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Johnny on the Spot: The Story of a Lacrosse World Champion

Born on Aug. 17, 1952 in the largest city in Canada’s Niagara region and the sixth largest urban area in Ontario, also known as St. Catharines, he went on to Ithaca College in New York on a lacrosse scholarship and later lead Canada to an upset win over the U.S. at the 1978 World Lacrosse Championships in Stockport, England.

Johnny Mouradian

“I fell in love with the sport at a young age by playing little league box [indoor] lacrosse with my Armenian and non-Armenian friends. And also by being the ball boy for the locally Armenian-owned Junior A Athletics. From there, I got better and better. I was able to get into Ithaca and then on the Canadian National Team, in 1974 and 1978. After my playing days, I coached the national team, helped coach at Ithaca, and was the head coach of my local college in Canada, Brock University” said Mouradian to the Weekly.

His playing career saw him excel in not only two forms of lacrosse—box and outdoor—but also in hockey. This in itself would equal an accomplished life; but for John Mouradian, who’d gained a master’s from Ithaca to become a teacher, the itch of lacrosse was still prevalent in his heart.

“I was helping out the National League Lacrosse (NLL) and in 1992, my good friend, who grew up in Canada and played with me on the 1974 and 1978 national teams, Mike French, asked me if I would be interested in becoming the general manager for the expansion team, the Buffalo Bandits of the National League Lacrosse. It was something I was interested in, so I agreed. And while I was finishing up my master’s degree for my teaching, I was also, with the help of the assistants, putting together the team for our first year in the NLL,” explained Mouradian.

For most players, heading into a coaching role or a front office role is a tricky transition, but for coaches, the switch from behind the bench to being in the office is a little more comfortable.

“I think it was a natural transition for me. Though, I had only coaching jobs before. At the time, there was no official GM, so I, as the coach, was also doing the job of the GM for the teams I coached. Plus, I always want to have new challenges and it was great because I was able to take all the sports psychology techniques that I had learned at Ithaca and build a team, basically from scratch. Along with my staff, we scouted the players we wanted and learned from each other,” Mouradian reflected.

His hard work preparing for the season paid off nicely, with the first of back-to-back championships for the Bandits. He also set the mark that still stands today—22 straight victories.

Looking back on this time in his life, Mouradian had to laugh. “It was a busy time for me,” he said.

Why? Well, he was still teaching, so after putting together a professional team and winning two championships, he had to go home, prepare his teaching plans, and grade papers.

“At the time, all the jobs were part time, the league wasn’t able to handle full-time positions. So, I was still teaching. And being the GM…that was my side job,” he said.

In 1998, Mouradian, along with Bandits coach Les Bartley and team captain Jim Veltman, went up to Canada to take the Ontario Raiders into Toronto, rename them the Toronto Rock, and see what they could do.

“This was another great experience for me because I had my coach with me and I had some ownership in the club as well. I was not only the GM, but also the VP of operations,” Mouradian said.

It was a new team, in a new town, but the result was the same: The Rock won its first NLL championship and would repeat the feat the following year, making it another back-to-back title run for Mouradian.

From Toronto, it was off to another new experience for the now well-traveled Mouradian. The Albany Attack was moving to San Jose under the name of the Stealth. Mouradian fit in perfectly, first as the coach and then, after two seasons behind the bench (where he again put on both hats) he moved back up to the GM role.

His time in San Jose saw no titles. The closest to a title—the 2007 and 2009 seasons—saw a Stealth loss in the division finals. But Mouradian was finally able to be a part of the NLL, full-time, so it was goodbye to his teaching career.

At the start of the 2009 season, however, new team owners decided it was time to move on. Effective immediately, the San Jose Stealth would be known as the Washington Stealth, making their new home in Everett, Wash., a town just 30 minutes outside of Seattle.

“The San Jose days will always be looked upon as good days, but it just didn’t work out,” said Mouradian.

The team’s failure in San Jose? A combination of everything.

“We played in the Shark tank, which is where the San Jose Sharks of the NHL play, and one of the biggest challenges was getting good dates to play there because it is such a big and busy building. So many events take place there…not just the hockey, but other sports, such as the Arena Football League’s Sabercats. So the dates were an issue and due to us not getting good dates, the fan base dwindled. So, though unfortunate, a move had to be made and Everett was the best choice for that move.”

“In Everett, the lacrosse community was already expanding with a Major League Lacrosse field team (the Washington Bayhawks) before we decided to move. The Comcast Arena, where we play now, really made us feel welcomed. They really showed us that they wanted us to go there and we made the right choice,” Mouradian remarked.

The decision to move to Washington was not an easy one, as the owners had many other suitors.

“There was a short list, but our owners really felt more comfortable in Washington.”

Not only has Mouradian made a name for himself in the NLL—he received the GM of the Year Award in 2004, and was inducted into the Ithaca Hall of Fame and the NLL Hall of Fame in 2008—but he is also the GM of Team Canada.

“I am very grateful for everything,” Mouradian is quick to remark.

“I am proud of my Armenian heritage and the people I have met.” Mouradian, who is half-Armenian, grew up in St. Catharines, an Armenian community, and only minutes from St. Gregory, the Armenian Church where he went to Sunday School. “I always go to the Armenian Church when I can,” he said. “I have been to Armenia and want to go back again soon. My biggest goal now is to start an Armenian lacrosse team, maybe play in the World Lacrosse Championships. It will be hard, but with some financial backing and a few good people who want to go, teach, and expand the game to Armenians, I don’t see why this cannot be a reality.”

Armenia Competing in the World Lacrosse Championships?

Although it’s possible Armenia could one day compete in lacrosse on an international level, the difficulty lies in getting there and what to do once the process starts.

John Mouradian, the general manager of Team Canada Lacrosse and the Washington Stealth of National League Lacrosse, wants to start the process of getting Armenia a national lacrosse team.

“It would be great for Armenia to be a part of this sport,” says Mouradian. “In 1978, when Canada won the championship, there were only four countries. Now, there are 33. So, there has been a lot of growth in the game internationally.”

For Armenia to be one of those 33 nations, it first needs to submit a developmental application to be an associate nation. Out of the 33 nations, only 24 are member nations, while the other 8 are associate nations, that is, they have a developing program in their country but it isn’t fully up to par with the member nations. Completing the application is vital and necessary for any country who wants to compete in the world championships. It is done through the Federation of International Lacrosse and according to their website (www.icfld.com), “resources will be given if: The sport is being introduced within an educational system or solid organizational structure. A clear, unified leadership group within the nation is identified. A completed development application is submitted by the developing nation. A development plan is submitted by the developing nation and submitted to the Development Committee (the Development Committee can provide assistance, if necessary).”

It’s not an easy process, but it’s doable.

“We would probably target the 2014 World Championships to get this dream into a reality. Players need to have an Armenian passport to play, doesn’t mean the players need to be living in Armenia, but we would also want to go to Armenia, introduce the game and grow national players as well,” explained Mouradian.

The issue lies with the Armenians who want to play, but don’t have an Armenian passport. Although Canada allows its citizens to have a passport in addition to their Canadian passport—either first or secondary—other nations, such as the United States, don’t allow their citizens to carry another passport if they’re American first. The only way a person can be a dual-citizen in America is if their American passport is their secondary passport. “This is a problem we can deal with once the initial process is taken,” says Mouradian, meaning, once the development application is submitted and the Armenian team is off the ground.

One thing that is needed is a leadership group, or people who can financially back the efforts, he says. “Someone to sponsor the Armenian lacrosse program would be great and would really help us get out of the ‘just talking about it’ stage to, actually the ‘doing it’ stage.”

“My plan is, when I get over to the World Championships this summer, to do some due diligence, see where some of these other associate countries are in their developmental process and how far it took for them to get to where they are now. I also want to talk about what their thoughts are about starting a program. But, the first key is to get the paperwork from the Federation, round up some Armenians from North America (U.S. and Canada) who have played lacrosse, or are playing lacrosse now, whether it be in high school or college, have them get interested in this, and have them be the key contacts for the player research and financial aid. Basically, this is a lifetime project, but something that is well worth it for Armenians and Armenia.”

4 Comments on Johnny on the Spot: The Story of a Lacrosse World Champion

  1. Great player and a great game. I played DIII Lacrosse during my college years and 4 of my cousins played DI. There are enough Armenian-American lacrosse players  from NY, Mass, NJ to help get a team going in Armenia.

  2. I’d like to congratulate you, Mr. Dereyan, for this interview and story. I am glad to see young writers make their mark in the Weekly!

  3. Im sure our boy Dodi Gago in Yerevan can get these guys together and have ourself our own national lacross team. Thats what happen with our Rugby team. A bunch of Armenians from France grouped together and created the Armenian national rugby team and have been very successful. Armenian team is currently not yet officially ranked by IRB but soon will be. We are one of the best teams and can be ranked top 20 easily. Going back to Lacrosse, Armenians have great potential and are talented people. It would be a positive factor in contributing to Armenian sports.

  4. avatar Dino Ajemian // December 31, 2009 at 8:35 am // Reply

    “other nations, such as the United States, don’t allow their citizens to carry another passport if they’re American first. The only way a person can be a dual-citizen in America is if their American passport is their secondary passport.”

    Patently untrue.
     
    An Armenian born in America who becomes a naturalized citizen of Armenia does not have to do anything to maintain U.S. citizenship. The bottom line in losing US citizenship is to renouce it before a US consular official or become a policy level official in Armenia.  Heck you could even be  in the Armenian Army as long as you are not part of the government making policy.
    If you are an American Armenian and you are very good in a certain sport you could participate in European competitions at your own expense naturally.
    Does a US citizen have to tell anyone about the Armenian citizenship? NO
    Do you lose US citizenship? NO
    On the US side of the equation nothing is required. absolutely nothing. All you have to do is get citizenship from Armenia.

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