My MISL 40th Anniversary Reunion experience started with a 3:20am alarm for a 6:45am flight from Baltimore to Las Vegas. My dizzying first day ended over 24 hours later.
Once on the plane, a communications issue forced us to disembark and caused a nearly two hour delay, but I was in no hurry, because the reunion’s welcome reception at the Orleans Hotel and Casino didn’t start til 8:00pm.
I had planned to have lunch with my cousin who happened to be in town for his anniversary, but we couldn’t make that work, so I suddenly had an open afternoon.
A little later on I met up with Turf and Boards alumnus, Suttie on Soccer’s Greg Ponto Suttie. Not long after, we were joined by Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame goalkeeper Alan Mayer.
After a long, enjoyable conversation we went out to the pool, where several players has assembled including Hall of Famers Juli Veee and Zoltan Toth, Pittsburgh Spirit All-Star defender Dave MacKenzie, Los Angeles Lazers and San Diego Sockers All-Star defender Gus Mokalis, and Spirit and Hartford Hellions forward Billy McNicol. Former US National Team and New York Arrows defender David D’Errico was holding court and posting Facebook Live videos. I also met Ron Newman’s wife Olive and their daughter Tracey Wilkinson. Also making the trip were fans Joey Thomas (Dallas), Drew Pelto (Cleveland), and Cowboys Salazar (San Diego).
Suddenly five hours flew by and it was time for the welcome reception. Everyone got a swag bag with a name tag and MISL40 button, as well as a scarf and t-shirt with all of the MISL logos. Many players and coaches I recognized right away like Hall of Famers Ed Tepper, Kai Haaskivi, Gordon Jago, and Roy Turner, Dallas Sidekicks and Wichita Wings Perry Van Der Beck, Sidekicks all-star Doc Lawson, Sockers defender Guy Newman, Chicago Sting and Tacoma Stars all-star midfielder Gerry Gray, and MISL nomad Godfrey Ingram, who was one quarter of the Tacoma Stars “Fab Four” quartet of 40 goal scorers in 1986-87. Some played a little before my time like Nicky Megaloudis, Norman Piper, and Jimmy Sinclair. I was fascinated to meet Cincinnati Kids, Pittsburgh Spirit, and Philadelphia Fever coach Len Bilous, who coached in the very first MISL game in 1978, and massage therapy pioneer John Louis who worked for the Chicago Horizon, the Sting, Kansas City Comets, and the Chicago White Sox.
Besides the swag bags, everyone got to go home with artist’s proofs of Juli Veee’s paintings, which was an amazing gesture that was met with reverent gratitude. “I’m here with Juli Veee…AND he’s giving me art?!” was a universal reaction that turned us all into Wayne and Garth (“We’re not worthy!”). The players took turns signing each other’s prints to commemorate the reunion.
At midnight (3:00am my time) I was DONE, but it was a day full of celebration, hugs, memories, and a lot of smiles. Original MISL PR man Doug Verb is the one we all have to thank for putting this together. He is also working on an MISL documentary and throughout the reception Greg Ponto Suttie did-one on-one interviews with all of the players and even yours truly, with a film crew.
On tap today is a kick around. Some of these guys still play, but some of the hips and knees are not original and there was some general apprehension about how serious these games are going to be. Everyone needs to say in one piece for tonight’s Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame get together.