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Hamburg tournament gives fitting tribute to WNY lacrosse pioneer

Sue Van Tine (pictured far left) stands with daughter, Kim, and son, Craig, and their children at Saturday’s tournament, which was renamed honoring Ed Van Tine. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)
Pat Eagan, pictured far left, stands with his Hamburg Bulldogs 12-and-under team as the group salutes the honorary rock with Ed Van Tine’s plaque engraved within it. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)
Dog days Tournament renamed in honor of Ed Van Tine

From its humble beginnings in the early 1970s with 10 or so players on one field, Hamburg Youth Lacrosse, Inc., has grown into an organization with the ability to host a tournament that just this weekend drew 57 teams to the fields at the former Nike Base.

Ed Van Tine oversaw the sport’s start as he introduced the game to Hamburg youth while working in the town’s Recreation Department when most in the area had yet to even hear of lacrosse.

Before his passing earlier this year, he also had the privilege to watch as the sport blossomed in not only Hamburg but also much of the Western New York community, then branched out throughout this region and additional venues as others spread his teachings and a love for the game that dates all the way back to his playing days at Norwich High School outside of Syracuse.

It was only fitting that the organization, where Van Tine got his start working with youth, rename its annual lacrosse tournament, previously known as the Hamburg Dog Days Tournament, to memorialize the long-time Western New York lacrosse supporter and one of the pioneers of Hamburg Youth Lacrosse, Inc.

Already with a plaque engraved into a large rock commemorating Van Tine’s contributions sitting besides one of the many fields at the Town of Hamburg Recreation Facility on Lakeview Road, a banner which read “Ed Van Tine Memorial Lacrosse Tournament” hung for the first time on the sidelines of the complex for this nearly all-day event July 28.

The tournament brought together many youth teams and organizations from throughout Western New York, Rochester and the Southern Tier with games being played in the 8-and-under, 10-and-under, 12-and-under, 14-and-under and 17-and-under divisions on 15 different fields.

The earliest games in the morning began with a rain shower but by 10 a.m., the sun began to shine on a group of boys carrying out the vision Van Tine had for Hamburg and the entire Western New York community over nearly 40 years of coaching and being a mentor to so many in the sport of lacrosse.

“My father was the heart and soul of Buffalo lacrosse and a pivotal player with getting everything started in Hamburg,” said his son, Craig Van Tine, a St. Francis High School graduate, who would play in college at Clarkson University. “He’d love to be here right now. This is where it all got started. He’d be very proud. We know he’s watching. He’s got a good vantage point from that rock.”

Jerry Severino, Hamburg’s head varsity lacrosse coach and good friend to Ed and the Van Tine family, organized a Hamburg Bulldogs youth team coming over to the rock before they played in a game and ceremoniously touching it in remembrance of the Western New York lacrosse guru and to signify the start of a new day for the tournament.

“A lot of these kids may not have been born when Ed was in his prime but we’re trying to do something special for a man who meant so much,” said Severino, a longtime lacrosse coach, who took the reins of the Hamburg program after Van Tine stepped down from the position after the 2005 season. “The whole year has been dedicated to Coach Van Tine. On most lacrosse fields, whether you knew him or knew of him, many joined in to honor him and in Hamburg, it was a very big deal.”

The acknowledgement of this coach’s legacy was celebrated starting with a memorial at Rich’s Atrium in February and spread during the spring season to many of the same lacrosse fields where he left such a mark.

During the season, the Bulldogs varsity team helped to raise money for the newly-established Ed Van Tine Foundation, which awarded two scholarships this June, during the team’s game against nationally-ranked Brother Rice. Before each game, players also touched a bucket hat similar to the one Van Tine was infamous for wearing on the sidelines while he coached.

Van Tine’s memory was also recognized when he was named Man of the Year by the lacrosse community. The board of directors for Hamburg Youth Lacrosse, Inc. then got involved by making the suggestion to have the tournament named after him, according to Severino.

“Everywhere I went he was mentioned,” Severino said. “I think it will be that way for a long time.”

Having formed the Ed Van Tine Foundation has provided some piece of mind to the family of Van Tine, who died after a lengthy battle with cancer. The idea was spearheaded by Ed’s wife, Sue, and is now being headed by his daughter, Kim. The quest to be more involved in the foundation and carry on his father’s legacy has even led Craig Van Tine to move back to the Buffalo area from Arlington, Virginia, where he was president of a construction company.

“It was a tough beginning of the year because it was pretty sudden,” Craig said. “But what we’ll be able to in his legacy will turn into something very great in Hamburg and the Western New York community. Anything we can do to help kids and lacrosse, we’ll do. This is another way to assist kids in their college aspirations.”

The first scholarship award winners, announced last month, were Hamburg attackman Pat Nowak and Amherst long pole defender Nathan Gowen. The two were chosen from a pool of exemplary candidates who were senior lacrosse players during the 2012 season, according to Kim Van Tine.

Kim was grateful to all of the businesses, the community as a whole and the Hamburg lacrosse family for making donations so that the foundation could be established, maintained and award these scholarships. At the tournament, Hamburg sports boosters were holding a 50/50 raffle with proceeds going to the foundation.

“The amount of donations has been great,” said Kim, who hopes to award four scholarships in her father’s name next year. “Everyone’s stepped up and been fantastic and giving which has already helped to grow the foundation. We appreciate everyone in the lacrosse community.”

The hope is that Ed Van Tine will continue to have an affect on those playing lacrosse, even with this younger generation of players. If it’s anything like the influence he had on the first youth players to step on the fields in the 1970s, the inspiration will continue to be long lasting.

“We’ve gotten some calls from all over the country about the 1970s and Ed’s escapades from the guys they call the “Hamburg 10,” Severino said. ‘They have some neat stories to tell. They’re now all over the U.S. coaching, mentoring, starting programs and carrying on what they learned right here from Ed.”

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