The Hobart Eldest Statesmen club lacrosse team was recently featured in Clublaxmag.com. The article’s author, Rick Korn writes, “To risk life and limb at the ripe old age of 50 plus, you must really love the sport. And to do it at a consistently great level of play speaks volumes about this team as players and individuals. At 55 years old, I pull hamstrings just rolling out of bed. I can’t imagine how these guys play four or five games in a day over the course of a weekend.”
He quotes Allen Lovejoy ’79, “When we started playing together again after a 25 year hiatus, I realized how fat I was, and I also smoked too much. Playing again forced me to lose weight and stop smoking…this team and my love and respect for this sport and our players… gave me the courage to get healthy again.”
Recently, the team defended their fourth consecutive Florida Lax Classic championship in the grand masters (50 and over) category.
According to the article, “Despite a few hamstring problems and some cracked ribs, the Eldest got the 4-peat, winning in the championship game 9-4. If that weren’t enough, some of them also played with the 45 plus Elder Statesmen, who won their championship game 8-4.”
The full article follows.
The Hobart Eldest Statesmen: Lacrosse at its Best (and Oldest)
Rick Korn • April 20, 2013
Are the Hobart Eldest Statesmen the best of the oldest or just the craziest of the oldest? Perhaps both. But without a doubt, they are unequivocally entertaining on and off the lacrosse field. When your team captain’s nickname is Psycho, you certainly qualify as a team that is a bit off kilter, even if you are in your fifties and a respected professional in business, law or medicine. Besides Psycho, there’s Pee Pee, Jersey, Julio, Grandpa, Bonehead, The Furor, Locker Room, Goose, Fatty and of course Cabbage Head, just to name a handful of the twenty-seven players’ nicknames. But what makes this club lacrosse team really special is that they continue to win. In fact, they win almost every tournament for old guys in the county, except those that have banned them (more on that later).
One thing that is for sure, these guys love lacrosse. To risk life and limb at the ripe old age of 50 plus, you must really love the sport. And to do it at a consistently great level of play speaks volumes about this team as players and individuals. At 55 years old, I pull hamstrings just rolling out of bed. I can’t imagine how these guys play four or five games in a day over the course of a weekend. When I asked team member Allen Lovejoy, who was part of numerous national championships at Hobart, how he does it, he said, “When we started playing together again after a 25 year hiatus, I realized how fat I was, and I also smoked too much. Playing again forced me to lose weight and stop smoking…this team and my love and respect for this sport and our players… gave me the courage to get healthy again.”
The Eldest Statesmen club lacrosse team is made up mostly of former Hobart players, many of whom won multiple championships back in the 70’s and 80’s. Some are former Penn, Princeton, and Cortland players, and even some players who had never played before, round out the team. Recently, they were all on hand to defend their fourth consecutive Florida Lax Classic championship in the grand masters (50 and over) category.
“We were going for the 4-peat,” quipped John Bodnar a Hobart grad, and Eldest midfielder. “The first season we played there, we had eleven of us, and it was more of a war of attrition. Whoever had the least pulled hamstring stayed on the field. We were yelling you go and I’ll stay back”, said Bodnar, a financial planner in New Jersey, hence the nickname Jersey. Despite a few hamstring problems and some cracked ribs, the Eldest got the 4-peat, winning in the championship game 9-4. If that weren’t enough, some of them also played with the 45 plus Elder Statesmen, who won their championship game 8-4.
So how do they win so much and for so long? Fred Mosher a midfielder, airline pilot and captain of the 1980 championship team said, “We play the same style now that we did 30 years ago at Hobart. This is what our coaches Jerry Schmidt and Dave Urick taught us. We still play relentless defense and an up-tempo offense.”
The Eldest play hard regardless of whether it’s a practice or a game. “Our practices at Hobart were more brutal than games. Playing other teams was a walk in the park compared to practice.” said Lovejoy.
My first experience with the Eldest Statesmen puts into perspective their competitiveness, love of the game, and their apparent insanity (and I mean that lovingly). A few years ago I brought a team of 10 to 12 year old boys (plus one girl who was our best player) up to Hobart from Harlem during an alumni celebration weekend. These kids had just picked up a stick for the first time a few weeks earlier. We thought it would be great if we could have the Eldest meet and scrimmage against them. The Harlem team was put together with money from a memorial fund named in the honor of Jon Feinstein, also a former captain from the 1980 team who passed away 20 years ago.
Our Harlem kids scrambled onto the field looking somewhat timid and disheveled with their chin straps loose, shoes untied, and shoulder pads on backwards over their jerseys. The Eldest Statesmen jogged onto the field with that same dogged look as if they were ready to play a championship game against Syracuse. That aggressive defense did not subside even though they were playing 10 year olds.
When John Sipher body checked one of the kids, knocking him flat on his butt, we knew this team just couldn’t help themselves. Lovejoy said, “Hey, these kids need to learn how to play this game the right way.” There was a great bond built that day, as they spent the time to teach the kids and shared a meal together after the game. Just the way Feinstein would have wanted it.
The Eldest Statesmen weren’t always the best elder team, not by a long shot. In fact, they were the lowest ranked team in their division at the Vail Tournament in their first year. Prior to their first game, defenseman Kevin Martin and a few of the guys were walking around trying to pick up whoever they could to field a team of eleven guys. That’s when they met Phil McCarthy, who had a booth at the event selling sporting goods. Martin and a few of the guys approached him and asked him if he wanted to play with them. It turns out that Phil was a Hobart grad. But there was one problem. Phil had a massive stroke when he was coaching lacrosse at Clarkson and had paralysis in one of his legs. Not a problem. The Eldest Statesmen took him, propped him up in front of the goal, and had him shoot. He ended up scoring eight goals in the tournament.
Despite being the lowest ranked team in the tournament, the Eldest Statesmen found themselves in the playoffs against the Middlebury team, the highest ranked team. Although down by three goals with just a few minutes to play, the Eldest Statesmen ended up winning the game. “We lost in the finals because we simply ran out of gas,” said Martin. But that was the start of something great, because the Eldest have won the Vail tournament four years in a row. Martin and the team now have a new tradition, “Gore Creek, a Class IV rapids, runs by the field, and the water temperature is about 38 degrees. We take off all our clothes down to our underwear, jump in the creek and drink beer. Tourists walk by and think we are nuts.” You gotta love it.
Sometimes, amidst their endless enthusiasm and passion, they get a little carried away and forget who they are in their professional lives. Kevin Martin reminisced that, “One year, former Hobart player and Eldest Statesmen Mark Moore got so angry at the refs that he threw his stick at the ref. He just went nuts chasing after them. They wanted to eject him, but we only had eleven guys, so he got a 5 minute non-releasable penalty. The ironic part is that Mark is a really well-respected Division 1 referee.”
Another time that their enormous will to win overflowed a bit too much was at a Lake Placid tournament. In the finals, the tournament director decided to change the rules from a running clock to a stopped clock after goals and out of bounds balls. Trying to be politically correct, Lovejoy explained, “Let’s just say one of the guys, who will go unnamed, said something to the tournament director that can’t be repeated in a forum like this. Needless to say, we were banned from playing the tournament again. But we got around it by playing under a different name and joined up with some players from Penn and Bowdoin.”
These guys are a brotherhood who really cares for one another, as evidenced by the sticker they wear on their helmets for their deceased teammate, Eddie Howard. While some of them were the greatest players of their time, others never even played varsity. Some still play in their bucket helmets, and some still use wooden shafts. But all these years later, it doesn’t really matter. What is unmistakable is that the players on the Eldest Statesmen truly love this sport, and they are winners both on and off the field. They still believe in one another and have an amazing amount of pride. As Lovejoy said, “We always have each other’s back, both on and off the field.” That’s why they are winners.