Dispatches from England – Canada at the World Lacrosse Championships – 2010 – #3
It has been roughly 24 hours since the bulk of Team Canada has arrived and so begins day 2 in England and all is well in the Canadian camp. At breakfast this morning Mark Steinhaus has come stumbling in off an early flight and with his arrival the entire team is now in Manchester. A minute later we run into Jordan Coffey who is here to play for Team Scotland. Everyone in the Canadian camp appears much fresher than yesterday as the effect of the jet lag starts to ease and players adjust to the weather, food and accommodations of Central England. While the weather has been dreary and cold everything else is terrific – Manchester England is definitely ready for the world.
The morning practice is a light-hearted affair. Basic offensive and defensive schemes are discussed and walked through and a few simple passing and catching drills are run at a fast pace. A small crowd from Team France appears and politely asks if they can take a closer look – permission is granted. On the adjacent field is Team New Zealand dressed in black and white. New Zealand looks good and much stronger than 2006 – the “World” game is improving quickly.
At the other end of the field that Canada is practicing on is Team Scotland. The Scottish Team looks very good as it runs through its paces and boasts a squad that is laden with players who have at least one Scottish parent but for the most part live elsewhere. This includes 4 Canadians, 4 Americans and 8 players who reside and play in Manchester which is the hot bed of English Lacrosse. One of the Scottish coaches is quick to extend a welcoming hand and eager to talk about the Canadian connection to Team Scotland.
Keith Robertson is the Men’s Director of Lacrosse for Team Scotland as well as being one its assistant coaches. Robertson was born in Toronto, hails from Stony Creek and is an engineering graduate from Waterloo University. Robertson speaks almost reverentially about his grandfather, James Robertson, uncles Andy and Archie Robertson, and father George Robertson who all played lacrosse for the Fergus Thistles. In a fascinating case of reverse immigration, Keith is now back in Scotland, trying to grow a sport that his relatives learned as part of becoming Canadian. This fall, Keith will start the first high school lacrosse program in Scotland in preparation for the upcoming World U-19 Championships in 2012.
Robertson will not be alone in teaching the Canadian style of lacrosse to the Scottish. Jordan McBride, James Slade, Troy Kachor and Jordan Coffey will also suit up for Team Scotland. McBride hails from the west coast, plays in the NCAA for Stony Brook and has a mom who was born in Paisley, a suburb of Glasgow. He is arguably one of the sharpest attack men in the tournament having put up huge numbers for both Stony Brook and New Westminster. He’s also best friends with Canadian midfielder Kevin Crowley. Coffey, whose mom is also from Glasgow and plays for Ajax-Pickering in the Ontario Senior A league will likely see more action at midfield where his gritty defensive skills can complement his offensive game. James Slade (a Junior B Spartan from St Catherines with a mom from Duntocher) and Troy Kachor (a Sr. B from Calgary with a mom from Dundee) are also both expected to join Coffey in the midfield. All four consider the opportunity to play for Scotland an honour and all hope to be back in 2014 when the Worlds are in Denver.
But for now, there is no looking beyond today as Canada and Scotland will play an exhibition game at 3:00PM. While this is an unscheduled exhibition, it will be the first time that Canada has played Scotland in international men’s play and both sides will wear their full uniforms and treat the game as if it was just as important as any other.
Following the morning practice Canada breaks for lunch. While the athletes village has been filling up with teams for the past 24 hours Team USA appears for the first time just as the Canadian’s enter the dining hall. Pleasantries are exchanged by former college or NLL teammates who this week will play on opposite sides of center but overall the congeniality masks an underlying tension that should be expected from these two teams. Canada enters the 2010 tournament as defending champs but the Americans are the clear cut favourites. Civility is the most popular dish served at lunch today but there is no mistaking the competitive energy that is hiding just below the surface.
The weather, which has been cool all day suddenly, turns cold just before game time. At center field, the Scots and Canadians line up and exchange pleasantries while the refs brief the players on rules they already know. Brodie Merrill is the tallest among the Canadians and is wearing number 45 instead of his usual 17. By changing numbers he joins a brotherhood that incudes Zach Palmer of John Hopkins, Jason Noble of Cornell and Jeremy Noble of Denver that continues to honour a friend and his dream. Canadian center Geoff Snider bends down and in an instant the ball pops up and it is in his stick – game on.
The game is fast, the Scots are better and faster than the Canadian’s are expecting but the Canadians are still the stronger team. The Canadians score a few quick ones, the Scots push back and then the Canucks score again. Both teams are playing well relative to where they want to be right now. The score is one sided but the Scots continue to work hard. Suddenly Jordan Coffey cuts across the middle and shoots from just outside the crease line and the Scots are on the board. There is little chance that the Scots can come back and win this game but the goal is symbolic and encouraging. Twenty minutes later the game is over and both teams form up for an impromptu team photo. Relative to where both teams wanted to be at the end of the game, each walks off the field a winner.