Canadian champion ‘78 Pacers returning for special alumni reunion

Pete Coenjarts, president of the Sarnia Sports Hall of Fame, holds team photographs of the 1978 and 1979 Ontario and Canadian champion Point Edward Pacers lacross teams. Glenn Ogilvie

Pam Wright

Forty years ago the Point Edward Pacers won the Canadian championship Founder’s Cup, and on May 5 the club’s alumni will gather at the Point Edward Arena to savour the accomplishment.

An alumni game for the 30-plus crowd will take place at 1 p.m. A game between the current Point Edward Pacers and the Guelph Regals is set for 6 p.m.

A dance will follow.

“It’s a fun event,” said organizer Ryan Dark. “We’re hoping to get the old guys back together from the ‘78 team. They’ve built life-long relationships.”

Ryan’s father, John Dark, was part of the Pacers’ team that beat a squad from British Columbia for the crown at the old Montreal Forum. He’s looking forward to reconnecting with the guys who made history.

The Pacers remarkably captured the cup two years running, winning it again in 1979. Then in 1983 and 1984 they came back to take the title a third and fourth time.

John Dark said the experience was the “biggest thrill I’d ever had.”

The team — originally called the ‘Easy Movers,’ — was just five years old when it went all the way. They posted 20 wins and two losses over the regular season and beat the St. Regis Mohawks for the Ontario title.

Dark said Tom Wright and Larry Percival were key to the team’s success. Both Sarnia men aged out of the junior B system and went off to play senior lacrosse in Windsor.

There, Dark said, the pair learned a systematic approach to the game and they brought it back home. The on-floor program defined defensive and offensive roles more clearly.

“It made us much better as a unit,” Dark said.

Dark also credits manager Wayne Melanson for bringing together the right players.

“He beat the bushes looking for players out-of-town,” Dark said, adding the young men were able to work summer jobs with local trade unions while they played, something not easily done today.

And the team leadership was exceptional, Dark added.

“We just kept building and building and building. They were not going to let us lose.”

Pacer memorabilia will be on display at the event — including old pictures, statistic books and equipment.

“There are coats there that are older than me,” Ryan Dark added.

Bill Barr coached the 1978 team, assisted by Doug Zonneville.