by Curt Garfield…..
Before the National Lacrosse League came along last year Joe McCrea was a banker. But certainly not your average, run of the mill banker. Three nights a week he would jump in his car and drive the 90 miles from his home in Kitchener, Ontario to Owen Sound to play or practice with that town’s entry in the Eastern Canada Senior League, where he scored more than 80 points in his final 24-game season.
So it was only natural that when the hustling forward was given the choice between pro lacrosse and the secure world of high finance, lacrosse and the Boston Bolts came out the big winner. McCrea, a hustling attacker whose strong suit is running and working for the close, sure shot, quickly attracted the attention of Jim Bishop, then coach of the Toronto Tomahawks, who was looking for just that type of player to complement this club’s fast breaking style. “You had to run for Bishop,” says McCrea.
“Everybody had to run or they’d be watching.”
The running paid off. McCrea scored 30 goals and added 18 assists in the first 20 games of the season before being sidelined the rest of the way with an injury. In the process he connected on an amazing 47.6 percent of his shots. He’ s starting out his first season in Boston the same way. He led the club in goals scoring over the first month of the season with 22 which in- cluded a five-goal performance against the Philadelphia Wings at Boston Garden. McCrea readily admits that he is no wizard with a stick as compared with some of the NLL’s scoring aces, so he more than makes up for that deficiency with hustle and speed. “I’m not a long ball shooter because I have a deep pocket in my stick to control the ball,” he points out. “Most of my goals come from in around the crease.’
McCrea runs on a line built for speed with Larry Bell and Stan Cox on defense and Jim Quigg and Duffy McCarthy joining him up front.
Unfortunately nagging injuries to Bell and Quigg have kept the unit from playing at its utmost capability for the early part of the season. ‘ ‘It’s too bad things aren’t going better, ” says McCrea. “But it will come back. We beat the two fastest clubs in the league in their own rinks to start the season. “We can play like that all the time. There’s no way we won’t be in playoffs.” Staying in condition to go full gun for 60 minutes two or three times a week is a never-ending struggle which McCrea wages both summer and winter.
During the off-season he plays hockey five times a week, works with weights and plays squash to develop speed and reaction. He also runs every day. “I just hate sitting around doing nothing,” he says. The mustachioed forward wasn’t exactly born with a lacrosse stick in his cradle, but he’s no stranger to the box either, having been involved in organized competition for 15 of his 28 years. “I guess I got started like most kids do,” he said. “Somebody came around looking for some kids to play. In Canada they have junior prog- rams from Tyke on up just like hockey.” McCrea eventually wound up in the Eastern Canada Senior League with Owen Sound. In 1971 he sparked his team to the Eastern Canada finals against Windsor before a standing room only crowd of 5500 people. One of the benefits of McCrea ‘s hustling, run- ning style is clean crisp play. He spent only six minutes in the penalty box last year. ‘ ‘When you’re running there won’t be any violence,” he points out. “It’s when you slow things down that people start pushing and slashing. ‘ ‘The players don’t like to think of the game as a violent one. There’s a lot of basketball in it. The odd-man plays, picks and screens are what make things happen.” Men on the run like Joe McCrea make things happen too. Count on him to stash away many more goals in his bank account before Nation’s Trophy playoff time this fall.