International Men

August 28, 2014
Canada rode a wave of emotion to its third world championship and second in the past three cycles with an 8-5 win over the United States. (Scott McCall)
Canada rode a wave of emotion to its third world championship and second in the past three cycles with an 8-5 win over the United States. (Scott McCall)

No Stars? That's the Canadian Way

by Bill Tanton | | Twitter

For the life of me, I couldn't understand how the U.S. lost to Canada for the world championship this summer. All those fantastic players the U.S. had, all those great coaches — I thought the U.S. was unbeatable.

And then I had a talk with Tom Marechek that proved to be an eye opener.

Marechek needs no introduction in any lacrosse publication. He's one of the most decorated players in the game's history. He's in every Hall of Fame possible, including the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

There's something else that gives him a different slant on this: He's Canadian.

Marechek came to America from Victoria, British Columbia. He played at Syracuse when the Gait twins, Paul and Gary, made the same trip a quarter century ago. They're all in their mid-40s now.

“The U.S. did not play as a team. Nobody playing for Canada took it on himself to be the man.”

—Tom Marechek

Everyone knows by now that the Canadians slowed it down in the FIL world championship game to win 8-5, perhaps to the disappointment of the 11,861 spectators expecting an exciting show July 19 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.

Marechek stated with pride that the Canadians were "very unselfish, very tactical" in limiting Team USA to five goals. The U.S. averaged 17.83 goals per game up to the final.

"What Canada did in slowing it down reminded me of what coach Bill Tierney's Princeton team did to beat us (Syracuse) in the NCAA championship game in 1992," Marechek said. "That's why it seemed a bit hypocritical when Tierney said on national television during the world games that international lacrosse needs a shot clock."

Marechek, who played for Canada in 1990, 1994 and 1998, believes the U.S. and Canada had very different approaches in Colorado.

"The U.S. did not play as a team," he said. "Nobody playing for Canada took it on himself to be the man. Paul Rabil is a great player, but he's not the whole game. We were taught when we were learning the game back in Victoria that if you didn't play two-way lacrosse [to include defense], you weren't going to play on that team."

Marechek, now the coach at Friends School in Baltimore, mentioned the 1986 movie "Hoosiers," in which Gene Hackman played a high school basketball coach taking his team to the Indiana state championship. "It's a team game," the coach says. "No one player more important than another."

"That," Marechek said, "is the Canadian way."

I will say, the Canadians don't seem to be wed to the star system. The 2014 U.S. squad was loaded with big names, All-Americans and Tewaaraton winners. The world championship MVP award went to Canada goalie Dillon Ward. Do you know where he played in college? Bellarmine in Louisville, Ky.

The U.S. coaches, Richie Meade and assistants Dave Pietramala (a Hall of Famer) and Jeff Tambroni, are marquee names.

"They're great coaches," Marechek said. "But I wonder, do you need three of them?"

The victorious Canadians were coached by Randy Mearns. His regular coaching job is at Canisius, his alma mater in Buffalo, N.Y.

You get the idea? Bellarmine and Canisius no doubt are fine schools, but they are by no means the first places to come to mind when you think of elite lacrosse institutions.

They are, however, the schools that produced the winning coach and the MVP in the 2014 FIL World Championship.

I guess that's what Marechek would call the Canadian way.

This article originally appears in the September 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. To start your subscription, join US Lacrosse today!

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