Lacrosse is a seductive game, an obsession that draws the afflicted back to the boxla wars like a siren’s call.
Les Wingrove is an addict to the sport.
“I’ve said I’m going to retire from the game a number of times and, instead, I keep coming back for some reason,” he says with a shake of his head.
Les dislikes the league infighting; he enjoys wandering through back wood trails; he delights in lounging around his backyard pool with his granddaughter, and he must pay more attention to his personal well-being — all good reasons to stay retired.
He remains immersed in the past, present and future fortunes of the Coquitlam Adanacs senior box lacrosse team.
Born January 29, 1944, in Winnipeg, Les was a mere two years of age when his family moved to Port Coquitlam, settling across the street from the outdoor Rowland Box. It was a solid menu of lacrosse and baseball through childhood until, at the age of 17, he joined the navy for a five-year stint.
In the early 1970’s — now out of the navy, married, and a father of two small boys — Les wandered up to the Coquitlam Arena to watch his oldest son play a Tyke game.
“I got so engrossed in the game that my two-year-old boy wandered off without me noticing,” chuckled Wingrove. “Oh, we found him wandering home. The thing is, though, I fell in love with the game all over again. Soon, a guy named Frank heard I used to play and asked me to help out. I said ‘Okay’ and suddenly I was a coach.”
Over the next dozen years. Wingrove coached seven teams, between Tyke and Midget, to provincial titles. He also squeezed in two years as president of the Coquitlam Minor Association, seven years as a referee and several seasons organizing or helping to put on B.C. championship tournaments.
In 1979, he joined the Coquitlam junior lacrosse franchise in positions of coach (1985-1988), general manager (1979-1984) and president (1979). After guiding the junior squad to the Minto Cup finals in 1986 and 1988, Les made his first declaration of retirement.
The sabbatical lasted all but a few weeks before he was lured into the senior Coquitlam Adanacs’ fold as general manager and, on and off, as coach.
Times were tough, the club wallowing in financial red tape and player retirements; however, president , coach and GM Wingrove took the team from the edge of oblivion to the 1993 Mann Cup finals.
Backroom politics drove a bitter Wingrove to the sidelines following the 1994 season, leaving him the leisure time he could enjoy with the family, his hobbies and his love of hiking through wooded trails far from the annoying telephone calls.
Anger fades with time, affaire d’amour lives on forever.
In 1997, when the Adanacs needed someone to fill in as pro tem manager, Les answered the call. Then, when coach Wilfong was suspended during the playoffs, Les took on this added chore. Snagged, hook, line and sinker. The following season, Les wore both the coach and manager’s hats, skippering Coquitlam to another Mann Cup final and to WLA finals in 1999 and 2000.
Les surrendered the coaching reins in 2001 to in order to concentrate fully on his ever-pressing GM duties. The new partnership triumphed into the first Mann Cup national championship for the Coquitlam Adanacs.
Top of the world: What a wonderful time to call it a day. Now it was time to bask in the glow of a Canadian championship. Les submitted his resignation, although he agreed to continue handling club business until a replacement could be found. A short time later, as if to emphasize the need to slow down his hectic pace. Les suffered a mild heart attack.
The addictive need to stay with his beloved team remained a yoke around his neck. Much of the menial chores of a GM were taken over by others on the club executive but the famous Wingrove wheeling-and-dealing continued in the quest of a Mann Cup repeat.
Wingrove’s tireless endeavors have won him numerous honours: 1976 Tom Gordon Plaque, the BCLA’s top award as “Mr. Lacrosse;” 1993 Hugh Gifford Award as the BCLA Manager of the Year; 1986 and 1998 — John Cavallin Award, the BCLA Coach of the Years; 1988 — Coach of the Year in the B.C. Junior League; and 1993 Hugh Gifford Award as the BCLA Manager of the Year.
However, Wingrove counts his rewards in different terms — a happy, 35-year marriage to Joanne; two sons, Trevor and Craig, who both moved through the Coquitlam minor lacrosse system to the senior level; a granddaughter he dotes on and another newborn grandchild, and the steady stream of personal visits, telephone calls and E-mail from current and past players.
“It’s all about the kids,” Wingrove reflected. “I’ve always enjoyed a close attachment to the players. I guess that’s why I keep coming back. I’m too busy in life but too hooked on lacrosse.”