Gentleman Jim Meredith has always embraced a fundemental philosophy:
“The person who said winning isn’t everything, never won anything in his life. The only thing at question should be by what means did you win.”
A simple observation of how to live and play, indeed, but one that has carried him through a lifetime of team and individual glory in his chosen sport — lacrosse.
He has excelled at all aspects of the game: his defensive play was outstanding, winning faceoffs priceless, snagging loose balls a snap — all attributes that were often overshadowed by his scoring prowess. And, oh, how he could fill the net, registering six scoring titles in his Junior and Senior years.
Then, following his playing career, his exceptional knowledge of both box and field lacrosse has made him a much sought after coach.
Born August 14, 1959, in Toronto, there was little doubt that lacrosse would be deeply embedded in his future — brother Lloyd, four years his senior, was already playing the game; his father was the Rexdale community’s first minor association president, and his mother founded the association’s women’s auxiliary.
So, at aged four, Jim began playing his first game of organized lacrosse; however, it almost ended the first time he touched the ball. It seems that he was unceremoniously dumped into the boards, suffering a concussion. No matter! Lacrosse players being what they are, he was undeterred by such a minor setback.
Just before his ninth birthday, already with three provincial team titles under his belt, Jim moved with his family to Huntsville. Now, the Ontario community had a fantastic lacrosse history but, at that time, the game was in a funk. Each division barely had enough players for one team; therefore, the clubs often played against “A” clubs during the season but, based on the low enrolment, were permitted to challenge the provincial championships at the “B” and “C” levels.
Such was the case in 1971 when Huntsville went to the Canadian Peewee championships in New Westminster and walked away with the “B” division title with five impressive victories. Oh, yes, Meredith led all scorers with 35 points.
“We were billeted with the flew Westminster team,” Jim later recalled, “and that’s when I heard how good was. I had seen him fooling around with a stick, but I didn’t know of his reputation -he was just (teammates) Jordi and Jon’s dad.”
The next two seasons saw Huntsville win provincial Bantam titles; then, with not enough players to field a Midget team, Meredith — at the age of 14 — began a seven-year Junior career that saw him capture five scoring titles. A broken collarbone one season and a chronic back injury that required surgery during another undoubtedly hampered him from making that seven out of seven.
Now he was ready to test his skills in Senior company. After discussing his future with both Jack Bionda and his Junior coach , Jim decided to go West to Victoria. In six seasons between 1981 and 1986, he accumulated 581 points, two All-Star ratings, one scoring title, a league MVP award, and a Mann Cup medal in two attempts.
During this period, Meredith also fell in love with the field version of lacrosse, joining the that captured numerous Canadian titles and international tournaments in the United States.
In 1987, Jim and wife Colleen decided to settle down near family in Huntsville. He saw action in the next three Mann Cups, 1987 and 1989 as a member of the Brooklin team and, after playing with Huntsville in the 1988 season, as a Brooklin “pick-up” player. Successful in 1987 and 1988, Jim now had three Mann Cup medals in five tries. He was also the co-winner of the Mike Kelly Award as the Mann Cup MVP in 1987.
After the 1989 season, Jim left the box game to concentrate on his playing commitment to the Canadian field lacrosse team that captured a silver medal in the World Championships in Perth, Australia, in 1990. His efforts then went into coaching, successfully guiding Huntsville Hawks to the Founders Cup title in 1991.
He continued coaching but the “Call of the Wild” seduced him back in 1991 to play with Brantford of the short-lived National Lacrosse League winter pro league, again with Detroit Turbos of the MILL in 1993 and, finally, with Brooklin in 1995.
“I was an assistant coach with Brooklin in 1995 and, halfway through the season, we were a few players short,” Jim explains, “so I ended up dressing for the rest of the season.”
Finally, a torn ACL that required surgery persuaded Meredith to retire permanently to coaching and the occasional Oldtimers’ game. He had racked up another 552 OLA points to bring his senior career record to an outstanding 1,133 points on 420 goals and 613 assists in 331 games.
His illustrious playing career was studded with gold, an incredible picture postcard of high achievement. From Peewee to Senior, Jim has participated in 12 Canadian championships, winning eight times, and a World Field tourney.
Over the years, Jim was coached by the likes of , , , , , , and . The lessons of strong work ethics, conditioning, stick skills and self discipline they taught Jim are being passed to others. Besides coaching a Junior team to the Founders Cup and a stint as assistant coach in Brooklin, Jim was an assistant coach with the bronze medal-winning Canadian team at the 1994 World Field championships and has assisted coaching in the pro National Lacrosse League, two years in Buffalo and one in Calgary.
Now, with four youngsters aged four to 12, Jim stays closer to home, conducting clinics and coaching youngsters in Huntsville.
Looking back, Jim fondly recalls four moments that stand out in his lacrosse life — being a member of two National field lacrosse teams, coaching a Huntsville team to the Founders Cup, winning the MVP in the 1987 Mann Cup series and, oddly, one of his 420 senior goals.
It was August 20, 1983 — Victoria was near elimination in a semi-final game against New Westminster when Jim managed to score a powerplay goal with 11 minutes remaining in the overtime period to tie the game at 11. But wait, that’s not the marker he savours. Twenty-one seconds into the second, sudden-death overtime period, Jim scored the winning goal. Victoria then went on to defeat Vancouver for the WLA title and Peterborough for the Mann Cup.
After Huntsville’s victory in the 1991 Founders Cup, a local newspaper gushed:
“We think they played and acted like winners. ‘Champions’ is a fitting title to bestow on this group, not because they won, but because they acted like winners.”
The same could be said about Jim Meredith.