John Grant (Senior) – My lacrosse stick was my "Best Friend"
John Grant was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario. He played both lacrosse and hockey.
He played with the Peterborough PCOs Junior “A” team that won the Minto Cup in 1972 (They lost the 1971 Minto Cup in overtime in the 7th game of the series). John Grant’s performance in the 1972 series won him the Jim McConaghy Memorial Cup as the Most Valuable Player of the series. (scoring 15 points in 4 games). In three years of Junior “A” lacrosse John Grant scored 93 goals, added 204 assists for 297 points in 70 regular season games. In the playoffs, he scored 43 goals, added 80 assists for 123 points in 36 games.
When his junior lacrosse career ended with a Minto Cup championship, John Grant began playing for the Senior “A” Peterborough Lakers who won the 1973 Mann Cup. John Grant would be part of two more Mann Cup championship teams (1982 and 1984). When the Lakers won the Mann Cup in 1984, John Grant was awarded the Mike Kelley Memorial trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the series. His Major lacrosse career spanned 12 seasons with Peterborough over the period from 1973-1992. In 203 games played at the Major level, he amassed 245 goals, 506 assists for 751 regular season points. During the playoffs, in 107 games, Gramt scored 105 goals, added 191 assists for a total of 296 points.
John Grant was also a star player with Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League in 1974 and 1975. He played 86 games scoring 142 goals and recording 239 assists for a total of 381 points.
In addition, he was a top-level player with the Canadian National Field Lacrosse team representing Canada in 1978, 1982 and 1986. The 1978 team won the World Championship in Manchester, England
John Grant was recognized as the Senior Male Athlete of the Year award for the City of Peterborough in 1984.
In regards to hockey, John Grant played Junior “B” hockey with the Peterborough Lions in 1969-70, the Oshawa Crushmen in 1970-71 and Senior “A” hockey with Belleville in 1976-77 and Lindsay in 1981-82.
John Grant has been inducted into three Sports Hall of Fame as a Player
- Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1997
- Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame in 2004
- Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2008
John Grant was also a member of the Peterborough PCOs Junior “A” team inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame (Winners of four consecutive Minto Cups – 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 – John played on the 1972 team)
John Grant coached lacrosse and hockey. In hockey, he coached the Midget “AA” Peterborough Petes to an All-Ontario championship in 1994. In lacrosse, he has coached many teams at various levels.
This interview with John Grant took place at the Peterborough Memorial Centre arena in the summer of 2018. It covers an array of aspects of John Grant’s career as a player and coach. With intention, there is little reference to the illustrious career of John Grant Junior. The focus of this interview was to reflect upon the remarkable career of John Grant Senior.
1, When did you first play lacrosse?
I think it was 1960 as I was 9 years old. The organizers of minor lacrosse in Peterborough had a promotion - they were giving out free chocolate milk if you came out to try playing lacrosse. Living in the south end of Peterborough the news spread – “Free chocolate milk at the Civic arena”. I had never had a lacrosse stick in my hands. But, free chocolate milk, so me and a couple of friends hustled down to the arena. There was the dairy truck and we received a free 6-ounce container of chocolate milk. You had to go out on the floor and they give you a lacrosse stick out of a barrel and you began trying passing and catching drills. Don Barrie, ran a lacrosse school that summer. And that is when I began playing lacrosse. I played novice house league. If you were good enough, you played on a rep team. I played both house league and rep lacrosse.
2. Although short-lived, any thoughts about playing in the NLL?
The pro league was a great thing for me. It was magical winning a Minto Cup in 1972 and a Mann Cup in 1973. I was drafted into NLL and played two seasons with the Philadelphia Wings. We were treated like professional athletes. We played a 48-game schedule. First year, average crowd was 12,000. Some games we had 16,000 fans. Along with the Flyers (hockey) and Sixers (basketball), the Wings were part of the fabric of Philadelphia sports. As special as it was, it was very hard on the body. The NLL in the 1970’s was very physical. The league promoted the tough somewhat violent side of the game. With the wooden sticks, you take a slash and a certain sensation goes up your arm. The NLL was about slashing and cross-checking and the total physicality of the game.
Growing up in Peterborough, it is a great city. After the pro league folded, I came back and played here. I had buddies from the Toronto area, when the pro league ended, their lacrosse career ended. Living in this community, you can’t hide, you play lacrosse and hockey.
3. When did you get into the Coaching?
I never aspired to coach. However, I took up coaching in 1979. My son John was age 5. My own playing career was winding down, not over, but I thought near the end. (Although he played fewer games each season, John played with the Senior Lakers until the end of the 1992 season). I was working in a physical job with Coca-Cola lugging heavy wooden cases of pop, so it was time to wind down my career as a player. Eventually there was a quiet and subtle ending to my career.
One of the reasons I took up coaching, was an article in the newspaper about tyke lacrosse. I was still playing Senior with the Lakers., but I thought I should help out with the minor lacrosse. I coached minor with my son John up until the end of Midget. I did not coach him after that. Over the years, I have helped out the Senior team on and off, but had no official Coach or Assistant Coach role.
4. Do you have a particular philosophy or style of coaching?
When asked this question regarding a particular philosophy of style of coaching, John responded with a question and asked - Is there a particular style? (That response provides insight to who John Grant is. He is very introspective, a thoughtful and compassionate person who is more than an incredibly accomplished player). With a smile, John commented - for him, coaching was about development and fun. He provided an illustration with the following story. “I learned a lesson from my own 5-year-old son, John. He said he was bored at practice. Our team had been getting thumped by the power teams like Brampton and Whitby. I realized I was coaching down to the lowest talented player on the team I talked with Bobby Allan. I learned I needed to coach up. Get the better players to work together. It is more fun for two skilled players to work together at practice working at moving the ball quickly and adding to their abilities such as practicing backhand practices, Then, have the better players work with the less skilled to help them develop. The team needed to develop to improve, so the players needed to develop. No more boring practices.
Winning is fun. Losing is not fun. I teach kids to compete and to win. We grew up with backyard lacrosse. Always with a stick in your hands. I taught players how important your stick is, how it is part of you. How you always take care of it. I slept with my stick. My stick is always with me. I had a rule as a coach – if I see you without your stick, you owe me $2. If you see me without my stick, I owe you $2.
5. Who or what influenced your style of coaching?
Bobby Allan was my mentor. In 1973 during my first year of Senior playing for Coach Bobby Allan, six or seven games into the season, he placed me on the top of the power play. Johnny Davis had been on the top, but he was now the shooter. First shift, Zenon Lipinski from Brampton picked off my pass. I felt terrible. Sitting with my head down, Bobby Allan came up to me on the bench, whispering to me “Relax, just play your game. You know you can do this”. Next time on the power play, I stepped up, faked a shot, fed a backhand pass to Cy Coombes on the crease and he scored. Bobby Allan could have buried me, but he didn’t. He encouraged me, he instilled confidence into me. It was a learning process for me that included some growing pains. Playing here in Peterborough, they know you, they see you and you are under a microscope.
6. Who is the coach you most admire? Why?
Obviously, Bobby Allan…for many reasons.
7. What do you feel are the reasons why you were as successful as you were?
As a player, my stick has always been my best friend. Having the skill to play the game and to develop has always been about my best friend, my stick. Sports keeps you grounded and lacrosse certainly did that for me. You learn to deal with success and failure. As a player, you have an intellectual approach to the game, to have insight about developing. Dealing with success and failure.
When coaching – if you have a special group, it is even better. From my background, I deal with kids and you do things to help teach them life lessons. For example, there was an incident one time with three bantam age kids who had been drinking at a high school event. So, I arranged for them to have a tour through the Peterborough jail located at City Hall. It was an eye-opening experience for them.
8. Best team you ever coached? Why?
I was involved with so many teams so it is difficult to pick one team. There was a Peewee team that won the Hamilton Super Series. I had a Bantam group that won the all Ontario championship.
9. Best (most skilled) player(s) you coached? Why?
There were plenty of skilled players in Peterborough. (Editor Note: John did not mention his own son John Junior). One of them was Joey Hiltz. He worked hard and was so talented. I helped him with a stick. It was a wooden stick that we shaved down and he fell in love with his stick and it created a bond between us. Which comes back to the magic of your stick and how you take care of it.
10. Toughest player you ever coached?
Rather than mention any particular individual, John described the characteristics of toughness in relation to playing lacrosse – “There are so many ways to assess toughness. Toughness of battling for loose balls. Toughness of going through the middle. Toughness about small players who never backed away who just played with energy and toughness”.
11. What do you think (in general), your players thought/felt about you as a coach?
Most of them knew how much I cared for them. I took time to be more than just a coach. How was their life outside the arena? It was about the team, but I allowed for individual creativity. It was fun and it was effective.
John Grant went onto advise as a fan of the game – Watch the benches. Who is talking, who is listening, what is going on? Who is teaching on the bench? How much interaction is going on between coaches and players and players to players?
12. How did you end up leaving Peterborough and end up in Sudbury?
I was transferred with my job to Sudbury. If I don’t go, I am out of a job. There was no lacrosse when I arrived there, I spent 17 years living and working in Sudbury. I ran into a hockey guy, who had nephews playing lacrosse in Ottawa. After seeing them play, he called me and we met as he thought, we have to get lacrosse going here. So, we sat down and laid it out. Next thing you know, we had 500 kids signed up for first year of lacrosse. All of the hockey players decided to play lacrosse. We had three arenas on the go. We had no experience, no referees. It was a real learning and growing experience. What you teach is what leads to development down the road. I take tremendous pleasure from the building part of my career, particularly in Sudbury. It brought me great satisfaction and pleasure.
13. If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do different.
Not really. Living in a small town, you can be protected. You have guidelines and there are expectations. I have been fortunate in experiencing so many of the good things lacrosse can give a person. I was able to do things I might not have done otherwise,
14. What do you think of today’s game”?
If you watch the game now, it has less picks and rolls and less movement. Plenty of outside shots, less inside action. It is a perimeter game now. The game is different. I grew up with five-man units. We were a team on the floor. We went both ways. With offence/defense style of play, it is a different game from what I and my teammates played.
15. Do you miss coaching and if so, Why?
This may sound harsh, but some of the young coaches today think they invented the game. They don’t respect the old guard. Many of the current NLL group don’t respect the old guard. A man like Bob Allan who is a teacher. He teaches the games. He has a philosophy. Not sure I really miss coaching, but I do think I could make a contribution as a coach. I still like to get to a game two hours before it starts. I like to watch the players warm-up and get a feel for the atmosphere that night in the arena.
16. Do you believe if you did go back behind the bench, you could be successful?
I have to say, that is an interesting question. My game is to teach. And to coach, you are teaching. I believe in visual tools. Coaches today have to coach a hurry-up style of lacrosse. Keep your feet moving. With the abundance of talented lacrosse players and coaches, it would be a real challenge.
Note: John Grant is still a huge fan of the game. He continues to contribute in his role as a Member of the Board of Directors with the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers of Major Lacrosse Series.
John Grant – OLA Career Statistics
REGULAR SEASON PLAYOFFS
YEAR TEAM LEAGUE GP GO ASS PTS PIM - GP GO ASS PTS PIM
---- ------------ ------ -- -- --- --- --- - -- -- --- --- ---
1968 HASTINGS SENIOR A 1 0 0 0 0 - STATS UNAVAILABLE
1969 CAMPBELLFORD JUNIOR B & - 22 48 70 21 - XX 2 9 11 4
1970 PETERBOROUGH JUNIOR A - 5 12 17 6 - DID NOT PLAY
1970 PETERBOROUGH JUNIOR A 25 35 65 100 49 - 3 9 5 14 4
1970 PETERBOROUGH SENIOR A 2 2 4 6 0 - DID NOT PLAY
1971 PETERBOROUGH JUNIOR A 18 18 56 74 30 - 14 11 22 33 42
1971 PETERBOROUGH SENIOR A DID NOT PLAY - 2 1 0 1 0
1972 PETERBOROUGH JUNIOR A 27 35 71 106 45 - 19 23 53 76 8
1973 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 12 10 27 37 10 - 11 14 15 29 25
1974 PHILADELPHIA NLL PRO 39 78 105 183 26 - 12 24 26 50 4
1975 PHILADELPHIA NLL PRO 47 64 134 198 52 - DID NOT PLAY
1978 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 2 0 3 3 0 - DID NOT PLAY
1979 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 9 9 21 30 0 - 13 13 23 36 6
1980 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 15 16 27 43 71 - 11 9 33 42 6
1982 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 15 19 23 42 6 - 14 10 22 32 2
1983 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 18 15 56 71 6 - 14 11 27 38 6
1984 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 19 17 55 72 4 - 12 12 21 33 4
1986 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 8 7 15 22 2 - 10 7 12 19 0
1988 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 1 1 2 3 0 - 4 3 5 8 0
1989 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 13 7 31 38 10 - 4 1 7 8 0
1990 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 1 0 0 0 0 - DID NOT PLAY
1992 PETERBOROUGH MAJOR 2 0 3 3 2 - DID NOT PLAY
---- ------------ ---------- -- --- --- --- --- - -- -- --- --- ---
PRO/MAJOR/SENIOR TOTALS 204 245 506 751 189 -107 105 191 296 53
JUNIOR A TOTALS 70 93 204 297 130 - 36 43 80 113 54
1969 - STATISTICS ACCUMULATED IN O.L.A. JUNIOR B WITH CAMPBELLFORD
NOT INCLUDED IN FINAL STATISTICS
1969 - 6TH IN SCORING IN O.L.A. JUNIOR B CENTRAL DIVISION
1972 - MEMBER OF MINTO CUP WINNING PETERBOROUGH TEAM
1972 - 8TH IN SCORING IN O.L.A. JUNIOR A SERIES
1972 - JIM McCONAGHY MEMORIAL CUP WINNER AS M.V.P. IN MINTO CUP
1974 - 4TH IN SCORING IN PRO SERIES
1974 - SECOND ALL-STAR CENTRE IN PRO LACROSSE SERIES
1975 - 6TH IN SCORING IN PRO LACROSSE SERIES
1975 - SECOND ALL-STAR CENTRE IN PRO LACROSSE SERIES
1983 - 9TH IN SCORING IN O.L.A. MAJOR LACROSSE SERIES
1973, 1982, 1984 - MEMBER OF MANN CUP WINNING PETERBOROUGH TEAM
1984 - MIKE KELLEY MEMORIAL TROPHY AS M.V.P. IN MANN CUP