Roadrunner McVie ‘Toughening Up’

by Frank Gianelli

Tommy McVie was tough as jerky starring with the Phoenix Roadrunner hockey team last season.

He could come back next season hardened as a manganese truss.

Because McVie is spending the summer playing box lacrosse—a game as rough as hockey, though not so speedy, and he figures conditioning will enhance his ice prowess.

“Bozo,” as his teammates dub him because of his perpetual club-jester role, is starting for the Portland Adanacs (Canada spelled backward).

And he’s having a whale of a season in the National Lacrosse Association that includes the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Olympics, Montreal Canadiens, Peterborough Lakers, Vancouver Carlings, Victoria Shamrocks and –get this: the New Westminster Salmonbellies.

“It’s been three years since I played lacrosse,” said McVie, who’s played the game professionally 10 years and at one time ranked among the top four or five stats in the game.

“Funny, I had my best hockey years after lacrosse seasons, and I think the reasons were that my reflexes were sharp from lacrosse and I came into hockey with my body toughened up from getting checked all over.  I tell you—lacrosse keeps you in shape.”

Except that it’s all running instead of skating, box lacrosse and hockey have much in common.  The game is played in iceless rinks and combines the playmaking of basketball with the roughness of football and the speed of track meets. A team consists of a goalie, two defensemen, three forwards.

The India rubber ball is hard as a hockey puck and comes off the racquet (crosse) at 100 m.p.h. which makes the goalie’s job hazardous as that of hockey’s netminders.

“That ball doesn’t cut you as a puck does…it flattens you, knocks you cold,” McVie said.  and imagine what the goalie faces when the guys can come to within 10 feet and fire away…”

Word from Portland doesn’t indicate whether McVie shakes an enemy goalie’s hand when he scored—as he once did to the delight of hockey patrons in Portland.

His most famous incident occurred some years back in a Portland-Los Angeles game when McVie was with the Buckaroos.  He became the only player in professional history to draw a misconduct penalty for skating too fast.

Buckaroo coach Hal Laycoe was disputing a ruling of referee Lloyd Gilmour and sent McVie to protest.  Instead of skating normally, McVie raced for Gilmour at top speed, braked to a stop and kicked up snow.  He then raced back the same way with Gilmour’s answer.

It went back and forth—McVie to Laycoe, back to Gilmour—all at top speed.  Everybody but Gilmour thought it hilarious.  Finally the ref whistled McVie to the penalty box for 10 minutes “misconduct.”

But funny-man Tommy had the last laugh.  He raced for the penalty box—at top speed, too, fell in a heap over the boards and disappeared.

Lacrosse this summer may make McVie a tougher combatant.

Nothing could make him funnier.

(Arizona Republic, July 20, 1968)

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