NLSA Molson Challenge Cup

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

DUNPHY'S CORNER : Tribute to a Laurentian Legend – Al Slaney

Tribute to a Laurentian Legend – Al Slaney
Gord Dunphy

Have you ever tried to write while you are holding your emotions about a lifelong friend who has just lost his battle for life because of cancer? I can honestly say folks, “It’s not easy”. I’ve know Al Slaney my entire life. I went to school with him as a young boy. I played soccer with Al when he first started playing as a center-back in the days of Pee-Wee and Bantam.  I personally fought with Al when we played meadow ball. He was the guy on the Slaney’s Lane team and I was the mancho guy on the Bottom team.  Although somewhere along the way I went ahead of Al in school, I believe it was because he didn’t pass a religion course. Maybe it was because on a Sunday mornings, Al would say,”Make sure you bring me or my brother Jed out a church bulletin so Mom would think we attended Sunday Mass.  Yes, he was a young devil-skin but a very nice guy who had the personality that would want the boys to drink with him and there was that certain element about him that would charm the other gender. However, when it came to sports or any type of competition, soccer, basketball or floor hockey,  Al was one of was the best. Even when there was a game where you would play with numbers, he was simply outstanding. After Al finished up at the minor level he then went on to play high school and divisional soccer where he took to the net, and that’s where he super excelled. He had great hands and super co-ordination. I feel because of Al’s super level of intelligence he became the first goalie in Newfoundland that would be the teams general. He directed and controlled the game as had never been witnessed in the history of Newfoundland soccer. He went on to become a brilliant goalie, being named regularly to Newfoundland All-Star Teams and eventually received a try-out with the Canadian National Team.  He was the goalie that directed Newfoundland to a 1974 National Under -18 Championship and became the #1 goalie for the NL Canada Games team in ‘77. During the 70’s Al directed the Laurentians to two National Challenge Cup Silver Medals and he was instrumental in the Laurentians being named ‘70’s – Team of the Decade. He is a member of the SLSA, BPSA and NLSA Hall of Fames. Three years ago the NLSA named the All-Star goalie award the  “Al Slaney Award” and sadly today it will now be recognized as the “Al Slaney Memorial Award”.

The town of St.Lawrence, NL Soccer
the Laurentians mourn Al Slaney’s Passing

Today, there is a sombre feeling in the town of St. Lawrence. For the past three weeks the community has been dealing with the emotions surrounding the Cortney Lake “Missing Person” file and now to be dealt another blow with the passing of a soccer legend... it’s not easy.  Today, I reached out to some Laurentians along with a few others and got them to express their feelings about Al’s passing.
 Hubert Beck: Current President of St. Lawrence Soccer Association: Our soccer family in St. Lawrence are hurting today. How can anyone in NL discuss soccer goaltenders and not bring up the name Al Slaney? He gave Laurentian fans lots to cheer about over his career between the posts. He was the best at stopping shots, before they were ever taken, by acting as a sweeper and taking away potential threats. He turned goaltending into an art.  He often spoke of his love for family, and his friends were important to him. He gave a new meaning to “that guy can light up a room ". Stories of Al's goal-tending skills and friendship will be told for many, many years to come.  RIP Big Guy!
Len Slaney: Former Executive Member of SLSA:  The St. Lawrence Laurentians and the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association are mourning the loss of the greatest goalie in their history - Al Slaney. When I coached Al in Minor Soccer, he was such a versatile player that he excelled at every position he played. During a provincial minor tournament, Al was force to play in goal. The rest is history. From the early 1970's Al was spectacular in goal for Provincial All-Star teams, Canada Games teams and his beloved St. Lawrence Laurentians. His acrobatic body movement, his leadership and his skill set for a goal keeper along with his many accomplishments are the reasons why Al is a member of three soccer Halls of Fame - The St. Lawrence Laurentians, the Burin Peninsula Soccer Association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association.  Sue and I offer our deepest condolences and prayers to Al's immediate family, his extended family and also to his soccer fraternity. May he rest-in-peace. God bless!
Keith Farrell:  Laurentian Captain  -1970’s :   Last weekend, while sitting on the bleachers at the Centennial Field in St Lawrence, I was asked, ‘’Who was the best goalie you have ever seen play in Newfoundland soccer?”  I responded, “Without any doubt & without anyone else being close, it was Al Slaney”! On numerous occasions in the past number of years, I overheard fans and former soccer players throughout the province compare other goalies to Al, “He was that good”!   Al Slaney as a goalie was aggressive, cool under pressure, very much a team player, had a very calming effect on his team-mates, controlled the entire backend of the field, was respected by his opponents, and had incredible athletic ability. Al was and still is one of the most recognizable soccer players in NL. He was a great and trustworthy team-mate and a great trustworthy friend and a soccer icon! Al Slaney’s family, St Lawrence Soccer and NL soccer just lost one of the BEST!   
Wills Molloy: Newfoundland’s  Best Soccer Player Of All Time.   As a player, Al was a remarkable athlete.....not only as a soccer player, but in all other sports. To me, he was the best soccer goalie in the province.  He once told me, "Wils, you score the goals, and I'll stop them".. that I never forgot. He was  as a guy who simply wanted to win....losing was not part of his game.  As a player he showed us courage, strength and motivation.  His communication to our back line made myself and Keith better players. He was a man who enjoyed life and took full advantage of it. He had a lot of kindness in him, and would give you the shirt off his back.  He enjoyed life to the fullest and will be surely missed by his friends and family.
Jr. Edwards: Al’s team-mate : I consider Al to be the greatest goalie Newfoundland has ever produced.  The fans adored him and he was respected by his teammates and opponents alike. He was always the life of the party and I don't think I ever remember seeing him without that smile. He was the most agile goalie I've seen and could always be counted on to make that big save.  Our 70's team knew that, most times, all we had to do was score one goal and Al would handle the rest. He loved life, was a great friend and will always be remembered as one of the greatest Laurentians of all time. Sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Jim Loder :  Al’s Team-mate : Well, what can I say about Allen Joseph Benedict Bernard Buster Wayne Slaney, lol. Team thing !  Greatest keeper in Canada in the 70"s, a natural born athlete. One of the first keepers to act as a sweeper behind the two center backs, fearless, great in the air and on the ground. He was a true gentleman on and off the field. He was so kind, good humored, respected by teammates and opponents. Always there for a good time, many road trips with fond memories. Laurentians will remember Al Slaney as one of a kind, a great soccer keeper who had a true love for his family and friends. Rest in peace my good friend !
Ray Molloy: Al’s team-mate :  Our paths crossed at an early age.  The field was our second home and the team our second family. Al's talent and skill helped bring our team to the Nationals year after year.  His awesome ability to read the play and his dedication and  determination made him one of the best goal tenders, not only in our Province but throughout Canada.  RIP my friend and fellow Laurentian.
Greg Quirke: Al’s team-mate - ( Correction) We regret the passing of Al Slaney. He was the best goalkeeper every to play the game of soccer for the St. Lawrence Laurentians. As a player he was outstanding but as a person he was exceptional. In my years being associate with him , I never seen him get mad or angry with anyone.  He was a genuine goalie on the field off the field a gentleman and friend. He will surely be missed.
Frank Pitman: Al’s Team-mate : We were all saddened by the news of Al's passing. I've had the pleasure of playing with Al most of my soccer career and like most of his teammates we can also call him our friend. He was a leader on and off the field. Not taking anything away from soccer players before or after Al's playing career, I still consider him to be one of the most accomplished soccer players that this Province has ever produced. I want to pass on sincere condolences to Beth, Julie, his sisters, brothers and friends.  Rest easy Al, a true Laurentian and friend
Roger  Slaney : Al’s Team-mate : Simply put - the best goaltender  the sport of soccer and the province of NL has ever produced.  Unfortunately, Al Slaney lost his fight with cancer this weekend - a life lived full but far too short.  For the sport community in Newfoundland we truly lost a legend ... however  for  many, we have lost a dear friend. Condolences to his wife Beth,  daughter  Julie and his brothers and sisters.   Rest easy big guy - you were simply the  best !
Johnny  Breen : Holy Cross Icon : I’m very sorry to hear of Al Slaney’s passing. AL was a great guy. I was fortunate to play with him on the provincial team. And I'll always treasure when we played against each other as there was a mutual respect. For me he was one of the best players... if not the best player I've known. My thoughts are with his family.
Phonce Cooper : Al's Team -mate :  No question this week St. Lawrence, and our 1970s soccer team, lost a soccer icon and a true friend. Al Slaney’s soccer talent will be difficult to match in today amateur soccer world. Al came into the soccer system when NL and St. Lawrence was switching from the small soccer fields and to the grassy, long, wide fields. The strategy to win games went from slog and run, to individual ball control and team passing, what we referred to in those days as playing “ground ball”.  To play this game required a great deal of discipline and personal soccer skills. It required every person on the field to know his/her role. Al, as our goalie, was always there to support his team-mates.  As a backline player from the Team-of-the ‘70s, my admiration for Al was particularly his ability to be so cool in difficult situations and always be there to lend support when the going got rough and tough. He never over reacted and he never, ever, bad-mouthed his team-mates. He played the 18-yard line better than any goalie I have ever seen and was continuously making calls, such as: “Cooper/Wils/Smoker/Jimmy/etc, I GOT YOUR BACK”. You never had to look behind. It was a given, Al was there, and, an individual like myself, who was not the most skilful player on the field, but played with my heart, always appreciated I had one of the most respected and skilful goalies in the game who, “had my back”. For that I had the most respect for this individual and I told him so many time during a beer in my shed over the many years after our soccer careers ended. Al Slaney never ever forgot his soccer friends. One person who was special to him, and I think he would want me to mention him in this situation, is his special buddy, and another St. Lawrence soccer icon like himself, who happens to be struggling with his own health issues these days, Known to Al as “Doyle” Junior Doyle. Al would never come to St. Lawrence without making sure he spent an evening with “Doyle”. If there is a better place, there is no doubt Al is doing his best to ensure “he has Doyle’s back”. To Al’s wife , Beth and his daughter, Julie, on behalf of Jean and I, our family, and especially our Team of the Decade 1970s, and his many friends in St. Lawrence and NL, I would like to offer you our sincere condolences. Losing a love-one is unthinkably sad but hopefully you can find some comfort knowing that the one you loved was also loved by those near and far, especially his former soccer buddies. Al will be missed dearly. Rest in peace buddy! It ironic but we all feel as little better today knowing “you have our backs”.   God Bless!
 Sincere Condolence
In closing, on behalf of my wife Jocelyn and I, and I’m sure I can speak for the entire soccer  fraternity of Newfoundland and Labrador, I would like to send along sincere condolences to Al’s wife Beth , daughter Julie and all Al’s brothers and sisters. May memories of Al and the love of family surround you and give you strength in the days ahead.

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