The Ottawa Titans haven't played a single game, yet the team is already making waves in the lacrosse world. In what is being viewed as nothing short of a coup for the expansion Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League franchise, the Titans announced the hiring of Hall of Famer Peter Vipond as the team's first coach.
The team begins its first season in Ontario's top junior league on May 10 with a road game, and plays its home opener at the Earl Armstrong Arena on May 14.
"Peter is one of the finest coaches that lacrosse has ever produced," said Titans president Rad Joseph. "It certainly helps to explain the excitement in our organization.
Vipond, a native of Whitby who turns 55 next week, brings an outstanding lacrosse resume to Ottawa.
Following an outstanding playing career, he coached the Whitby Warriors, a team that included future NHLers Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk, to the 1984 Minto Cup, the national Junior A championship.
He followed with five senior national Mann Cup titles with the Brooklin Redmen between 1985 and 2000.
Vipond is considered the most successful top-level senior coach in the sport's history, with a record of 322-149-6 over a 16-year career.
"We see it as the equivalent to getting a coach who has won five Stanley Cup championships," said Joseph.
Vipond, inducted into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in October, also coached New Jersey of the National Lacrosse League.
"He's a teaching coach, and we have in Peter a man who can develop our young talent," said Joseph.
Vipond said his goal is to help build a winning franchise.
BUDDIES WITH KEENAN
"I get kids to work hard. I can do that," he said. "I'm a good guy to play for, but if you don't work hard, then I'm not a good guy to play for because if you don't work hard, then you won't play."
Vipond, who also played pro hockey, is a lifelong friend of Florida Panthers GM Mike Keenan. They were teammates at the peewee and bantam hockey levels in Whitby.
In 1976, they were reunited on the Senior A hockey Whitby Warriors, where Keenan was a player-coach.
Following a practice, Vipond and other teammates convinced Keenan, over beers at the Whitby House Hotel, to apply for the vacant coaching position with Oshawa Legionaries Jr. A hockey team.
"From there, he went to Peterborough (the OHL's Petes) and the rest is history," said Vipond. "We pushed him, because we knew he was a good coach."
As a lacrosse player, Vipond won junior A titles with the Oshawa Green Gaels in three straight years, starting in 1967. In 1969, he was drafted by the California Golden Seals in the draft, and played briefly in the NHL.