His players, of course, had their lacrosse sticks in their hands on the bench.
But head coach Bill Roth had one in his hand as well.
Not a full stick. Roth’s was cut and he used the handle portion to smash against the boards, signalling a line change for his club.
Roth, who guided the Vernon Lodge/Village Green Inn Tigers to four consecutive provincial Senior B lacrosse titles, and three straight Canadian President’s Cup Senior B championships in the mid-to-late 1970s, died in Vernon in late July at the age of 89.
“He was such an easy-going guy,” said Marty Stein, a defender on the three national championship teams of 1976, 1977 and 1978. The 1979 team fell in the national semifinals in Massena, NY.
“He’d tell the powerplay to get the ball quickly, make quick passes and take as many shots as possible. On the penalty kill, and this was when there was no (30 second) time clock, he’d want us to rag the ball. He was very well liked by all the players.”
A former lacrosse player himself in Vernon with the likes of the Sammartinos, Boonie and Rollie, and Ted Strothers, Roth took over as coach of the Tigers in 1976. He promptly guided the team to the first of those four straight provincial titles, then headed to Winnipeg for the President’s Cup Canadian tournament, which Vernon won.
On the way home, Roth and the team survived a plane crash after smoke started filling the plane and the pilots were able to crash land the craft in a farm field near Pincher Creek, Alta. All players, coaches and the pilots got out safely.
Away from the rink, Roth was an astute businessman who owned a number of restaurants, including the Okanagan Café on 30th Avenue, then opened Bill Roth’s Beefeater Inn Steak House at what is now the Golden Crown Restaurant on 28th Avenue. Roth, a former ball player, sponsored a men’s slo-pitch team, the Beefeater Bobcats, which travelled to Hawaii.
“He was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” said Don Kendall, co-founder of The Morning Star who played lacrosse for Roth and went into business with his coach. The pair jointly owned Body Shop Fitness, located on 31st Avenue on what is now a city parking lot.
“In his younger years, he was quite the athlete and just an overall great guy.”
Roth was a fixture at Vernon Vipers hockey games, and in his later years, he was still putting his business acumen to good use, raising funds for local elementary schools.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, Sept. 16, from 1-4 p.m. at the Trinity United Church Hall, 3300 Alexis Park Drive in Vernon.
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