MANCHESTER, England – When he was just a young boy growing up in Orangeville, Evan Kirk used to watch Chris Sanderson tend goal for the junior team, the Northmen, in the southern Ontario town.
All these years later, Kirk turns 23 on July 22 and Sanderson is 36 now, the two are the primary goaltenders on Canada’s team at the world field lacrosse championships, and Kirk couldn’t be happier about this simple twist of fate.
“I remember being a toddler and watching him play in Orangeville,’’ Kirk recalls. “After that he went to the University of Virginia. I didn’t see him play there and he’s pretty well resided in the United States ever since.’’
Kirk also took the U.S. college route and plays field lacrosse at Hobart College at Geneva, N.Y. He had a dream he could become Sanderson’s teammate if he made Canada’s team for the world championship, and the dream came true.
“The main reason I tried out was the chance to play for my country,’’ he says. “It’s the biggest honour to play on this stage.
“I don’t know a guy who wouldn’t want to play on this team. A big thing for me to be able to play on this team is to play with Chris Sanderson. Growing up, he was one of my biggest idols. Just to get the chance to play with him will be one of the biggest things I’ll do in my life.’’
Canada opens the tournament against Japan on Friday.
Kirk and Sanderson don’t spend a lot of time together analyzing goaltending techniques.
“When I see him now, it’s pretty much just saying hello, and he’s a jokester so it’s all about having fun,’’ says Kirk.
Sanderson was named best tournament goaltender when he helped Canada win its first world title in 28 years in 2006 in London, Ont., he had a brain tumor removed in December 2008 and he undergoes stints of intensive chemotherapy.
“I can’t put myself in that position but he’s said he wants to be that one per cent that beats it and I think he’s going to be that one guy,’’ says Kirk. “It’s pretty inspiring to be here with him. The team is all behind him. It’s a pretty big deal to be playing with him.’’
Kirk plays box lacrosse for the Kitchener Kodiaks of the OLA Major Series.
“My brothers pushed me into it when I was a little kid,’’ he responds when asked how he opted to play one of the most demanding positions in all of sport. “One was a defenceman and one was an attackman so they needed a goalie playing in the backyard and I’ve done it ever since.’’
Field lacrosse nets are almost double the size of boxla nets.
“They’re completely different games,’’ says Kirk. “The only thing that’s similar is the mindset _ going in and getting ready. But the style and the way you have to make saves are completely different. There are totally different moves and angles in the field game because of the bigger nets. You’re wearing less gear and stopping the ball with your stick rather than your body. It’s a lot different. You watch guys’ sticks and follow the ball and get across the net as fast as you can.’’
Kirk had never played a world championship game before arriving in Manchester. He’s enjoying the team bonding experience with some big-name players he’s always wanted to get to know.
“It’s always a pleasure to be here, right from when you wake up till you go to bed. It’s good times and a lot of laughs. I play against a lot of these guys during the summer and it’s great to be on the same team with them for a change. It’s just a great time.’’
Neil Stevens, Team Canada media contact