third shot at the Ontario Cup championship in 1969, we experienced the power of perseverance to win. And now you know the rest of the story.
Come and share many more stories and honour the inductees in the Thorold sports hall of fame:
- Alex Christie, Male Athlete of the Year 2016; Football
- Natalie Mastracci; Female Athlete of the Year 2016; Rowing
- Thorold Secondary School Golden Eagles, Team of the Year 2016; Football
- John Coppola; Wrestling 1970 to present
- Tonya Verbeek; Wrestling 1970 to present
- John Perri; Soccer, track and field; 1970 to present
- Trombone Award, coaching hero, Jim Hill, lifetime of coaching in baseball and hockey
- Mailer Award; Heather Morrison, coached for more than 40 years, Thorold Figure Skating Club
Congratulations to members of the Thorold Runway of Recognition Committee on producing an outstanding community event. The program sponsored by the City of Thorold honours and perpetuates the names and deeds of those individuals of Thorold whose athletic abilities have brought fame to themselves and their community and of those individuals whose interest in and work for the sport has benefited athletes and athletics. Let’s give a big shout out to the volunteers on the committee:
- Bob Elliott
- Cindy Dickson
- Bob McGarrigle
- David Jim Handley
- Rudy DeRose
Tickets for the banquet cost $20 per person and can be purchased from Tim Whalen at the Thorold Community Credit Union on Sullivan Avenue.
If you liked this blog article you might also enjoy reading an excellent story on the Thorold Runway of Recognition by Paul Forsyth in Niagara This Week. Click here