If he could, the late Tom Wright would have played lacrosse “seven days a week, 365 days a year,” a long-time friend says.
The Sarnia man who played and coached for more than 50 years died on Oct. 29, after impacting thousands in the sport to which he dedicated his life.
Wright was 73.
“The moniker that was bestowed upon him — Mr. Lacrosse — really doesn’t say enough,” said Gord Neely, his friend, teammate and sometime rival of 62 years.
“He touched a lot of people.”
Tom Wright’s lengthy career ranged from local minor squads to the pros.
The Northern Collegiate grad coached the Point Edward Pacers to consecutive Ontario and Canadian Junior B Lacrosse Championships in 1982 and 1983.
He also led the Detroit Turbos to Major Indoor Lacrosse League championships in 1989 and 1990.
As a player in the 1970s, he helped the Windsor Warlocks capture two Ontario Championships and one Canadian Championship.
He even helped the Quebec Caribou win a National Lacrosse League Championship in 1975.
Wright had a lacrosse stick in his hand from an early age, Neely said. It followed him to school and even came out before dates with eventual wife Marg, Neely said.
He began playing senior lacrosse with the Sarnia-Port Huron Beavers at the age of 16.
An offensive minded player, Wright was named MVP in several leagues, won numerous scoring titles, and is still ranked among the Ontario Lacrosse Association’s top 50 scorers of all time, Neely said.
He was inducted into the Sarnia-Lambton Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
“He could foresee things and see things develop. He played both ends of the floor,” said Neely, adding Wright’s intensity was unmatched.
“If you needed somebody to have your back, he was there. Every time he stepped on the floor, losing wasn’t in his vocabulary.”
After playing with and against each other for years the pair formed a powerful coaching duo in Point Edward, after Wright retired from the Detroit Turbos.
The countless young players Wright coached until 2018 included son Joe, who died in 2017, and granddaughter Madyson.
“He was always the guy that was around the arena,” said Tom Quinn, 40, a former Point Edward Pacer who was coached by Wright.
“Even up to a year and a half ago when he got sick, he was still coaching the midgets and the bantams. Anytime anybody asked him to do anything with lacrosse, he was willing to help.”
Neely described Wright as a kind and approachable man who cared deeply about his family, friends, and players.
“Just to have known him, and be called a friend is something that I’ll cherish,” he said. “We travelled every road in Ontario.”
Wright left behind wife Marg, daughter Meegan, sister Betty Beaton, and granddaughter Madyson O’Brien, as well as many nieces and nephews.
More than a hundred gathered to pay their respects at a Nov. 3 memorial service at the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club.