It is Sunday morning in Manchester and it is raining. It is not raining a lot but the sky is overcast and the ground is wet. In the Team Canada camp the players have finished breakfast and are heading out to practice. The modest celebration of the win over the USA did not end this morning – it ended last night as the players watched Australia game film before they headed off to bed. Team Canada has no intention of looking beyond Australia who they play tonight.
One of the wonderful aspects of the World Lacrosse Championships is the lacrosse festival that occurs in tandem with the men’s competition. Canada is represented by three organisations at the festival including a U-16 team from Mimico, two master’s teams from Alberta, and a master’s team from Ontario that has been handpicked and stocked with some great players.
The teams from Alberta and the team from Ontario are a study in contrasts. The write-up on Team Ontario in the official World Championship program reads “Team Ontario is built predominately around box players and was assembled in 2009 to play in the 2010 FIL Festival. The team includes five former Team Canada Field Lacrosse players: Stu Aird, Peter Follows, Joe Masterson, John Munroe, and Bob Wasson. Five players have played professional box lacrosse and twelve players have played Major or Senior Box lacrosse, Canada’s highest amateur level. The team is based out of Oakville, Ontario. ” The two Teams from Alberta on the other hand have no write-ups and are sponsored by a local brewery.
The contrasts between Team Alberta and Team Ontario are confirmed when both teams take the field. Only a couple of players on Team Alberta have ever played field lacrosse before while all of the players on Team Ontario have. Team Alberta is playing England and soon finds itself down by more than 10 goals while Team Ontario slowly builds a lead against Team USA and goes on to win by a dozen..
Tom Gare’s first trip to Canada was in 1967 to play in the first World Cup of lacrosse. Gare, who has been “capped” for England on 22 occasions, remembers the trip with great fondness. The English team preceded its trip to Canada with a playing tour of the US eastern seaboard and the World Championships were held in Canada over a three day time period. The English team was particularly interested in playing Canada because Canada had an aboriginal player on their team who they had heard a great deal about – and his name was Gaylord Powless.
The first game that England played was in Fergus, Ontario and the opponent was Australia. England lost to Australia 10-7. The second game was by far the most exciting as it was against Canada and hosted in Peterborough. Gare recalls that players from both teams traveled to the game in an open car cavalcade through the downtown streets of Peterborough fully dressed with their uniforms and sticks – the English players really didn’t know what to make of all this.
The England versus Canada lacrosse game was played at a municipal park in Peterborough in front of 4,000 fans who surrounded the field as there was no fixed seating. The game became quite intense and at times the ball would go out of bounds and not come back. Gare recalls that the fourth quarter became very rough with 20 or more penalties called and that a “punch up” occurred late in the game. At the final whistle Canada only had seven players on the field and England had eight – the other five were all in the penalty area.
The final game (and England’s third in three days) was played in Toronto and resulted in a 15-3 victory for the US over England. The cost of admission for the games was $1.50 and $0.50 for children. Tom still has all of the posters and newspaper clippings from this wonderful trip that coincided with Canada’s centennial year. The next day the team was on its way home, winless in Canada but with some wonderful memories.
The youngest Canadian team at the 2010 World Championships is a U-16 team from Mimico, which is now an inner city suburb of Toronto. The Mimico lacrosse club was formed in 1890. Field lacrosse was played in the early years and the 1930’s saw the club switch to box lacrosse and so began a string of titles including Mann Cup wins in 1932 and 1942 and Eastern Canadian Senior titles in 1943 and 1947. Mimico has been back playing field lacrosse since the mid 1990’s and the team in England is coached by Brian Shanahan.
The Shanahan’s emigrated to Canada from Ireland, arriving in Mimico in the 1950;’s. At that time, the two most popular sports to play were hockey and lacrosse. Mr. and Mrs. Shanahan were doting parents who never placed much pressure on their four sons to excel in sports – they simply asked that the boys try their best and have fun. All four Shanahan boys turned out to be very successful hockey and lacrosse players with the youngest, Brendan having the highest profile. Brendan Shanahan would of course go on to win three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and win gold for Canada at the 1991 Canada Cup, the 1994 World Cup and the 2002 Olympics.
The Mimico U-16 team is playing a top English club team and at half-time the score is tied 3-3. The first half has been mired by a series of penalties but as the second half commences both teams seem to be settling down to lacrosse. Both teams are trading goals back and forth with Dean Ferris and Joe French each scoring nice markers while Ben Follows rings a shot of the cross bar. Slowly the Mimico team pulls away and cruises to a 10-7 victory.
The game between England and Mimico represents an interesting clash of styles and the boys on the team are eager to share their thoughts on the game. Justin Demarchi, a 16 year old midfielder was quite surprisd with the English teams ability to dodge and get inside. “They don’t play the Canadian style or US style but rather a combination of both”. Dean Ferris, a 16 year old attack from Elora says “the English turned out to be a lot better than I expected but when we started set a lot of picks, that’s when we seemed to take over”. Joey Menecolo, a 15 year old midfielder was surprised with the mobility of their goalies. “Back in Canada most goalies tend to stay in their crease but the English goalie was all over the field”. Joe French, a 15 year old attack agrees and adds “I was really impressed at how well their defence moved from a zone to man-to-man – this team is obviously well coached”.
As the day moves on, the weather gradually improves. Game time between Canada and Australia is an hour away. As Team Canada heads to the field Team USA is heading back – they have just beaten Team Germany by 20 goals. The warm up for Canada is a relatively quiet affair, the electricity from the night before is gone, and there is routineness now to the pre-game warm-up. National anthems are played, players shake hands, and Geoff Snider wins the opening face-off.
For the first five minutes Canada holds most of the possession but the Australian defence is playing hard and Canada is forced to work the ball around the perimeter in a tedious game of cat and mouse. Canada goes on the power play and Kevin Huntley scores on a nice feed from Kevin Crowley. Canada 1 and Australia 0. A minute later Dan Dawson scores on a nice transition feed from Ryan McClelland. Thirty second later John Grant Jr makes a beautiful over the shoulder pass to Zach Greer and it’s suddenly 3 to 0 for Canada. Garrett Billings adds one more to make it 4 to 0 for Canada and the end of the first quarter.
The next quarter turns out to be even bigger for Canada. Crowley scores to make it 5 to 0 for Canada and Jordan Hall makes a beautiful sweeping dodge to make it 6 to 0 for Canada, John Grant Jr then sets up Rhys Duch for a goal and then Hall scores again. It is now Canada 8 and Australia 0. Grant then scores on a power play to make it 9 to 0 before Australia finally gets on the board with a nice snipe from Anson Carter. Geoff Snider and Billings each add markers and the first half ends with Canada leading 11 to 1.
The rest of the game is much the same as the first half. Canada rests Chris Sanderson and John Grant Jr in the second half and the Australians score a few more goals in the second half but the game is already over by the mid-way point of the third quarter. The final score is Canada 19 and Australia 5, Canada’s biggest winning margin over the Australian’s in World Lacrosse history.
As has become the tradition, a post-game party ensues following the game hosted by a group of the parents whose children play on Team Canada The players return from their post-game showers and mix with their parents, fans and the festival teams around a couple of Bar-B-Q’s purchased at a nearby Costco – it feels like you are in someone’s backyard back in Canada. The Mimico kids are running around, chatting with their lacrosse heroes and consuming cheese burgers at an amazing rate. Team Alberta walks in with six packs of beer under their arms and proceeds to hand out free Team Alberta T-shirts in the ugliest shade of red imaginable. The Team Ontario players talk about going into town for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and their captain exclaims “I am in desperate need of a Merlot” and suddenly Team Ontario is on their way. Wayne Sutherland, the captain of Team Alberta winks and says “we’re good with the cheeseburgers”.