In 1969, Peter Conradi Sr., Stan Ignatczyk and Andy Iggulden brought Jr. “B” lacrosse to Niagara on the Lake. With the support of their wives, they were able to create an executive to run the operations of the team. Conradi’s Supertest Service Center sponsored the team and the name “Warriors” was taken from a Brantford team. Team colours were orange and white in keeping with the Supertest colours. The team became known as the “Niagara Supertest Warriors”.
The team practiced at St. Michaels Catholic School gymnasium. If the weather was good, they would practice in the outdoor bowl where the baseball diamonds now stand at the Virgil Sports Complex. The new Centennial Arena (1967) was only available for lacrosse games, not practices. Myth has it that the team “ gained entry” to the arena on a few rainy evening’s to practice, unknown to the towns Parks and Recreation Director!!
The team became competitive right away, and by 1971, made a run at the Ontario title. After going 44-1 on the season, they fell short, losing to Cornwall in 7 games. The team had created a dedicated fan base within the community, at one playoff game vs. Rexdale, there were 1400 fans packed into the Virgil arena. Many more were turned away at the door.
In 1973, Conradi had moved on. Monty Slingerland and Stan Ignatczyk were now the coaches. Led by Mike French, Norman Hope, Jojie Engemann, Willi Plett and the goaltending of John Skubel, the Warriors had a break through season. The Warriors won gold at the Ontario Summer Games, gold at the Canada Games and the Canadian Championship, Founders Cup Trophy. French went on to re-write the scoring books at Cornell University, and still holds Ivy League scoring records to this day. French is the only player in history to be inducted into the U.S. and Canadian Lacrosse Halls of Fame. Obviously there were many contributers on the 1973 Championship team, these were to just name a few.
The Niagara Warriors won the Founders Cup Trophy again in 1981, coached by Bob “Buff” McCready, former professional lacrosse player and a staple surname in the St. Catharines lacrosse association. Stan Ignatczyk was the assistant coach. Ted Sawicki, Jim Bissell, Rob “Bear” Henry, Paul French and others, went on to play in the National Lacrosse League. The French family name again became associated with the Founders Cup. Twin brothers Peter and Paul were a big part of the team’s success.
The Niagara Warriors were turned over to the Spartan Athletic Club in 1984. Lacrosse in Niagara was losing popularity during this era. With the success of the National Lacrosse League in recent years, the interest is higher than ever to play lacrosse in Niagara again. A new legacy is on the horizon, this time they will be known as the Niagara ThunderHawks. Don’t miss it!!