The Canadian Lacrosse League (CLax) dropped a bombshell this week announcing some major changes for the 2014 season including new ownership as Canadian Lacrosse League Holdings Inc. has purchased the league from Paul St. John, who will stay on as a special advisor to the new owners. Canadian Lacrosse League Holdings Inc. is a collaboration of Ohsweken Demons owner Rodney Hill and Charlesway Corporation Ltd who own the Niagara Lock Monsters and Barrie Blizzard. The new owners have some big shoes to fill but sources say they share the same intense passion for lacrosse and want nothing more than to continuing growing the game.
Clax also announced some major structural changes for the upcoming season; the Iroquois Ironmen, Brampton Inferno and Toronto Shooting Stars are all out and a new road team, the SouthWest Cyclops, has been added. Each team will also play a cross over game against a non CLax team, the Tuscarora Tomahawks, from Cattaraugas New York.
The Durham TurfDogs, Niagara Lock Monsters, Barrie Blizzard and Ohsweken Demons are each returning for the 2014 season as they try to build on their solid fan bases. Barrie and Niagara had the most consistent attendance last year while Durham’s followers started to grow with each home game of the season. Ohweken was pretty steady throughout the year, finishing it off with a near sell out for the finals at Iroquois Lacrosse Arena which saw their (non defunct) hometown rival Iroquois Ironmen win the Creator’s Cup.
As mentioned, The SouthWest Cyclops will be strictly a road team for this upcoming season but they’re looking for a permanent home in 2015. With the name SouthWest it is assumed they’ll be looking for a home in that region of Ontario but the exact whereabouts is a complete guess at this time. It would be nice to see the game set up shop a little more East as lacrosse has really started to grow in that direction.
Cobourg and Kingston (both in Ontario) come to mind right away and I think either city would make a great fit for a permanent team. Last year the CLax had a great turnout when the Brampton Inferno and Durham TurfDogs played a regular season game in Cobourg while Kingston had great success when the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks clashed with the Peterborough Lakers in Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) action.
Both of the cities have perfect venues for a CLax team and with large help from Nationwide Lacrosse, the sport is really starting to take off in those markets. Nationwide co-founders Brad Self and Shawn Evans have brought their camps several times to both cities with great responses each visit. The pair even showed up to the CLax game in Cobourg last season, bringing the Mann Cup with them; a trophy given to the top team in Canada which they won with the Peterborough Lakers in 2012. Between the game and these two superstars with the Mann Cup, the energy in the Cobourg Community Centre was electric and it was evident that this city is ready for a permanent team to come to town.
Peterborough seems like and obvious choice to may and I’ve ben asked multiple times why the Clax hasn’t set up shop in what is arguably the lacrosse capital of the world. It’s not that they haven’t tried; two years ago former Peterborough Lakers General Manager Jamie Batley attempted to bring a team to town for the league’s inaugural season. It appeared to be a done deal when Batley stated at a press conference that Peterborough would have a squad playing out of the Peterborough Memorial Centre (PMC) but shortly after that presser the PMC made an announcement of their own, stating that they are not looking to host a winter lacrosse team because they feel it will take attendance away from the Peterborough Petes who play their Ontario Hockey League (OHL) home games from the venue and have done so for the last 50 plus years. With the way the struggling Petes are playing lately and the extremely low attendance I wonder if they are now regretting that decision.
If we do see expansion it most likely won’t happen this season as it appears the league has now been set in stone for 2014. The five team league will get under way in February, playing a nine game schedule followed by the playoffs.
If you’ve never been to a CLax game before you should definitely take one in this season. You’ll not only be supporting the growth of the lacrosse but you’ll also see some of the best talent in the game today mixed with fast paced, old school, two way ball; players play both ends of the floor which makes this one of the most excited lacrosse leagues in the world today. I’ll tell you one thing, it’s been a long off season and February can’t come soon enough.
Scott Arnold is Lead Writer for In Lacrosse We Trust, the Director of Broadcasting for The Lacrosse Radio Network and the play by play radio voice for the Peterborough Lakers and the Canadian Lacrosse League. His column, Behind The Back, can be found right here every weekend and you can also follow him on Twitter @ScottArnold12