HWCDSB students, staff inducted into Hamilton Soccer Hall of Fame

A couple of first cousins who excelled for Cardinal Newman’s powerful high school soccer program during the 1980s are being inducted into the Hamilton Soccer Hall of Fame.

They are striker Larry Pretto and goalkeeper Dino Perri.

Hamilton Sparta's John Valvasori, Cardinal Newman alumni Larry Pretto and Dino Perri, with Hall of Fame President Vince Micieli.  (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCDSB)

Hamilton Sparta’s John Valvasori, Cardinal Newman alumni Larry Pretto and Dino Perri, with Hall of Fame President Vince Micieli. (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCDSB)

And joining them as part of the Class of 2016 will be John Valvasori, the long-time Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board administrator and president of Hamilton Sparta Soccer Club.

The induction dinner is scheduled for Friday, May 13 at Michelangelo Banquet Centre.

Pretto and Perri, who each won an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations gold medal with the CN Express, enter the shrine as players along with former Mohawk College great and Canadian national team member, Rob Cleugh.

In the Builders category, the seven-member selection committee has given the nod to Valvasori, Colin Jose, Arthur ‘Pop’ Arnold and William McIlveen. Also recognized this year will be Hamilton Croatia (Club of Distinction) and the 1991 Canadian women’s university champions from McMaster (Team of Distinction).

Tickets for the induction ceremonies cost $65 per person.

Pretto was part of Newman’s 1983 OFSAA championship squad while Perri helped the school’s 1987 squad capture top provincial honours.

“Dino was in the Grade 10 history class that I taught,” former Newman coach Marc Kovacs recalled. “One day in class he said to me ‘sir, you just wait until you see me play soccer. You won’t be disappointed.’

“I thought, OK, it’s just another kid shooting his mouth off. But sure enough, he was a very talented goalkeeper. Phenomenal.”

During the 1986 regular season, Perri didn’t allow a goal. And the following season, he recorded three shutouts in four games at OFSAA.

Perri was a member of Ontario’s U16 and U17 national championship teams and he went on to earn all-star status in Ontario University Athletics with the Brock Badgers. He then suited up for the Hamilton Steelers, winning a Canadian Soccer League title (with Cleugh as a teammate) in 1989.

The nephew of goalkeeper and hall of fame member Ardo Perri, Perri played one year of professional indoor soccer for the Buffalo Blizzard and Toronto Shooting Stars before rounding out his career with 10 outstanding years at the semi-pro level with St. Catharines Roma.

Locally, Perri has made his mark in the coaching ranks, too. He’s a teacher at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School where, during a 15-year span, led Knight entries to 11 consecutive Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic championship finals (one OFSAA bronze).

Perri is also the coach of McMaster Marauders highly successful men’s soccer team. And for the past eight seasons under his guidance Mac has qualified for five national championship tournaments (winning silver in 2014).

As for Pretto, Kovacs said: “Larry was a very gifted player. The thing that I remember best about him in 1983 was that he played injured. When we went to Toronto for the OFSAA championship, he had one of his knees wrapped and bandaged because he was still injured to a certain degree. He insisted on getting into the championship game, though, when we were losing by two goals at half time. He sparked the team to the point where we took over the game because of his effort. Larry was very instrumental in us winning the gold medal.

“His younger brother, Bobby, was a prominent player on the team as well. Bobby went on to win two gold medals at Newman.”

Pretto saw action for the Ontario U16 and U18 teams which netted a couple of national championships. Later, he made the U20 Canadian squad which qualified for the Youth World Cup in 1985. He accepted a full scholarship offer at Eastern Illinois University where he received All Midwest Conference honours. Pretto’s successful playing career in Canada also included stints with the Hamilton Steelers (winning the amateur national championship in 1986), Toronto Blizzard and London Lazers.

Valvasori served as a high school principal at Cathedral, Newman and St. Thomas More for a total of 17 years. And for the past six years he’s been a trustee (Ward 8) for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. In addition, he’s been on the executive of the Hamilton Sparta Soccer Club for the past 25 years (the last 11 as president).

“John has been a great supporter and friend of soccer in Hamilton,” the hall of fame’s president Vince Micieli said. “He’s a leader in the community. Hamilton Sparta keeps growing every year.”

On several occasions in recent years Sparta has been recognized by the Ontario Soccer Association for excellence as a club.

A former physical education teacher, Valvasori coached at the high school level early in his career. He also coached two Ontario Cup-winning girls’ teams in Hamilton. Currently, he coaches the Sparta U15 girls. Valvasori has won the OFSAA Leadership in Sport Award and been selected Sport Hamilton Outstanding Volunteer.

Last year, six of his grandchildren were involved with the Sparta program.

For more information about the fifth-annual dinner, contact 905-961-6490 or

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