By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Kingston’s lacrosse community was saddened last week to learn of the sudden passing of Dan Wilson, one of the best players the city has ever produced.
He was 58.
“It’s not debatable,” said Rad Joseph, a former teammate of Wilson on the Kingston Kings of the mid-1970s. Among players who tried their hand at a higher level, “he achieved more than any Kingston player.”
Wilson joined the junior C club in his final year of midget lacrosse, 1973, and helped the team to a provincial championship. He played the next two years with the Kings and then moved on to play junior A in Peterborough.
Before he left Wilson established some sparkling statistics: 75 goals and 135 points in just two full seasons, which remains eighth all-time in Kingston junior lacrosse history, and he remains the all-time leading playoff scorer with 43 goals and 101 points in 32 games.
With Peterborough, he had 20 goals and 32 points as a rookie in 1976 and 47 points in 22 games the following year.
“And he played in an era when we went both ways,” Joseph reminded. “Danny had no weaknesses. I can’t ever remember Danny having a bad game. He was always a threat on the floor, and I like that he was always defensively responsible. He could check.
“It was a different game back then. If he played today’s game and was an offence-only guy, he’d have been a four-goal-a-game guy.”
One of Wilson’s trademarks was as the player coming off the front end of the bench on the fast break. “He got a bushel full of goals going out that door,” said Joseph, whose father, Bob, was the coach of that team. “Why did he go out the door? The old man always sent Danny because he was the guy most likely to score.
"You know how tough Dad could be, and how critical he could be, but I never heard him say anything harsh about Danny. He was a good lacrosse player and a really nice guy. It’s so sad to hear he’s gone.”
Lee Vitarelli was the general manager in Peterborough when Wilson played there. Almost 40 years later, Vitarelli, a part of 11 Mann Cup national junior championships, remembered Wilson as a quiet young man.
“He fit right in,” Vitarelli of Wilson, one of several players who came out of the Interprovincial League in eastern Ontario to play on those Peterborough teams. “To come out of down there with not necessarily a strong minor system, to make the jump (to junior A), is a big step.
“It just took a little bit of time to get up to speed. We did things a little differently than most places so it was a jump but it was a jump that he did well. Check his points—he was always better than a point a game. He was a good ball player, he really was.”
Vitarelli recalled Wilson as a “very intelligent” young man.
“He took everything in, sorted it all out,” Vitarelli said.
“He didn’t ask for anything. He was just a nice kid.”
Joseph said that, had the first incarnation of the National Lacrosse League not folded in the mid-seventies, Wilson could have played professionally.
“He had the desire and the ambition and he was that good,” Joseph said. “For a guy out of Kingston to make the junior A Lakers? That says a lot.”
Joseph recalled a game in 1977 when he was the goaltender with the Oshawa Green Gaels and Wilson bore down on him.
“He came in and he winged one and he hit the post,” Joseph said, “and I went out and spoke to Danny and what I said to him was, ‘You had me, Dan.’
“I remember Dad was standing in the corner in the end where it happened, and after the game Dad said to me, ‘What did you say? That you had him all the way?’ and I said, ‘No dad, he had me.’ He said, ‘(Baloney), that’s all you gave him.’
“I said, ‘No, he had me, dead to rights.’”
The Wilson residence was most decidedly a lacrosse household: Dan's father, Bud, was manager of the team and his older brother, Andy, a terrific player in his own right, was the team captain. Dan’s sister, Anne, married another former King, Mike McFadden.
An avid fisherman, Dan for many years was a milkman with Beatrice Foods and later was a maintenance worker at Queen’s University. He continued to be involved in lacrosse as a coach, most recently with the revived junior club, the Cavaliers.