By now, NLL fans have heard the news that the New England Black Wolves have been sold. They will be relocating to Albany, New York to begin to play in the fall of 2021. The principal buyer is a gentleman named Oliver Marti. With the sale and pending relocation of the New England Black Wolves to a consortium in Albany, New York, Oliver Marti is apparently the main cog in the Albany machine.
Who is Oliver Marti? What is his lacrosse background if any? I sat down with Mr. Marti back in 2019. So, let’s find out his past and why he is a great candidate to head this organization. Oliver Marti a much-traveled laxer. Juniors, Seniors, NCAA, NLL, mentoring and growing the game.
Let’s Go One on One with Oliver Marti
KMN- Hockey and Lacrosse, what pushed you to pursue Lacrosse?
OM-I excelled at Lacrosse more so than I did at Hockey. When I was playing Junior A hockey in BC, a scout from Cornell was upfront with me and told me they weren’t going to pursue me but mentioned that their field lacrosse program was very interested. I had heard good things about the Big Red lacrosse program under Head Coach Richie Moran. At that point, I started focusing more on a future in Lacrosse.
KMN- At Brown University, you held the record for most goals in a game…talk about that.
OM-I selected Brown because I felt at the time their Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse team was young and very talented.
I felt more connected with the coach, Dom Starsia, and of course, felt the academics were among the best in the world. Our Brown team was always among the top teams in the country and I was fortunate to play with some phenomenal players including Darren Lowe, Andy Towers, and David Evans – my three years at Brown brought both team and personal accomplishments.
Playing with such great players enabled me to excel – currently, I hold the record in NCAA Division 1 for most goals in a regular-season game, most points in a regular-season game, most goals in an NCAA playoff game (also shared with Gary Gait, Chris Cloutier and Mac O’Keefe) and currently rank 5th all-time in average goals per game in a career.
KMN- 2 time All American as well as a Scholastic All American and were awarded the Joslin Award. What is that?
OM-I considered myself fortunate to go to Brown and didn’t want to waste the opportunity. My family barely had the means to send me to college but I was fortunate to be the only one in my family to have the opportunity. I worked hard on and off the field, I enjoyed learning and working with students, professors, and athletes in the Brown community.
The Joslin Award is given to a handful of graduating students every year whose contributions to the quality of student life at Brown represent the very best of Brown in the areas of involvement, impact, and personal qualities and attributes that model the highest ideal of leadership, citizenship, and community.
It was an extreme honor to receive such an award. I remember learning about the other recipients during the ceremony and feeling that someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and let me know they made a mistake!
KMN- You were the MVP in the Bronze game against England in the 1994 World Games. How good was team Canada?
OM- Chris Hall was our coach and we had all the best Canadian players – Paul and Gary Gait, Tom and Billy Marechek, Kevin Alexander, John Tavares, Ben Hieltjes, Andy Ogilvie, among many others.
But, only a handful had played competitive field lacrosse. We were expected to meet the US in the Gold Medal game but we didn’t play well against Australia and lost by a goal putting us in the Bronze Medal match. We won the Bronze medal but it was definitely a disappointing tournament for our team.
KMN- 2 Minto Cups with the Richmond Outlaws, what were the emotions with that?
OM- The question is how ARE the emotions with that! It still stings, especially the second trip. The Richmond Outlaws were a trend-setting team at the time – we had new ownership that rebranded the Junior A program from the Richmond Roadrunners to the Outlaws.
Almost half the team were already using plastic heads, we ran an offense/defense style which many didn’t at the time, we ran a sick diamond PK and we even wore the NLL style spandex shorts (that sucked!).
We headed out East in ’89 to play the Peterborough Maulers for the Junior A Canadian Championship. They were a much more experienced team, most of them playing in their 5th year Junior A (in BC, players only played 3 years of Junior A at the time). They beat us 4-1 in the best of 7. They were a strong team with great players like Paul Day and Craig Stevenson.
That Peterborough team won 3 Minto Cups together and were inducted into the CHOF.
In 1990, we had most of the ’89 team intact – Jason Wulder, John Kilbride, Leo Paquin, Dean Richards, Brad Dickson, among others. I believe we were the best team in the country.
The Minto was in BC that year and the format was a 3 team round robin followed by a best of 3. It was essentially us and St Catherine’s Athletics from the East (Esquimalt Legion was the third team but didn’t win a game).
St. Catherine’s was loaded with Randy Mearns, Darris, Richie and Travis Kilgour, and Tyson Leies. We each won one against each other in the round-robin and then met in the best of three which we won the first game in OT. In the second game, it was a close game until the final 10 minutes. Our starting goalie Darren Goundry, one of the best in the league, hit a player as he was catching a fast break pass. In what normally should have been a 2-minute penalty, the commissioner (I believe he was from Ontario at the time) made the unusual decision to come to speak to the officials. I’m not exactly sure what was said but our goalie was given a 5-minute penalty and game misconduct and thrown out of the game.
Our backup goalie hadn’t played all year. St. Catherine scored 3 goals on the PP and won the second game 11-7. The kicker was that the game misconduct penalty meant our goalie couldn’t play in the final game. Not surprisingly, St. Catherine’s won game 3 and the Minto. I still wake up with night sweats!
So disappointing to work so hard and come up against an extremely talented team and have poor officiating decide a national championship – let the kids play!!
KMN- You moved on to Coquitlam in the WLA. Did many of your Richmond teammates made the move with you?
OM-3 of our players went in the top five of the first-round draft. I actually was drafted by the New Westminster Salmonbellies. They had just won the Mann Cup the prior year and I was excited to join their club.
Such a great group of players like Geordie Dean, Hieltjes, Peter Parke, Andy Ogilvie, Eric Cowieson, Randy Jones, Todd Lorenz, Sinclair, Dal Monte, etc., and Rick Mang was in the pipes.
Curt Malawsky and I were rookies in 1992. We played the Brampton Excelsiors for the Mann Cup in Brampton. They were stacked as well with John Tavares, Troy Cordingley, Jim Veltman, Randy Mearns, Darris Kilgour, Neil Doddridge, Tom Phair, and Pat Coyle to name a few, and Bill Gerrie in the net.
They gooned up Hieltjes and Dean was out with injury. We still battled but with the talent level so high, having one hand (two hands?) tied behind our back was too difficult. We lost the series 4-1.
KMN- New York Saints in the NLL, I remember watching games against Philadelphia, was that a “heated” rivalry?
OM- Playing in Philly at the Spectrum was always fun. The Wings had a great team led by Gary, Paul, and Tom along with Eliuk in the pipes. The stadium was always filled to capacity with 16k+ vocal fans! In fact, my first professional game was in Philly. I was taking some final shots in a warm-up before heading off to gear up.
Steve Huff zipped a shot that hit the post and clocked me in the face. I never wear a helmet during pre-warmup playing JRA or SrA in Canada. Blood was flowing from my face. I had broken my nose and had a concussion.
Years later Vinnie Sombrotto recounted that he leaned over to the player next to him in the dressing room, looking at me with cotton up my nose and ice packs on my neck and head, and said, “this is the guy that’s supposed to help our team?!” I still played and stuck 1G/1A.
KMN- 2019 US U20 team, offensive coach, how did that occur?
OM-Marty O’Neil was in town for business in CT and stayed at my place. He mentioned that the US Indoor Team was in need of a coach.
As a Canadian, I wasn’t the right guy for the job but I had partnered with Roy Colsey and his Superstar box program a year earlier. Roy was Mr. Everything on the field for Syracuse and in the pros and was one of the few American player’s that truly excelled in the box.
I thought he would be a perfect fit for the US U20 Junior Team. I reached out to him, he said he would do it if I joined him as his offensive coach and I said sure.
KMN- Coach for Superstar’s Box. What type of program is that?
ON-Superstar started as a youth field lacrosse club program started by Roy Colsey a while back.
About 4 years ago, he completely switched over to box lacrosse. It’s sanctioned under USBOXLA and is one of the largest programs in the US. I was looking to start my own USBOXLA program and reached out to Shaydon Santos and Matt Brown, a couple of talented successful box lacrosse Canadian boys doing great things for the game of lacrosse both on the field and in the box, who founded USBOXLA.
Shaydon put me in touch with Roy and we decided to partner up. It is incredible seeing the jump in talent that occurs when these young developing field players start to learn the box game.
Our Superstar Bantam team won the Nationals in 2018 and our Novices won in 2019. One limiting factor to the sport exploding is box arena space during the winter months.
Almost all the rinks locally in CT are for ice hockey during the winter when youth lacrosse in the US is played. It’s a matter of time before that changes.
KNM- You started the Connecticut Collegiate Box Lacrosse League, what is that?
OM-With so many former professional box players giving back to the sport of box lacrosse and the drive-by USBOXLA to grow the sport, youth box lacrosse has grown meaningful.
However, there isn’t much opportunity for these youth players after high school to continue to receive great coaching, improve their skills and play at the highest level. I thought what the USBOXLA was doing with the creation of the National Collegiate Box Series was exactly the right step.
The NCBS can best be thought of as Junior A lacrosse in Canada and currently Colorado, Ohio and CT have leagues and more are in the pipeline. It now provides an opportunity for players that have been playing box at the youth level to continue to develop during their summer breaks while in college and have an opportunity to possibly play professionally in the NLL when they graduate from College.
In fact, USBOXLA and the NLL joined forces in the spring of this year, to help continue to drive the development of US box lacrosse players.
KMN- The game is getting more popular. The PLL, what are your thoughts on that?
OM-I actually started 11|88 LLC in 2018, an investment company to invest in the growth of lacrosse. One of my investments was as a major investor in the PLL.
I think the PLL product is fantastic. They have helped simplify the game and small rule changes such as a shorter field and a 52-second shot clock have made the action flow better and faster. If you have ever watched a PLL game on TV or in person, it’s the real deal. Mike and Paul Rabil along with a first-class ownership group, advisors, and NBC have done a fantastic job.
Who is Oliver Marti? Now you know.