Legends of the Game

In the Fifty-sixth edition of “Legends of the Game” we look at the career of a former guest of mine on Lacrosse Talk…Dave Durante.

I came across a great article by Stan Shillington in his “Down Memory Lane” series…

Colorful nicknames have followed Dave Durante throughout his phenomenal, two decade lacrosse career — Dave the Magnificent, Dandy Dave and Dave the Dude.

All adorned him as well as one of his tailored silk suits but, sobriquets notwithstanding, he has always been a WINNER. Few, if an, players can boast victories in lacrosse’s four major championships; he took part in nine Mann Cup series, winning the Canadian title five times; he was a member of the 1971 Richmond Roadrunners that upset favored Peterborough for the Minto Cup junior title; in 1975, he toiled for the National Lacrosse League Quebec Caribous that captured the professional championship;  and he was a member of the Canadian rep team that won the World Field Lacrosse title in Manchester, England, in 1978.

Lacrosse has long been Dave’s passion and pastime. But this was not always the case.

When Dave was a youngster, he was content to restrict his lacrosse activities to watching father and uncle play senior ball. Mind you, Dave did play a little “catch” in his backyard but baseball, soccer, hockey and high school football quenched his athletic thirst.

Listing his sports reveals why he had little time for organized lacrosse. At Notre Dame High School, Dave was quarterback and safety for the first Jugglers team to win the Shrine Bowl; as a shortstop, he caught the eye of major league scouts from the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals; when his hopes for a college baseball. scholarship in the U.S. dial not materialize, Dave enrolled at the University of B.C. where he played hockey and soccer while working towards a Bachelor degree in Physical Education; impressed with his hockey prowess, the Detroit Red Wings team offered him a spot in its farm system; and his skills as a midfielder earned him an offer to join a Fourth Division soccer club in England.

He declined the hockey and soccer overtures and decided to take his backyard lacrosse into a box. At the age of 18, Dave tried out for the Vancouver Junior B squad and was an instant success, racking up 22 goals and 20 assists in 18 games. He moved to the Richmond Junior A team the following year, gathering 30 goals and 23 assists on the way to the 1971 Minto Cup title.

Richmond lost the national championship the following season but Dave’s 36 goals and 31 assists were enough to impress the senior teams. The WLA overage junior draft was introduced in 1973 and Coquitlam, with first pick, selected the Dude.

Despite a painful ankle injury that often cut his speed in half, Dave picked up 26 goals and 23 assists and was named the WLA Rookie-of-the-Year. After capturing the WLA scoring title in 1974, Dave joined the Quebec entry in the National Lacrosse League, earning 242 points in 60 league and playoff games.

It was back to Coquitlam in 1976 for a, four-year stint until he was traded to the New Westminster Salmonbellies prior to the 1980 season. He remained there for the next 12 seasons before retiring in 1991 at the age of 39.

“I had a passion for the game,” Dave once told a reporter. “I am proud of what I accomplished statistic-wise but, more than that, I was a team player — that’s what I was all about.”

And what of those statistic-wise achievements?

• He has scored 351 WLA playoff points, a league record;

• He once held the Mann Cup assist record., later broken by ex-teammate Geordie Dean, but is still the fourth highest Mann Cup point getter with 105;

• League, playoff and Mann Cup points total 1,509, third behind Wayne Goss and Paul Parnell on the all-time WLA scoring list. His pro Quebec stats of 242 raises his career point total to 1,751;

• He was named the Mike Kelly Award winner (Mann Cup MVP) in 1976, won the Maitland Trophy for sportsmanship in 1974 and was placed on the WLA All–Star Team eight times. Of course, as previously mentioned, he took the Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 1973. Oh, yes! There is one more thing — Dave was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1997.

From the UBC School of Kinesiology…posted July 18, 2017…

Dave Durante, a 1976 UBC Physical Education graduate, ranks as one of this faculty’s most versatile athletes, which is saying something.

While a student Durante played hockey for UBC, not the Thunderbirds but the Braves, during the days when UBC iced two hockey teams. Even though a good hockey player, Dave’s real sport was lacrosse as he came from a lacrosse playing family. In fact Dave Durante is considered one of this country’s all-time greatest lacrosse players.

It started in 1971 when he starred with the Richmond Roadrunners, national champions and still considered one of the best and most entertaining Junior ‘A’ lacrosse teams to come out of the west. Durante did have a great supporting cast but his terrific two-way play and athleticism put him in the feature role.

Durante seamlessly made the transition to Senior A’ lacrosse becoming an even more heralded star. The New Westminster Salmonbellies were considered Canada’s lacrosse team of the ‘80s winning three national Mann Cup championships and it can be said much of the credit for this success was due to Durante. “He was the catalyst, the engine that made the machine run”, recalls lacrosse historian Cleve Dheensaw.

Upon retirement in the early ‘90s Durante finished third in career total points plus held Canadian records for most Mann Cup games played and most Mann Cup points.

As a player Durante was a tireless worker rarely losing his composure, qualities which contributed to his effectiveness. Of those from UBC who have been involved with the sport of lacrosse, Dave Durante ultimately stands out as the most successful. More recently, Dave worked as a financial planner and has been honoured with induction into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

A great interview done with Dave for “Lacrosse Legends” series, by the Canadian Lacrosse Foundation…

Gary Groob
Gary Groob

Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.

An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.

Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.

In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.

Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).

Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.

Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.