By Pat Payton
The St. Marys Lincolns’ Alumni group will hold a special night this Saturday, Feb. 1, honouring all surviving players and executive members from the inaugural year (1956-57) to the 1962-63 championship season.
About 30 former players and executives from that era are expected to attend. After dinner in the End Zone room, they will sit in a reserved seating area for the St. Marys-St. Thomas game.
Former players (and their wives) expected to attend are: Ernie Little, Charlie Vrana, Gerry Petrie, John O’Hara, Joe Stevens, Jack Leslie, Mike Mattiussi, Chuck Jewell, Bernie Lawrence, Terry Oliver, George Cifa, Rocky Marshall, Len Hawkins, Ron Ryan, John Hudson, Doug Caley, Jacques Cousineau, Bob Holden and Norm Noble.
–Last Friday at the St. Marys-Chatham game, the Lincs held their annual ‘School Night’ promotion. Free tickets were given to students and staff at five area public schools — Little Falls, A.J. Baker, Holy Name of Mary, South Perth Centennial and Downie Central.
–The Lincolns’ game in Strathroy that was postponed Jan. 18 because of snow has been re-scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the West Middlesex Arena, starting at 7:30 p.m.
–Like all Western Conference coaches, Komoka bench boss Ron Horvat is trying to get his Kings ready for the playoffs.
“You always want to move up in the standings,” Horvat said during a recent stop in St. Marys. “If we could ever get to sixth spot, guess who our first-round opponent would be? That could possibly be St. Marys. If we finish lower, we could meet London or Leamington.
“But at this time of year, you want to be playing well and competing with everybody. As a team, we have short-term goals and long-term goals. You have to look at every game and try and get better. You need everybody going.”
Kings recently lost their leading scorer, Dario Beljo (23 goals), with a broken wrist. He’s expected to be out at least two more weeks.
–Prior to the Jan. 10 St. Marys-London game, the Lincolns’ Alumni group honoured Paul Vanderspank, a former team captain who played five seasons in St. Marys (1972-77). The big left-winger from Belmont was captain when the Barry Hearn-coached Lincolns won the All-Ontario title in the spring of 1976 in Collingwood.
“I’m really grateful for the recognition after all this time,” an emotional Vanderspank told the Independent that night. “To come here and see all the old friends and teammates, it’s just great. We had so much support here all through my five years here in St. Marys. And when we had our All-Ontario season, it was just fantastic.
“I would have to say fate had a lot to do with (coming to the Lincolns). During the years I played minor hockey in Belmont, Brian Dundas and I became friends. After I made the Lincolns, Brian and I became even better friends and linemates along with Doug Kennedy.
“One night, Dunny took me on a snowmobile run. It was a blind date and he introduced me to my wife Debbie (Johnson).”
As a rookie, Vanderspank also remembers playing on a line with veterans Randy Preszcator and Rick Fifield. “Teammates are what it’s all about,” he summed up. “You play all season long with them, and you play for each other.”
–Veteran Max Vinogradov was recently honoured for becoming the London Nationals all-time leader in games played.
This month, the 21-year-old Londoner passed Scott Lombardi (2009-14), and has now played 236 GOJHL games. The fifth-year Nats winger is enjoying his most productive season yet, collecting 29 goals and 68 points in 41 games to add to his career totals of 106 goals and 246 points.
By Pat Payton