One on One - "A Life of Commitment to Lacrosse – Dean McLeod"
Born in Brampton, Ontario in 1945 -- Dean McLeod has been involved in lacrosse at virtually every position possible within the Brampton lacrosse community. He has held countless roles at the Minor, Junior and Senior levels of Brampton lacrosse. This includes being the General Manager of Mann Cup championship teams.
In 1982 however - Dean McLeod took on a role in lacrosse that would benefit the entire Ontario lacrosse universe when he became Commissioner of the Ontario Lacrosse Association Junior “A” League – a position he would hold for over three and a half decades. At the end of the 2018 Ontario lacrosse season, Dean McLeod, Commissioner of the Ontario Junior “A” Lacrosse League officially announced his retirement ending a 37 year reign as the Commissioner.
While in his role as the Commissioner, Dean McLeod continued his involvement with the Ontario Lacrosse and Canadian Lacrosse community, earning numerous awards and accolades for his dedication to the game.
Mr. McLeod has been a mentor to many others in the lacrosse world. If you have had the opportunity to meet Dean McLeod, you will likely remember it. Dean McLeod is strong willed and leaves no question to his opinion on any subject being discussed. He has done so much for the development and progress of the OLA Junior “A” Lacrosse League.
Time Line of Dean McLeod’s Commitment to Lacrosse
1967 - Brampton Excelsiors Junior "B" Statistician
1968 – Brampton Junior “B” General Manager
1967- 1998 - Brampton Excelsiors Junior "A" General Manager
1968 – 2018 - Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club Board of Directors Member
1979 – 1981 - Brampton Excelsiors Major Series Lacrosse General Manager
1982 – 2018 - Ontario Junior "A" Lacrosse League Commissioner
1985 - 1986 - Canadian Lacrosse Association Vice President
1985 – 1997 - Brampton Excelsiors MLA - Board of Directors Member
1988 - Canadian U-19 Field Lacrosse National Team General Manager
1989 – 2018 - Canadian Lacrosse Association Box Sector Committee Member
1992 – 1993 - Brampton Excelsiors Major Series Lacrosse General Manager
2004 - ongoing Canadian Lacrosse HOF Eastern Selection Committee Member
2004 -2018 - Ontario Lacrosse Association Audit Committee Member
2007 -2018 - Ontario Lacrosse Life Membership Committee Chairperson
Summary of Individual Awards: Dean McLeod
1985 - Ontario Lacrosse Association: Mr. Lacrosse Award
1989 - Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club: Life Membership
1990 - Ontario Lacrosse Association: President's Award (20 Years of Service)
1991 - Canadian Lacrosse Association Presidents Award
1997 - Inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame (Lacrosse Builder)
1997 – OLA Junior “A” Board of Governors decided to name the OLA Junior “A” Most Valuable Player in the Playoffs as the “Dean McLeod Award”
1998 – Designated Ontario Lacrosse Association Life Membership
1998 – Inducted into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame – Lacrosse Builder
1999 – Inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame – Lacrosse Builder
2012 – Awarded Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – Diamond Jubilee Award
2017 – Awarded OLA – Golden Stick Award (50 years of Service)
(This interview with Dean McLeod took place in the home of Mr. McLeod and his wife Mary in the month March of 2019).
1. Please confirm when you took over the position of Junior "A" Commissioner?
2. How and what does it mean to be the Commissioner?
A Commissioner must be the face of his league and have the knowledge and insight to fight for your league and players in it. This requires a Commissioner having to be prepared to represent Ontario Junior “A” lacrosse at the provincial and national levels and be totally unbiased.
i) What is the type of tasks you deal with?
The tasks are numerous and regular. Far too many to site just a few.
3. It seems at times it is a thankless position. You get criticized by the team owners/operators; you get criticized by some fans all the time. Your thoughts and feelings about this are?
Many times, I thought, “What am I doing here.” Most criticism; Brampton/Mimico fiasco where it was impossible to rule on this matter as there were absolutely zero independent witnesses. Without any witnesses Paul Coates and I had nothing to rule on as the courts substantiated.
That aside, I think my major contribution to Junior "A" lacrosse is the development of a Junior "A" Policy Paper, Minto Cup agreement and most importantly making Junior "A" lacrosse a better place for players to play. This has been accomplished after a joint effort from myself and the great Board of Govenors over the years.
4. What is the most important trait that a Commissioner has to develop to survive and thrive in the job?
Prove you are unbiased and can rule with a fair and clear mind.
5. When you took over the possession as Commissioner;
i) What was the state of the league then?
Junior "A" lacrosse was in a state of, everyone was for his own team, no unity.
ii) What do you feel is the state of the league now?
The Junior “A” Board of Governors work for the betterment of the league. In addition, the Entry Draft has finally brought a greater level of balance to the league. Take last year’s playoffs, for the first time - a number 8 eliminates the number 1 and, in my opinion, the winner of the 2-7 series would go to the Minto Cup.
6. Let's talk about Junior "A" lacrosse and the Quality of Play - Your thoughts?
Junior “A” lacrosse today as far as talented players is concerned has never been higher with the skills of the players both offensively, defensively and in goal.
I) In your mind - How good is OLA Junior "A" lacrosse right now?
Better than it has ever been with the total number of highly skilled players on all teams.
ii) Versus caliber of the Western Junior “A" Lacrosse League?
We have the largest number of skilled players than anywhere else in Canada and that is a direct result of the greater number of players we have in minor lacrosse being developed. For British Columbia to stay competitive in the Minto Cup they have rules that don’t restrict the number of player trades that each team can make at the trade deadline as we do. Our restrictions are put in place so wealthy teams cannot buy the high-end fifth year players.
7. With an almost four-decade tenure as Commissioner, there must be some specific highlights and low lights you can share with us. Cite as many examples as you wish.
1. 28 out of 37 Minto Cup wins.
2. The gradual ascension to the close competitiveness of the league now.
3. The number of our lacrosse players who have and will go to the NLL and on to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
1. The sudden death of the late Jack Wilson at a Board of Governors meeting
2. The Brampton/ Mimico pregame incident (A player was charged with assault with a weapon after a fight during the warm-up for a playoff game)
3. The walking out by the referees at the 2018 Minto Cup which was the most disgraceful act I have ever witnessed in lacrosse. This proved to me that the referees had absolutely no respect for the game of lacrosse. Their actions virtually cancelled the Minto Cup. If a team did this there would be severe suspensions to all but for some reason there are no rules in place if the “guardians of the game” does this, refused to take the floor…..and that is what the referees are, once the game begins, “guardians of the game” because the game is in their hands.
8. You are a confident and tenacious person. You are a very experienced and wise man - a lacrosse man who is highly respected. I think it is fair to say you are a fighter for what you believe in and you have made a huge contribution to the game. Given that - If you were to offer advice to others - please discuss life lessons you have learned as Commissioner?
Be fair in your decision making. I hate suspensions, so listen to all parties before handing down a suspension and if a player has never come before you in the past give him a break.
9. I am going to ask you to take off your hat as Commissioner and put on your hat as a lacrosse fan and have some fun in answering the following questions based on the decades of OLA Junior "A" lacrosse you have watched. (If you do want to respond to any of the questions, that is OK).
i) Greatest Junior "A" team(s) you have seen over the years.
Oshawa Green Gaels,
ii) Greatest Junior "A" player(s) you have seen over the years including best offensive player; best defensive player; best goaltender; and best all around player.
Goalie - Matt Vinc
Defensive - Kyle Rubisch, Sid Smith
Offensive - Paul and Gary Gait, Cody Jamieson, Joey Nieuwendyk, Derek Kennan, Sean Evans, both John Grants, Jeff Teat, George Chandler
Best all round - Jim Higgs
iii) Greatest playoff series you have seen over the years.
- 1992 Six Nations/Coquitlam
iv) Your Favorite teams over the years?
Whitby Warriors 84/85, Peterborough Lakers 81/83
v) Your Favourite players over the years?
- Jim Higgs, Joey Nieuwendyk, Doug Evans, Sid Smith,
vi) Toughest Junior "A" lacrosse player you have seen over the years?
vii) Best and/or favourite Coaches you have observed over the years?
Jim Bishop, Mark Vitarelli, Jim Brady
10. I am certain there are people you want to acknowledge and thank. Please elaborate as much as you want.
Lee Vitarelli and Dan Quinlan – two fine lacrosse Builders from Peterborough
All of the great Junior “A” Board of Governor members over the years (far too many to list)
All of Minor lacrosse in developing the tremendous great young players coming into the OLA Junior “A” League. This continued wave of players has kept Ontario Junior “A” lacrosse at the forefront in Canada. Minto Cups in 37 years; 28 wins and 9 losses.
Fellow lacrosse Builders from the Ontario Lacrosse Association - Stan Cockerton and Chuck Miller. We worked together to help grow the game.
Finally, and most importantly my wife Mary and my family for their support. In particular, my wife Mary as she provided direction and reminded me of my priorities. Mary was and is the rock behind our entire family. (Note: Dean McLeod married his high school sweetheart Mary (Cox). They have been a devoted and loving couple for over 60 years.
Editor’s Note: When Dean McLeod took upon the role of Commissioner of the OLA Junior “A” League – his personal objective was to make Junior “A” lacrosse in Ontario the best place for young athletes to play. Clearly, he has been successful in doing so.
With over 50 years of commitment and devotion to lacrosse in Ontario and across Canada, the achievements of Mr. McLeod leave a lasting legacy for lacrosse.
He has held leadership roles across a broad range of the lacrosse community. His devotion, work ethic and focus to Ontario Lacrosse have been exemplary and certainly unequaled at the Junior “A” level.