October 22, 2013

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HOF Inductees Recall Epic 1998 FIL Finale

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

2013 Hall of Fame inductees Ryan Wade, Bill Miller and Michael Watson all played in the epic 1998 FIL gold medal game against Canada.
© US Lacrosse

A version of this article appears in the October 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

On the evening of July 24th, 1998, there were 10,793 people in the stands of Homewood Field in Baltimore. But it's a fair bet that the number of people who claim to have been there in person on one of the most exciting nights in lacrosse history far exceeds that crowd number.

Short of demanding a ticket stub, it's almost impossible to determine whether somebody was there on that summer Baltimore night. But three members of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame Class of 2013 – Ryan Wade, Bill Miller and Michael Watson - were unquestionably present. They were on the field for the action that fans still talk about today.

The game in question was the gold medal contest at that summer's FIL World Championships. The stacked American squad, riding a 20-year winning streak since their only international loss in 1978, turned the game into a laugher and led 13-4 after a Mark Millon goal early in the fourth. But Canada, led by John Tavares, Tom Maracheck, Gary and Paul Gait, stormed back with nine unanswered goals to knot the score and send the game to overtime.

"They really came roaring back," said Wade, a midfielder with that team who was named the Best and Fairest (most valuable) Player for the tournament and All-World. "I don't even remember the first half. I just remember that last quarter and overtime."

Hall of Fame 2013

What: The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame induction ceremony

When: Saturday, October 26, beginning at 5 p.m.

Where: Grand Lodge of Maryland, Hunt Valley

Who: Jim Berkman, Quinn Carney Burke, Michell DeJuliis, Sue Heether, Bill Miller, Tracy Stumpf, Ryan Wade, Michael Watson.

Read more about the 2013 Class

Tickets: Online sale has ended. No ticket sales at the door. Call the US Lacrosse Special Events Department at (410) 584-7070 (x 172) to purchase tickets.

Cost: $135
 - includes cocktail hour with open bar and hors d'oeuvres from beginning at five, followed by the dinner/ceremony, with coffee, dessert and open bar continuing until 11 p.m.

Wade remembers the game on more of an emotional level – in terms of the feelings and the adrenaline that rushed through his system as Canada chipped away at the once seemingly insurmountable lead as the minutes ticked down.

He has the game on video, but has not watched it, possibly to avoid re-living the stomach churn that might presumably accompany the Team Canada surge even today. Paul Gait with 14:59 remaining to save face and make it 13-5. Chris Gill at 5:38 to make it 13-8. Tavares at 3:30 to make it 13-10. Maracheck with 1:28 remaining to inch to within two. Then finally Tavares and Paul Gait knotting it at 13 with the crowd in a frenzy and just under 30 seconds on the clock.

"It was electric," he said. "It was just a packed house and people were chanting "USA" – the crowd was just going bananas."

Miller, who had played on the 1994 USA team which took home the gold from Manchester, England, also recalled the atmosphere – particularly since it stood in such stark contrast to the championship game four years earlier. Managing those emotions and the adrenaline was no easy task.

"I remember at one point, I had the ball behind and the goalie came out to double me," he recalled. "I was supposed to hold the ball, but they got extended and I split [the double]. In the back of my head I was thinking 'pull it out', but I went for a shot and a defenseman came out of nowhere and dove and clipped my stick. Thank god they didn't score, because Coach Tierney would have had me hanging somewhere in Baltimore after that."

Ultimately that crowd and the adrenaline surge helped the Americans buckle down, as they recovered during the break between regulation and overtime and outscored Canada 2-1 in the extra frame – with Millon netting one and Darren Lowe a second off a Wade assist 10 seconds later.

"When there's that many people and that kind of focus on what's going on, there's a feeling that generates inside of you, and it's a rare kind of rush," Watson said. "That crowd and intensity just grew and helped us bear down and get the job done."

The 15-14 victory kept alive a USA streak that lasted through to the 2006 World Championships, when Canada edged the Americans in another thriller, and helped define the careers of three of the best to play the game, helping solidify their reputations and keep them on the path that led them to the Hall of Fame.


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