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Vancouver 86'ers Inducted into BC Hall of Fame

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Eighty-Sixers world-class streakers

By Bob Mackin

It was a classic East meets West tale and it powered the Vancouver Eighty-Sixers to record the longest unbeaten streak in modern North American pro sports.

East Side striker Domenic Mobilio paired with new acquisition John Catliff on the front line for the Eighty-Sixers' sophomore 1988 season. West Sider Catliff was a member of the defending Canadian Soccer League champion Calgary Kickers, who eliminated Mobilio and the Eighty-Sixers in 1987's semi-finals.

The St. George's and Harvard-educated Catliff grew up playing youth soccer for the Kerrisdale Roadrunners. Templeton secondary grad Mobilio was a product of the working-class East Side and played youth soccer with Willingdon Park in Burnaby.

Together they formed Canadian soccer's most potent attack.

"John and I had an uncanny sixth sense, we knew where we were going to be on the field," said Mobilio, now Coquitlam City Soccer's head coach.

"I enjoyed my years with Domenic," said Catliff, now vice-president with Helly Hansen sportswear in Munich, Germany. "He certainly was no slouch and certainly would challenge. I was more of the target man and he was more of the finisher. I always bugged him that if he didn't take so many penalty shots, I would've had more goals than him."

Catliff and Mobilio were first and second in league scoring in 1988 with 22 and 20 goals, respectively. The team's only loss of 1988 was June 6 to the North York Rockets. They proceeded to win 23 and tie six en route to the first of four consecutive CSL championships-a 4-1 win over the Hamilton Steelers at Swangard Stadium.

"John was deceivingly skillful for his size and had a great left foot," said then-coach Bob Lenarduzzi. "Domenic was the kind of guy that if you give him 10 chances in the box, he's going to score eight of them. He's a very efficient goal-scorer."

There was more to the team than Catliff and Mobilio. Veterans Dale Mitchell and Carl Valentine anchored the midfield. Doug Muirhead ably earned the nickname "Super Sub." Goalkeeper Sven Habermann kept balls out of the net and Ivor Evans, the "Fiji flash," was a magician with his feet.

"It was made up of many different characters," said Valentine, now head coach with the North Shore Soccer Development Centre. "That's what you needed, the young players, the veteran players, the comedians in the changing room to keep it light."

The 1989 team pushed the streak to 46 games-37 wins and nine ties-before the Edmonton Brick Men handed Vancouver a 2-1 defeat on Aug. 8. Lenarduzzi said he knew the end was near; Vancouver had scored just 13 goals in its six previous games and was playing "not to lose," as opposed to playing to win.

The Eighty-Sixers were still tops in regular season with 18 wins, six ties and two losses. They exacted revenge on Edmonton in the two-part western semi-final series before edging Hamilton in the league final 3-2.

"It was a good mix of youth, experience, finesse, power and speed," said Mobilio, who retired in 2001 with 179 career goals. "You name it, we had it."

Catliff, inducted into Canada's soccer hall of fame earlier this month, retired in 1994 with ligament injuries to both knees.

A decade-and-a-half after the streak, the 1989 squad is being honoured Tuesday night with induction into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame. The Eighty-Sixers (who adopted the Whitecaps name in 2001) join three other soccer teams in the B.C. Place Stadium-based museum: New Westminster Royals (1928-29), St. Andrews (1946-47) and the 1979 Soccer Bowl-champion Vancouver Whitecaps-of which Lenarduzzi and Valentine were also members.

The B.C. Sports Hall of Fame's 36th annual Banquet of Champions induction ceremony is May 18 at the Vancouver Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Call 604-687-5520 or go to www.bcsportshalloffame.com for tickets and information on the 10 other inductees.

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