"One on One" - Coach Peter Vipond – A Candid Interview
Born in Oshawa Ontario in 1949, Peter Vipond attended public school in Brooklin, followed up with high school in Whitby. He grew up in a sports minded family. His father is Luther Vipond who was an athlete, coach, manager, executive, sponsor and community builder for decades in Brooklin. The arena in Brooklin is named the “Luther Vipond Arena” in honour of the tremendous contributions Luther Vipond made to the Brooklin community for over five decades.
With such family roots - not surprisingly, as a youngster, Peter played minor hockey and lacrosse in Brooklin.
Peter’s lacrosse career as a player included playing for the legendary Oshawa Green Gaels. Peter was a member of the 1967, 1968, and 1969 Minto Cup Champions. He was the captain of the 1969 team. To be the captain of a Jim Bishop coached team says plenty about one’s character.
At the same time, Peter Vipond’s hockey career had him playing Junior “A” with the Oshawa Generals in the late 1960s. Drafted by the Oakland Seals, Peter was the 76th overall pick into the National Hockey League amateur draft in 1969. Peter’s five-year career as a professional hockey player had him skating for the Nelson Maple Leafs of the Western Hockey League from 1969 to 1971. In 1970, he was a roster import for the Allan Cup champion Spokane Jets. In 1971, he played for the Columbus Seals of the International Hockey League. The following year, he joined the Salt Lake City Eagles of the Western Hockey League. During the 1972-73 season, Peter was a call up for the NHL California Golden Seals. In addition, Peter played for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League in 1973-74.
Returning to Brooklin after choosing to end his professional hockey career - Peter eventually took up coaching lacrosse. In 1978 he became the Head Coach of the Brooklin Redmen of the OLA Senior “A” Lacrosse league.
Known for his innovative coaching style and great interpersonal motivating skills, Peter coached the Brooklin Redmen to five Mann Cup championships in 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990 and 2000. During their reign in the late 1980’s, the Brooklin Redmen dominated Major Series lacrosse in Ontario appearing in seven straight Mann Cup series. This included a winning streak of 84 consecutive wins from 1986 to 1989. The Redmen were an explosive team using a fast break run and gun brand of lacrosse accompanied by hard tough defense.
Upon his retirement from coaching Brooklin, Peter Vipond was the winningest coach in Major Series Lacrosse history with a stellar record of 322 wins, 149 losses and 6 ties for a .681 winning percentage.
Pete Vipond also coached OLA Junior “A”, coaching the Oshawa Green Gaels in 1981 (He actually replaced his coaching mentor Jim Bishop). Success was eventual as Vipond won a Minto Cup with Whitby in 1984.
Along the way of his coaching career, Peter Vipond was also an assistant coach with New Jersey in 2003 and Anaheim in 2004 of the NLL.
Unexpectedly, in 2005, Peter Vipond was convinced to take on the challenge of coaching the expansion Junior “A” Ottawa Titans. During his two seasons with the Titans, Vipond guided the team to playoff berths in both seasons. Peter Vipond’s contribution to the development of lacrosse in Ottawa is still evident as many of the players he coached (think Kyle Buchanan of the Peterborough Lakers) and coaches he mentored (think Greg Kent) in Ottawa), continue to give back to lacrosse.
Peter Vipond spent a lifetime involved in lacrosse. He was an accomplished player and immensely successful coach. Deservedly, he has been inducted into four Sports Hall of Fame.
Inducted into the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame in 1992
Inducted into the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame in 2003
Inducted into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2004
Inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2006.
Note to Reader:
This “One on One” interview with Coach Peter Vipond took place at the end ofthe 2005 lacrosse season, the inaugural season of the Ottawa Titans Junior “A” lacrosse team. This is the first time the interview has appeared publicly.
What does lacrosse mean to you?
I just love the game. It is such a great sport with so much to offer to the fan to watch and the player involved. It has skill, speed, toughness and end to end action. And I think playing lacrosse is beneficial to athletes who also play hockey. Besides the conditioning factor, lacrosse requires you to be a quick thinker and you have to improvise and make decisions in a split second. With no offside or icing, lacrosse requires a player to be mentally sharp and that skill carries over to other sports, particularly hockey. I don’t understand the parents of young aspiring hockey players who don’t involve their kids in lacrosse as they are holding back their development as an athlete.
Well, it may be a bit of a cliché answer, but my Dad. He was a hard-working man who to support his family was a miner in Sudbury for a time Eventually, he returned to Brooklin where he operated a farm. Dad was a World War II veteran and he landed at the beaches on D-Day. My Dad was a sports fanatic and he was an integral part of the sports community of Brooklin being heavily involved in lacrosse and hockey. And I have to also mention Jim Bishop and my experience with him and the Oshawa Green Gaels.
Which person taught you the most in regards to lacrosse?
Jim Bishop – both as a player and a coach – I learned the most from him. My whole philosophy as a coach revolves around three things and I learned them from Jim Bishop. You must have a good work ethic. You don’t make excuses. And you have to listen. These three combine to make a player of character and Bishop taught me this.
Who is the toughest team your Brooklin Redmen teams played against?
New Westminster Salmonbellies in the 1985 Mann Cup. They were big and tough. (Editor’s Note: New West won Games 1,2, and 3 by scores of 7-5, 9-8, 7-6. Brooklin won the series with four consecutive wins of scores 7-6, 7-5, 9-5 and 6-5.
Who is the best coach you ever coached against and the opposition coach you respect the most?
That is a tough question to answer. Mark Vitarelli from Peterborough who I coached against in both Junior “A” and Major Series lacrosse. Mark has tremendous intensity and his teams are well prepared and disciplined. And I also have to mention Terry Sanderson from Brampton as we go way back as opponents and have a long-time rivalry.
Who is the best player you ever coached?
In Major Series Lacrosse – John Fusco with Brooklin. John was the total package. He was skilled, tough and a real leader.
In Junior “A” lacrosse when I coached the Oshawa Green Gaels, I would go with Derek Keenan. He was very skilled, a real competitor.
Who is the toughest player you ever coached?
Without question – Scott McMichael.
Name Pete Vipond’s personal All-Star team
Wayne Colley in nets – he was a ball stopper and a thrower – he could do both. John Fusco, whom I have already spoken about. Gary Gait who is super talented. Glenn Clark – just a tremendous leader. Scott McMichael to keep the other team honest. And a player whose name may surprise a lot of people – Dale Kernohan. Although he didn’t play many years of Major Series lacrosse, he was a really good player. (Editors Note: Dale Kernohan won a Minto Cup in 1984 with Whitby and three Mann Cups with Brooklin – 1985, 1987, 1988 – teams all coached by Pete Vipond).
How did you get started coaching in lacrosse?
I played in Brooklin in mid to late ‘70s. I just grew tired of playing. No one seemed to want to coach. So, in 1978, I stepped up and started coaching the Brooklin Redmen.
With no previous coaching experience, you took over coaching
That is correct. I started coaching at the Major Series level. It was my first position as a Head Coach.
When did you realize, I can coach?
The very first season. I knew I had earned the player’s respect. They gave me positive feedback. I could see the team improving and coaching was part of it.
Talk about Major Series Lacrosse vs. Junior A” Lacrosse
I think today in Major Series, you have to deal with too much with player’s egos which takes away the fun aspect of coaching It wasn’t like that before the NLL. In Junior “A”, the kids are just full of enthusiasm. The players listen, they want to improve, they are very coachable. Before taking on the coaching position in Ottawa, I had last coached Junior “A” in 1984 when we won a Minto Cup with Whitby. I tell everyone who listens, I had a ball coaching in Ottawa. I had forgotten how much fun it was to be around young players. It was just super.
Your thoughts on Major Series Lacrosse vs. the National Lacrosse League?
I think Major Series is tougher than the NLL, even though the NLL looks rougher. Major Series is a little bit of a different game and I think it is tougher.
What is the number one factor that motivates you in lacrosse?
It is a game I grew up playing. I had a lacrosse stick in my hands since I was 5 or 6 years old. I remember when I was 8 or 9 years old shooting the ball around the Brooklin Arena after the Brooklin Redmen finished practice. It’s a great game. Just a fun game to be around.
What is it that made you the great coach you are?
I think one of my greatest abilities is I earn my players’ respect. And it’s not hard to play for me. I use a basic style of play. If you have a good work ethic, you don’t make excuses and you listen – we will get along just fine.
The one player you would definitely want on your team?
The toughest series – win or lose – you ever experienced?
Again, I have to refer to the 1985 Mann Cup against New Westminster Salmonbellies. We were down 3-0 in the series and came back to win the series in 7 games. The score of the last game was 6-5. We beat a big tough team on the road. It was an absolutely awesome series.(Editor’s Note: Brooklin defeated New Westminster again in the 1987 Mann Cup in a series that also went 7 games with the Redmen winning the final game 9-8).
What’s with Pete Vipond – the winningest coach in Major Series Lacrosse history -ending up in Ottawa – coaching an expansion Junior “A” team. How and why did this happen?
I was approached about coaching this expansion team in Ottawa. I had taken a leave of absence from lacrosse. I thought coaching at the Junior level might be fun. I knew taking on a first-year team would certainly be a challenge. And believe me, it was absolutely the right decision. I had so much fun in Ottawa. There was a great group of young players, a very professionally run organization, with a knowledgeable fans who support their team. (Editor’s Note: Pete Vipond won OLA Junior “A” Coaching Staff of the year in 2005 This is in addition to the five times he won OLA Major Series Coach of the Year).
Why is Pete Vipond not in the National Lacrosse League?
No idea and I may not be the right person to answer that question.
Should you be coaching in the NLL – Are you capable?
I am capable.
Would you coach in the NLL if the opportunity arose?
To many lacrosse observers, it does not make sense that you are not in the NLL. You must have some thoughts as to why?
Maybe because I stepped away from the game for awhile and I fell off the radar screen. I had been an assistant coach in the NLL with the New Jersey in 2003 and Anaheim in 2004. But I believe I am capable of taking on more. Without sounding like I am bragging, I am a great bench coach But, I also know how to assess talent, how to build an organization. I believe I could be an NLL General Manager. I have been a GM for 17 years of an Ontario Provincial Junior “A” hockey team. With the Mann Cup Brooklin teams, I was hands-on. I not only coached, but helped to assemble the team. Now that I am back actively involved in lacrosse, I would welcome the challenge of being in the NLL as a GM and/or Coach.
OK, I hire you as my General Manager to run my NLL team – What should I expect?
Give me 3 years and I will build you a contending team – perhaps, a championship team. But you cannot interfere with the hands-on operation of the team. Certainly, you may offer advice, but my experience shows I know how to assemble a winning team. Give me the independence necessary to build a winning organization and I will.
What do your Brooklin roots mean to you?
The Brooklin Redmen logo is tattooed on the left side of my chest. And on the right side is the Green Gaels logo.
Any regrets over the years?