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The first Rugby Magazine article in 1977 about the two-day Saranac Lake Can-Am tournament - then in its fourth year – dealt only with the final, which was won by Providence RFC against Old Blue of New York in a 30-0 whitewash. The photo above, showing some of the 800 players attending, revealed the increasing popularity of this splendid summer event, which would continue to be the east’s largest assembly of fifteens up to and including 2017, its 44th year.
The victory marked Providence’s second Can-Am title, the first coming in 1976. Old Blue were champions in 1974 and 1975.
The Providence RFC was founded in 1969 under the leadership of Dave Zucconi, a Brown U. alumnus who shepherded the college club from its beginnings in 1960. Many Brown ruggers continued to play for the University club after graduating. These men realized it was time to break ties with the Alma Mater and form a city club welcome to all. Ironically, this same college to urban club transition created Old Blue, which, at first, played as Columbia University in New York City with a mix of undergrad students and grad student alumni.
Providence experienced one tough match 4-3, in the first game against the host side the Saranac Lake Mountaineers. The Rhode Islanders waltzed through the next rounds with shutouts against the Albany Knicks, Lancaster (PA) Roses, and Dartmouth College. In two-years of the Can-Am, Providence outscored opponents 125-24, ceding only one try in 1976.
The MVP was Bill Mullin of Providence, former Brown star, who had scored all the points in Brown’s win at the New York Sevens, also against Old Blue in the final.
Even with the presence of USA Eagle, Mike Sherlock, Old Blue could not mount any offense, and were down 12-0 at halftime. Brown added 18 points in the second half as Mullin finished the day with 18 points from three conversions and four penalty goals.
The Women’s championship that year saw the Ottawa Irish defeat the New England All-Stars 8-4.
Saranac Lake’s event would continue to grow annually, adding over time, more games for age grade Masters to compete. With the cessation of the three great California tournaments (Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Diego), the Can-Am and the Rugger Fest in Aspen survived and flourished to be the last, great American fifteens gatherings
(Tomorrow, Can-Am 2017 Results.)