By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/13/14
Bob DiPuppo likes to joke that he was honored with the Legends of the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament because he was “the last one standing.”
In fact, the Philly Masters pioneer has been playing the game a long time, and has been going to the legendary tourney at Placid for 24 years.
But not only does DiPuppo have longevity, he has a love of lacrosse and the ability to lead others to play the game into their golden years like few others have.
DiPuppo was honored last weekend as one of 10 new honorees in the Legends of Lake Placid – a special induction ceremony created to honor the 25th year celebration of the popular tourney that draws hundreds of masters teams.
DiPuppo, whose Philly-based Gray Eagles team competed last week in the Ultra Grand Masters Division (55-plus), said he was humbled by the award and the recognition. He would prefer to just play the game and stop counting the years, and gets more satisfaction out of seeing others stay competitive in their later years.
“I would like to credit the guys that have come out over the years,” DiPuppo said. “We have had varying levels of success. But every year they keep coming out in many cases it’s the same guys over and over again.”
DiPuppo, a Haverford High and Dickinson College graduate, founded the Philadelphia Masters in 1984. He first began bringing teams to compete at Vail in 1989, but the distance was extreme and after starting to play at Lake Placid in 1991 the destination became a regular part of the schedule.
“When we think of putting together the lacrosse season, what people ask about first is Lake Placid,” DiPuppo said. “I have to credit the guys for wanting to come each year. If you go back long enough it’s like you’re the last man standing.”
DiPuppo detailed the history of Masters lacrosse. Masters is typically for 33 and older players who want to stay competitive but don’t want to play with the just-out-of-college 20s. he said that in 1998 at the World Games in Baltimore the Grand Masters (45 and over) was formed because players in the masters division got a little older. That was the first year Lake Placid held Grand Masters division games (the division was also formed at the Florida Lacrosse Classic, the big winter tourney for masters lacrosse).
In 2005, as the aging process continued for DiPuppo and many others playing lacrosse, the 50-and-over Super Grand Masters Division was formed. Then last year the Ultra Grand Masters (55 and over) division was formed at Placid and Florida. This year at the World Games, they started the 60 and Over Division – and the Gray Eagles were there.
DiPuppo said it’s amazing that the level of play for the 60 and over players is almost the same as the 50 and over division when it first started since laxers continue to stay in lacrosse shape.
“The kills and level stays the same,” he said. “Even the speed has not diminished. It just keeps going on.”
DiPuppo jokes that he began playing when “Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration” was in place in the Mid-1960s. He said his teams go to the tourneys to compete and win, but perhaps more to enjoy lacrosse.
“The team we bring up, is comprised of guys there exclusively to win, but it’s also a recreational thing,” he said. “We are OK with not winning. The thing most important to me is seeing us ramp up in the course of the tournament.
“Every year we bring the same core of 10, 11, 12 guys, but six or seven guys change every year. You have to learn how other guys are playing. That means almost exclusively we lose the first game. By the second game we see the jell forming, and the third we’re better. By the fourth game, now we’re really playing on all cylinders.”
DiPuppo said he has witnessed the growth of Philly Lacrosse from an area where the sport was only played seriously at colleges and on the Main Line to the berth of the region as a major hotbed.
“It is really important that we make a stand in Philly,” he said. “When I first started playing in the 1960s to the 1990s, there were two places considered to be hotbeds – Long Island and Maryland.
“But Philly kept chipping away and chipping away. Since the middle of ’90s there’s been a recognition around the country that this area is banging out big time lacrosse players on a regular basis. There are pockets of lacrosse powers building around the world and we’re coming into our own.
“As far as Lake Placid, to me it’s the premier lacrosse event in the country. There are like 500 teams. It’s run extremely well, with numbers of teams coming in. The organization is great with (founder) George Levielle and Kevin Levielle running it. They do an incredible job.
“Now our name is associated with longevity at Lake Placid with my name – that’s what I mean about the last man standing.”