CN Express makes a stop at soccer hall of fame

Clear the track. The CN Express is en route to Hamilton’s Soccer Hall of Fame.

Mark Kovacs (centre) with the CN Express coaches.  (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCDSB)

Mark Kovacs (centre) with the CN Express coaches. (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCDSB)

During gala ceremonies at Michelangelo Banquet Centre on Friday, May 15, the Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School senior boys’ soccer program will officially be inducted into the city’s soccer shrine. The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board high school entry is scheduled for recognition on that occasion along with several other teams, officials, builders and individuals who have excelled in the sport.

This is the fourth year for the HSHF.

“It was a unanimous decision of the selection committee,” said the hall’s president, Vince Micieli.

“Cardinal Newman is second to none … not only in the city but the province. It was an easy decision.”

Since Day 1, there has basically been no stopping the Express. The Stoney Creek-based powerhouse has captured four championships at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations level. No other school in the province has more. Overall, Cardinal Newman has brought home 10 OFSAA medals after 22 times winning Hamilton-Wentworth league titles.

“To my knowledge, we’ve won the most OFSAA medals in soccer,” said Mark Kovacs, who guided Newman to three of those four provincial high school crowns. Kovacs also points out that the Express has scored victories over 133 different schools or club teams at various competitions over the years.

Ron Kelly, the first senior boys’ coach at Cardinal Newman, came up with the moniker CN Express (only the senior boys’ soccer team at Newman has ever chosen to go by that name instead of Cardinals).

Kovacs, a Newman soccer coach for 32 years before his retirement in 2008, has been researching and recording the history of the sport at Newman for the past four years. He soon hopes to publish the material, entitled The Long Train Running: Looking Back at the CN Express.

And following on that train theme, some will remember that the Doobie Brothers song, Long Train Running, was used to inspire the players in the early years.

Former coach Mark Kovacs was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2013.  (Photo: Ron Bernardo)

Former coach Mark Kovacs was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2013. (Photo: Ron Bernardo)

Kovacs was inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013, while Newman graduate and veteran professional soccer player, Lou Nagy, went in the same year as a player.

Newman’s current principal, Dean DiFrancesco, and current senior boys’ soccer coach, Gerry Moretuzzo, both used to play for the Express.

Coaches who have been involved in the Cardinal Newman soccer program since 1977 include: Kelly, Gerry Conlon, Alex Riley, Tony Piccoli, Nagy, Kovacs, Carmen Dalia, Carmen Palombells, John Quinn, Guy Venneri, Sam Markho, Gerry Moretuzzo, Anthony Macaluso, Dave Rimac, Frank Rizzuti and Vince Rizzotto.

Micieli, incidentally, used to play soccer for the Cathedral Gaels and faced those powerhouse Newman squads. He also went on to coach the rival St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves, from 1998-2001, winning a city championship and qualifying for an OFSAA tournament.

In 38 years of regular season play, Newman has only suffered 11 losses.

Others being inducted into the HSHF this year include Frank Riga, Alex Bunbury, Eversley ‘Bo’ Lewis, and Whitey McDonald in the Player Category. Al Carifiello (Builder Category) and Alex Weir (Official/Referee Category) are also being honoured.

The Club of Distinction is Dundas United Men’s (1980-2000) and the Team of Distinction is the 1976 Saltfleet Major Bantams.

Those Saltfleet bantams, by the way, won the North American championship and several of their players formed the nucleus of the first Newman soccer teams.

To mark the 40th anniversary of Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School this year, Newman will be holding an alumni soccer game on May 30 at 1 p.m. It will be a charity contest involving players from the Express OFSAA teams of 1978, ’83, ’87 and ’91.

The girls’ high school soccer program at St. Mary was inducted into the HSHF last year.

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