Former Rock coach dies

Jim Veltman puts an arm around ailing coach Les Bartley during a pre-game ceremony last year....

Jim Veltman puts an arm around ailing coach Les Bartley during a pre-game ceremony last year. Bartley lost his battle with cancer on Sunday, one day after the Rock won the NLL championship against the Arizona Sting. (Toronto Sun File Photo/Dennis Miles)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Less than 24 hours after the team he built won its fifth National Lacrosse League championship, long-time Toronto Rock coach Les Bartley succumbed to colon cancer.

The St. Catharines resident died at home yesterday.

He was 51. The family is holding a private service today in St. Catharines.

"We prepared for this as best as we could over the past week," Rock president Brad Watters said.

Watters had the unenviable task of informing the Rock that Bartley's health was very poor when he spoke to the team on Wednesday -- the Rock's final practice before a 19-13 win over the Arizona Sting Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.

"The nice thing is he hung in there (for the final) and hopefully in some state realized we won the championship. Les was an inspiration in the way he put up his fight," Watters said.

Bartley did, in fact, watch the NLL final on television Saturday. He is survived by his wife, Gloria, and his two children, Matt and Laura.

"There is incredible peace in Gloria's voice. His pain is done," said Jarrett Harris, the founder of Les's Fund, which raised $40,000 to fight cancer in the past year.

SEVEN CHAMPIONSHIPS

"She is an incredible and strong woman. It is poetic that (Bartley) passed away the day after (the Rock) won a championship.

"He held on for that."

Bartley won seven championships -- three with the Buffalo Bandits and four with the Rock -- in 12 NLL seasons.

Before the final Saturday, the Rock put up a stick in its dressing room and each player wrote his name and the person to whom he was dedicating the game. Bartley's name was written more than a few times.

"You're so pissed off that a disease could come in and do this ... it's not right," Rock general manager/coach Terry Sanderson said.

Months after winning his fourth championship in five years with the Rock in 2003 in Rochester, Bartley was diagnosed with cancer. That championship was the final NLL game he coached.

"Use the word class," Rock defender Glenn Clark said when asked to describe Bartley. "He gave more than he took."

Bartley, a United Auto Workers contract negotiator, helped the league form a new collective bargaining agreement this season and was named NLL executive of the year last week.

"He probably had the single-most impact (on the league) of one person," NLL commissioner Jim Jennings said. "That is not a stretch at all."


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