You could have coloured me surprised
when I read a Concordia University press release in October saying that “celebrations [for Concordia women’s hockey coach Les Lawton’s 25th season] are being
planned for early January when the Stingers will also host their 40th annual Theresa Humes women’s hockey tournament.” With the tournament come and gone, Lawton was never honoured. And, I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way. He is never one to want the spotlight on himself. “Which players do you want to talk to,” he would ask me as a first-year reporter covering the team before answering any of my questions.
That experience was reinforced when Lawton took to the podium at a women’s hockey alumni cocktail party last Saturday night. Before his introduction, director of Recreation and Athletics Katie Sheahan said Lawton “needs no introduction” which could be translated to “he doesn’t want one.”
Lawton’s speech was a clever one. He wrote it as a series of thank yous from the current Stingers to Stingers alumni and former directors, like Theresa Humes herself, who pushed for equality in women’s sports, including hockey. “Thank you for having our helmet colours changed from school bus yellow to black,” Lawton said. “Thank you for insisting that we are called the Stingers and not the Lady Stingers or the Stingerettes.” He also thanked the university’s administration. “Thank you for keeping women’s hockey alive at Loyola and Concordia when there were no leagues to play in,” Lawton said emotionally. Now forgive me for saying this, but for all the expertise Lawton shows behind the bench and has shown over his leadership of the Stingers, I believe he made a gross error in judgment. While there is never enough thanking that can be given to the players who have worn the Maroon and Gold for over 40 years of the Theresa Humes tournament and in the history of the school, Lawton is downplaying the role he has had in the program, in the sport, and in the lives of the players. So last week, I went to current and former players, coaches and administrators to see what they wanted to thank Lawton for.
* Thank you for over 500 wins, two National Championships and so many provincial championships they need two banners to put them on.
* Thank you for offering me the sports section of whatever paper you’re reading during the trip to Ottawa.
* Thank you for turning around and taking the time to talk to me about other things than hockey.
* Thank you for developing me into the player I am today.
* Thank you for your “great” and corny jokes that I will never forget (because I’ve heard them for five years).
* Thank you for the Swiss Chalet after road games.
* Thank you for finding us a goalie coach.
* Thank you for being able to deal with 21 girls at the same time and being good at it.
* Thank you for being a great coach.
* Thank you for your dedication.
* Thank you for putting up with us.
* Thank you for recognizing our individual talents and using them in the right way.
* Thank you for all the Concordia gear and for the sticks.
* Thank you for believing in me.
* Thank you for five great years
* Thank you for buying us whatever
we want for our bus ride to our destination.
* Thank you for the breakfasts at Cora’s.
* Thank you for pushing us to succeed.
* Thank you for granting me access
to follow the Stingers around for a week and encouraging your players to do the same.
* Thank you for your passion for the game and for passing it on.
* Thank you for the smoked meat.
* Thank you for the confidence to bring me in as a coach.
* Thank you for giving me control and allowing me to learn by doing.
* Thank you for being a father to me away from home.
* Thank you for allowing us to work at hockey school and help the kids. especially Peter.
* Thank you for the years I had in a Stingers uniform. I truly believe that these were the best times of my life and I will be forever grateful for the confidence you gave me and for allowing me to be part of such an incredible organization.
This is a great list. However, the final
item on this list was so wonderfully
said that I have to give credit to Katie Sheahan for it. While she said it, a lot of others are surely thinking it.
* Thank you for your great leadership
and your loud celebration of the importance of women’s sports. A more enthusiastic ambassador would be hard to find. This doesn’t have the spotlight of a presentation at centre ice or a speech at a podium, but know that while you are thanking people, plenty of people you have crossed paths with over your 25 years at Concordia are thanking you.