MSL: Excelsiors head coach supports fight to keep team in Brampton

Brampton Excelsiors head coach Dan Teat (middle) reacts to a call during the 2018 Minto Cup. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

In all the back-and-forth regarding the relocation of the Brampton Excelsiors, one voice that hasn’t been heard is one that probably most embodies the spirit of the team and the city.

After a successful run with the Jr. A Excelsiors, Dan Teat was promoted to head coach of the MSL club in 2019. Though he’s only coached them through one season, he’s been part of the organization for 45 years. Brampton is his hometown. He worked his way through their minor system, and his kids are part of it now.

Teat is in a unique position. As coach he has to listen to his general manager and orders from higher up. But his ear is always to the ground, listening to the men who wear the BE logo on their chests with pride: the players.

“It surprised a lot of people. They were blindsided by it,” Teat said of the relocation. “They had no idea it was coming. Our captain is a third-generation Excel. Some of those guys have only ever worn that jersey and played in Brampton for their summer lacrosse.”

Just because the team moves doesn’t mean that the players will follow. Teat has been the one to hear from the players, to gauge their interest and ability to play in Owen Sound.

“I’ve been hearing ‘wow, I don’t know if I could do that,’ from some guys. The feedback’s been tough. Not because people don’t like Owen Sound,” he hastened to say. “Logistically speaking, it’s tough to get into the car for that 2-hour drive on a weeknight for a home game. You’d love to get a response from all 25 of your players that they’re in, but in reality there will be some guys who can’t make it. But we’re still far enough away that we don’t know.”

What hurts the most is the progress the team was making after seven losing seasons. After the 2011 Mann Cup win, the team’s major sponsor pulled out, which was followed by the loss of City grants. As the money dried up, star players were traded to other teams. But in recent years, the team has been rebuilding through homegrown talent, last year led by Teat’s own son Jeff, who led Major Series Lacrosse in points and goals.

Though they were defeated in the first round of the playoffs, the Excels played a more experienced Lakers team very closely and could have really made some noise in their next season. That they might not have that chance is disappointing, to say the very least.

“We were 0-4 and 1-5 and ended up making the playoffs. Four straight games but… two were real tight. A little more experience and we might have a chance of winning those. We were extremely excited about the future of this group and the road they were going to go on. We didn’t think it was 6-7 years down the road. We were thinking 3-4 years down the road we’d be competing for Ontario championships and Mann Cups.”

Teat doesn’t know yet if he’ll be joining the team in Owen Sound, stating “That’s not up to me and right now I don’t know.” He also has the same concerns as some of his players, with young kids to care for on weeknights.

Teat is in the camp on Twitter that’s questioning the original transfer of the team ownership to Joe Norton. He was at the meeting in October where the Board was, according to some accounts, shown the transfer agreement for the first time (though an official statement from the BELC refutes that). He wants the community to have answers before the move is approved by the OLA.

“From what I’ve seen, there are some board members that believe Ron (Evans) is right. Some were expecting [President Ziggy Musial and the BELC legal counsel] to come back with an offer, not close a deal.”

He wishes the Board had tendered the team to someone local, and feels that the sale was kept secret.

“It seems like there could have been interest if people had known they could have made an offer, especially since there was someone else at the table (Evans) who was interested. The Brampton lacrosse community wants answers.”

Teat hasn’t had much interaction with the Bug Juice boss aside from a few conference calls, where he perceived Norton to be “actually pretty open and up front,” though he has never met the man in person.

“He didn’t come to a game the season we coached. There was an intern doing everything he could, though he wasn’t a lacrosse guy.”

Rumours that Norton asked the coaches to go out and find sponsors for the team, a job usually reserved for business staff or a board of directors, are true, and it was a difficult task, Teat said.

“That’s not in our nature. Our thought was, ‘that’s what you hire for.’ A couple of those conversations were tough to have, what he believed we should be doing on top of coaching. But, he gave us the rope to work with and was supportive of us even after our poor start.”

Teat was privy to the player-organized protest that occurred during the Excelsiors’ June 20 game in Peterborough. After wearing their new Bug Juice branded jerseys for several games and being endlessly mocked on social media and in the stands, the players banded together and wore the previous year’s classic BE logoed jerseys for a one-game protest.

It was a point of pride for the players, Teat said, several of whom were lifetime Excelsiors now being asked to wear a foreign logo. It didn’t sit well with them.

“Does the jersey make the players play better? You’d be surprised how much up or down a player can have when they [put their jersey on]. With the tradition that’s involved in Brampton lacrosse, you’re pumped about that jersey. But when you’re putting on something that you don’t believe in, doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right – we wondered if that was bringing some players down. But Joe made it very clear they were to wear the jerseys.”

Teat bleeds maroon and gold (not blue and orange and whatever else was on the new jerseys); that’s obvious from one conversation with him. He’ll support the fight to keep the Excels in Brampton, but if that fight is lost, more than anything he’ll be a voice that keeps the legacy alive for all those past players with their championship memories, and the future players who may never get a chance to live their own dreams of being a hometown hero.

“Growing up wearing that jersey, the dream is to play for the major program. We’ve got a really great group of core Brampton guys that have done that their whole life… A hundred-and-fifty year-history to this organization. Its legacy is its own. And it’s been taken away from them.”