LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Some of the game’s all-time greats took the field this week at the 28th Lake Placid Summit Classic for the second annual Major League Lacrosse Legends Alumni Game.
A joint effort of Summit Lacrosse Ventures and Major League Lacrosse, the game brought together many of the most respected and decorated lacrosse players to ever use a stick, including the likes of Gary Gait, Drew Westervelt, Shawn Nadelen, John Gagliardi and many more.
“It’s such a special opportunity to be able to get all of these great players together with their families and reunite them on the field,” said Kevin Leveille, Event and Brand Manager for Summit Lacrosse Ventures and an 11-year MLL veteran who retired in 2015. He worked diligently over the years with the league to bring the MLL Legends Alumni Game to fruition.
The game was put on to benefit two organizations close to the Lake Placid lacrosse family: Team Ranger Lead the Way Fund and the HEADstrong Foundation. Donations were accepted to benefit each entity and the teams played as “Team HEADstrong” and “Team Ranger Lead the Way.”
Team HEADstrong held on for a 12-7 victory, but in the end, both teams were celebrating with the hundreds of tournament goers who packed the sideline to see the game, which was also broadcast by Lax Sports Net.
“This is just a real treat for lacrosse fans, but also for these guys who get to come here and get on the field with their old friends and teammates,” Leveille said. “It also helps support two of the finest charity organizations in lacrosse in HEADstrong and Ranger Lead the Way. On top of it all, these guys get to be in a great setting like Lake Placid and make it a family trip too.”
On Thursday, two new members of the elite Lake Placid Summit Classic community were inducted Thursday on another busy day at the 28th edition of the nation’s most anticipated summer lacrosse tournament.
Greg Gebhardt and Anthony “Ort” Ortolano, both Upstate New York natives, were surrounded by their teammates, family members and many more friends Thursday night at the now-annual Legends of Placid Lacrosse ceremony.
They became the 25th and 26th individuals honored as Legends of Placid Lacrosse, which pays tribute to the men and women who’ve made contributions to the growth and sustainability of the Summit Classic.
“We’re excited to induct two individuals who embody what this Legends program is all about – people that really make the game what it is,” said Summit Classic Co-Founder George Leveille.
Gebhardt and Ortolano have both been attending the tournament since it began in 1990 with just a handful of teams.
“Greg is a fabulous goalie and a great individual,” said Leveille, who added details of Greg’s success at Nazareth College and later with teams like the Sailin’ Shoe and the Olden Flyers, winning numerous Summit Classic titles.
Gebhardt was introduced by his brother Jason, one of two brothers at the tournament, and his family was sitting in the front row during the presentation.
Counting Gebhardt himself, eight members of his extended family are participating this week at the Summit Classic.
“My kids know they get presents at Christmas, Turkey at Thanksgiving and, in August, they get to go to Lake Placid,” Gebhardt said.
“This family that I see of everybody out here, this is the reason we come to Lake Placid every year. … I want to thank George and Kevin for allowing us to come to this venue and play the game we love. … It’s really a family event. … You don’t get this opportunity to play in such a prestigious area, you don’t get to bring your families here and enjoy this area without a true love of the game and the passion for competing.”
Ortolano served as the longtime head athletic trainer at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute, before retiring in 2012, having worked at RPI since 1985. Ortolano served as the tournament’s Director of Athletic Training for 27 years before retiring from that role in the past year.
He was introduced Thursday by Jim Case, who took over for Ort this year after working with him at the tournament for several years.
“There’s hard work every day that goes on, and we really try to do the best we can for our athletes and that precedent was set by Ort,” said Chase, an Associate Head Athletic Trainer at Cornell University.
“He brought an air of professionalism to a tent out in a field. … He also brought a group of trainers together from different backgrounds. We’ve had people from all kinds of places and we all do things differently. That has not only been fun but has also made it special.”
Leveille, a longtime friend of Ortolano’s, lightened the mood with playful commentary on his contributions to the Summit Classic.
“He’s been through ten million barrels of tape in the last 25 years,” Leveille said. “He’s an incredible person. He’s built an incredible staff and protocols to keep you all safe… We finally lost him to retirement last year and we’re excited to now be able to induct him into the Legends organization.”
Ortolano, usually quick with his words, wanted to keep his speech brief.
“In the time that I’ve spent here, the thing that’s most meaningful to me is the people that have come through the staffs that I’ve had, George’s staff, Mike DeRossi, the stories – those are the things that make Lake Placid special,” Ort said.
“It’s been my honor to work here. I’ve been very fortunate to have unbelievable people be part of my staff.”
An impromptu presentation was made at the beginning of the ceremony, as Summit Lacrosse Ventures staff honored Melissa “Missy” Furnia for what is being referred to as a miracle on the sidelines Wednesday.
Furnia, an emergency medical technician with Lake Placid’s Volunteer Ambulance Service, responded to the North Elba Athletic Fields Wednesday evening after a member of the Ohio Wesleyan University alumni team suffered a heart attack as a game was ending.
The player, John Sussingham of Connecticut, was treated by Summit Classic athletic trainers who used an automated external defibrillator to stabilize him. Upon her arrival, Furnia led cardiopulmonary resuscitation efforts that ultimately saved the 54-year-old’s life.
“This is all about people,” said George Leveille, who invited Sussingham’s OWU teammates up to embrace Furnia. Tears were shed as Furnia was applauded for her efforts and named the “MVP of the week.”
“We saw incredible leadership out of this person we didn’t even know,” Leveille said. “Melissa took charge of the situation, and it was not an easy situation. She was calm, cool and professional and led us through this. Recognizing the extraordinary work that was done on the field, we’re naming Melissa our ‘Most Valuable Player.’”
The Legends of Placid Lacrosse ceremony included words from Mat Levine, the founder of CityLax, an organization that brings lacrosse into New York City schools and lower income geographies that historically have had little or no access to the game.
Dom Starsia, one of Division I’s all-time greatest coaches, also addressed the crowd, encouraging them to look into the work being done by organizations like CityLax and Harlem Lacrosse.
As the Summit Classic rolls into the weekend, Friday will feature a kickoff of the remaining adult divisions, which include both the men’s and women’s 18+ divisions. Teams will feature some of the top current college lacrosse stars and many who just recently finished their collegiate careers.
Friday will bring another exciting attraction for tournament goers, as the Major League Lacrosse Legends Alumni will be played for the second consecutive year at the North Elba Athletic Fields.
A full roster of participating players — including the likes of Gary Gait, Casey Powell, Shawn Nadelen, and many more — can be found at summitlacrosseventures.com.
“This is a real treat for lacrosse fans,” said Kevin Leveille, Event and Brand Manager for Summit Lacrosse Ventures and an 11-year MLL veteran who retired in 2014. He worked diligently over the years with the league to bring the MLL Legends Alumni Game to fruition.
“The Legends Alumni Game was a huge success in Year One. We had a great turnout and coverage of the game and the bonding on the field made it an unforgettable experience that we look forward to recreating again this year.”
The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET. There is no fee to watch the game but donation is encouraged to the either/both of the beneficiaries, HEADstrong Foundation and Ranger Lead The Way Fund, two important Foundations to the Lake Placid Summit. Please donate at the respective tents located in vendor village or click here to support online. The game will be broadcast by Lax Sports Net.
You can follow all of the week’s activities by using the hashtags #laxplacid and #lakeplacidlax on social media.
For more information on the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Classic, including schedules and score updates, please visit summitlacrosseventures.com.
About Lake Placid Summit Classic
Established in 1990, Lake Placid Summit Classic (LPSC) is one of the Nation’s oldest and most highly attended events with 250 teams participating in 2016. The weeklong event is made up of 13 different divisions of play across boys, girls, men and women, and, participant ages range from 15 to 60 and over. LPSC is owned and operated by Summit Lacrosse Ventures, LLC. Learn more at summitlacrosseventures.com.