Wednesday’s Day 2 of the MISL 40th Anniversary Reunion started as a trip to the breakfast buffet, but turned into a trip down memory lane.
Juli Veee spotted me and invited me to join him, Zoltan Toth, and Gus Mokalis. Juli and Zollie are like an old married couple. They are best friends, but they like to give each other a hard time. “I hear this story 20 f$%&# times,” Veee grouses playfully, while Toth doesn’t miss a beat.
The two are roommates on the trip and Veee said Toth was having a nightmare last night and he was talking in his sleep saying, “Haaskivi…save…NO!” Apparently Toth was having a flashback to a shot that got away at an All-Star Game. “Goalkeepers don’t remember the games they won, they remember the games they lost and the shots they didn’t save,” Toth said later that evening. Whether the nightmare story was literal or a tall tale, it was hilarious to see Veee and Toth act it out.
At 1:00pm we all met up for an informal game at Longevity Sports Center. Gerry Gray took control and divided the teams. For me it was an exciting chance to add a bunch of big names to the list of great players I’ve played with and against. I can now say I have shared the field with the likes of Gray, Mokalis, David D’Errico, Doc Lawson, Alan Mayer and Godfrey Ingram.
I was all jacked up to try to make a good impression and I made a nice steal, but they blew the play dead. Unbeknownst to me at the time we were playing with one major rule modification: no running. Being one of the youngest players on the field, speed was my only equalizer against these guys, but it was not my day. Jimmy Sinclair, the MISL’s first Rookie of the Year, ripped an upper 90 shot right over my head and the game was over.
At lunch I met Marc Zumoff, who introduced himself as the former play-by-play announcer for the Philadelphia Fever, but more notably he is currently the long-time voice of the Philadelphia 76ers, just one example the MISL’s legacy and influence on the American sportscape.
The evening featured a dinner at BG Bistro a Bulgarian restaurant near the Orleans Hotel. After eating and socializing, Doug Verb called the room to order and thanked everyone for coming and shared what it meant to him to see everybody again. “Those years were the best time of my life,” Verb said, and he is not alone. He pointed out that the MISL carried the torch for professional soccer in the US from the time the NASL folded to the beginning of MLS. He noted that in trying to reach out to everyone from the league he realized that at least 41 players, coaches, and staff members had died, and highlighted the recent passings of Earl Foreman, Fernando Clavijo, and Ron Newman.
Then he recognized the seven Indoor Soccer Hall of Famers in the room and Kai Haaskivi, Ed Tepper, Alan Mayer, and Roy Turner received their trophies for the first time.
Turner took an opportunity to recognize one of his former players in the room. “Norman Piper was the first player I ever signed with the Wings and he just beat the toughest opponent of all, cancer.” Piper had battled with multiple myeloma.
Godfrey Ingram took the floor and thanked Verb for getting everyone together and Gordon Jago echoed the sentiment and promised to try to stick around a few more years. Verb said he would see him at MISL80. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?