Onondaga Nation- Growing up on Onondaga Nation, there is a tradition of fathers teaching ‘the game’ to their sons while playing catch on the front yard. Barry Powless was no different. Like most boys, he received his first lacrosse stick from his father and the journey began.
As a young boy, Barry was tutored by his lacrosse Hall of Fame father and grandfather (Irving Powless Sr & Jr). They taught him about the importance of the game to the Onondaga, crucial elements of offense and defense, and to treat your stick as an extension of yourself.
“I remember leaving my stick outside,” Barry recalled an early childhood memory. “It was my wooden stick and I felt horrible. It was a lesson I didn’t forget. After that, I made sure I knew where my stick was at all times.”
For Barry, that usually meant practicing in the backyard shooting on the wooded backstop, carrying his stick while riding his bike to the outside box, taking his stick to school, or shooting on his younger brother Brad in the front yard.
“I can still see him all sweaty from wearing his goalie pads and his softball mask,” said Barry chuckling. “I used to make sure I had gum with me to bribe him not to tell our Ma if I stung him too hard.”
But usually Barry wasn’t hitting the goalie, he was scoring goals. Barry played in his first men’s lacrosse game for Onondaga at the age of thirteen alongside his father. The men traveled out to western NY play the Pinewoods AC. When it was time to play, the Onondaga’s were lacking a few players for this away game. Barry’s player/coach father turned to his son and told him to get his pads on.
“My mom was definitely not excited about me playing,” recalled Barry. “The men would play defense and I would stay out near the midfield. After we took the ball away from them, they would throw me the ball. I just remember catching the ball, running as fast as I could, and shooting …then tumbling across the dirt floor as the ball went in the net! I loved it.”
So started the Hall of Fame career of Barry Powless.
As a senior at the LaFayette high school, Barry was the first player at LaFayette to total 100 points in a single season with 28 goals and 72 assists and an All-American selection at attack. He scored 10 goals in a 12-11 win over Newtown earning him a WTVH5 player of the week. In 1976, Barry was second in scoring for the Syracuse University and he led the Onondaga team in 1977 to a league (NALA) championship. The following year he was named Cornwall Lions Club Athlete of the Year; leading his team (St. Regis Mohawks) in points and to league championship. He was on the 1980 Can-Am Warriors team who placed second in the World Box Championships held in Vancouver, BC. It was there that he was wooed to play lacrosse on the west coast in Vancouver.
Barry talked about his decision to head west.
“It was hard to move away from home and family. Frank Baker, the GM for the North Shore Indians was putting a team together to make a serious run for the President’s Cup. Plus he said that I could also play Sr. A ball with the New Westminster Salmonbellies. It was a challenge that I just couldn’t pass up.”
Barry immediately took to the challenge.
That summer he helped the North Shore Indians earn a bronze medal in the President’s Cup. Barry was named tournament MVP despite not playing on the Championship team. He then immediately donned the ‘Bellies jerseyand won his first Canadian Championship, the Senior A Mann Cup trophy. By the end of his playing tenure on the west coast he had numerous top scorer honors, 2 MVP honors, 3 Canadian Championships rings, 2 second place finishes and 2 bronze medal finishes.
Barry also continued to play field lacrosse as he was one of the original members of the Iroquois Nationals in 1990 as a midfielder on the team that traveled to Perth, Australia for the Nationals first FIL World Championship.
“I will cherish the memories I have of playing on those early National teams,” stated Powless. “Since we didn’t have many players with field lacrosse experience it was challenging as a player and coach. It was very important to prove that we could play on the international stage. It laid the groundwork for what the boys are able to do today.”
In 1989, Barry returned home. He first played for Furgus Thistles for a President’s Cup in 1990 and in 1993 for the Onondaga men’s team that made their appearance in the Presidents Cup, and helped coach. He was playing and coaching the Onondaga men’s team when he became the first LaFayette High School alumni to be the Head Coach of the Lancers. Barry got to coach his youngest brother, Neal.
“It was fun coaching Neal,” said Barry of his coaching days at LaFayette High School. “We had a great core of players and Neal and I were always able to diagram plays around the dinner table moving around the salt and pepper shakers. I was able to share what I’ve learned over the past seasons.”
Soon Barry’s talents as a coach were quickly recognized. He was named the as the inaugural coach of the Rochester Knighthawks of the MILL in 1995. Then in 1997, Barry became the first native coach to win a modern world professional championship.
“That was a great win,” Barry said of the 1997 Rochester Championship win over Buffalo. “We had a slow start but we had momentum going into the playoffs. It was sweet to beat Buffalo, in Buffalo at a sold out HSBC Arena; plus I played with Buffalo just a few years earlier (1992) when we won a championship.”
Even though Barry was elected into the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1999, Barry continued to play. He played with Onondaga well into his 40’s, then he moved to Cattaraugus where he spent his last two seasons playing senior B with the Newtown Golden Eagles and retired at age 50; and finished the season as one of the top ten in scorers in the league.
Now Barry Powless will be the 10th lacrosse inductee into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame with former coaches Gordie Ohstrom and Roy Simmonds Jr., along with fellow Onondaga lacrosse player Oren Lyons.
“It’s amazing the different paths we all took to end up at the same place.” Powless said of joining players and coaches he knows that are also in the Hall. “I never in my wildest imagination did I think that while I was playing lacrosse in high school that someday my coach and I would be in the Hall of Fame.”
“I am so grateful for the gift to play our game,” added Barry. “I have learned so much about myself and my family. During my playing career, lacrosse has given me many positive experiences and lessons; I hope that I have given some of that back to the players I’ve coached. I really love our game.”
That love surly is evident in his success in his lacrosse career.
1974-1975 LaFayette High School-USLA High School All America- Attack
1976- 1980 Syracuse University-Attack
1977 Onondaga OAC- NALA Champions
1978 Cornwall Lions Club Athlete of the Year; St Regis Mohawks Jr. B- Eastern Ontario Champions
Common Wealth Games at Edmonton, Alb.- High Scorer Award
1979-1980 Jamesville DeWitt -Modified assistant Coach
1980 World Box Lacrosse Championships at Vancouver, BC, silver metal – Can-Am Warriors
1981 Mann Cup Canadian Champions- New Westminster Salmonbellies, BC
Presidents Cup-Bronze- North Shore Indians, BC, WCSL MVP
Presidents Cup Tournament MVP
1982 Mann Cup-silver metal; New Westminster Salmonbellies; WLA All Star Team
Pioneer Cup; New Westminster Salmonbellies vs Furgus Thistles, Game MVP
1984 North Shore Indians- British Columbia Champions; WSCL Most Sportman Award
1985 Presidents Cup Canadian Champions – North Shore Indians, BC; WCSL MVP and High Scorer
1986 North Shore Indians; WCSL Most Sportman Award
Vancouver Field Lacrosse Club; League All Star Team-Attack
1987 Vancouver Burrards WLA; North Shore Indians WCSL
Vancouver Field Lacrosse Club-Provicial Champions
1988 Mann Cup-silver metal; Coquitlan Adanacs
Vancouver Field Lacrosse Club; League All Star Team-Midfield
1990 Presidents Cup Canadian Champions – Fergus, Ont; Presidents Cup All Star Team
World Field Championships at Perth- Iroquois Nationals
1990-1993 LaFayette High School-Head Coach
1991 NLL Buffalo Renegades; 1st overall draft pick
1992 MILL World Champions; Buffalo Bandits
1993 ILA Champions- Onondaga OAC; ILA High Scorer
1993-1997 Onondaga OAC-Player coach
1995-1997 Rochester Knighthawks-Head Coach
1996 Presidents Cup-Bronze; Kahnawake Mohawks
1997 MILL World Champions 1997; Rochester Knighthawks-Head Coach
1998 Presidents Cup-Bronze; Niagara Falls Hawks
1999 Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee
2000-2002 NLL VP of Lacrosse Operations
2003 World Indoor Championships- silver metal; Iroquois Nationals-Assistant Coach
2006-2007 Newtown- Can Am League (retired from senior B at 50 yrs old)
2010 “Teiontsikwaeks- Lacrosse: The Creators Game”;Contributor writer
2013 Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame inductee