Pro lacrosse is returning to the Gardens. The Canadian Lacrosse League recently announced that the Mattamy Athletic Centre will play host to the Toronto Shooting Stars. The franchise is headed up by General Manager and Head Coach Glenn Clark, a former standout defender with the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League. Clark—nicknamed the Professor during his Rock tenure—is joined on the bench by another Rock alumni: ‘Big Dog’ Dan Ladouceur.
In fact, another former Toronto Rock standout and NLL Hall of Famer, Captain Jim ‘Scoop’ Veltman, is part of the brains behind the formation of CLax (C-Lax), as the league is nicknamed. “My good friend and former teammate Paul St. John came to me almost two year ago now and shared an idea that he had been sitting on for years, and we discussed it and the Canadian Lacrosse League was born. We have experienced the usual growing pain—especially off floor—but the on floor product has been terrific.”
Veltman, the league’s Deputy Commissioner, elaborated about the off-floor growing pains stating that finding team owners has been the league’s biggest challenge as both St. John and Veltman don’t have the resources to locate potential league owners outside of the lacrosse world. “Paul and I obviously know the lacrosse community but our contacts only reach so far. Teams like the Shooting Stars are league operated for now and are in need of firm ownership but we’re confident that if we continue to showcase our league and its talent that ownership groups will find us. Our buy in and budgets are very low and reasonable for a pro sport. In the meantime, we’ll continue to give fans another exciting brand of lacrosse that differs from the game that is played today in the NLL and the summer time.”
Clark adds, “Clax has a line change rule that prevents the offense-defense type of game we see predominantly today. Players are not permitted to be ‘offensive or defensive specialists’ and are forced to focus on an all-around game. Most transition runs in the O/D system get taken away with a line change and fans see a lot of the game involving the changing of these specialists. In CLax we have an in door and out door each quarter that players must enter and leave from and this prevents any of our transitions from being taken away. Odd-man rushes almost always end up in a scoring opportunity which leads to lots of excitement for the fans. It makes for an up-tempo style of game.”
The league itself has seven franchises: the Niagara Lock Monsters (formerly Peel Avengers), Brampton Inferno, Ohsweken Demons, Iroquois Ironmen, Durham TurfDogs and the expansion Barrie Blizzard joining the Shooting Stars who made the move from Oshawa to the MAC. The CLax season runs from January to April with the Creator’s Cup Championship set to go the weekend of April 21st. Last year’s inaugural winners were the Ohsweken Demons.
The Shooting Stars recently drafted 15 players in the 2012 entry draft including third overall Geoff Griffiths, a former Toronto Beaches standout, and tenth overall Jordan Robertson, a current Beaches star. Clark adds “We have a strong flavor of local talent here with the Shooting Stars competing for positions on the roster. We also have a core of returning players from Peterborough and the GTA. Training camp will be very competitive and we will be ready to field an exciting team come January 13th.”
Mark that on your calendars as at 2pm on that date the Shooting Stars will mark the return of pro lacrosse and pro sports to building once known as Maple Leaf Gardens when they play host to the Durham TurfDogs. The game will be one of seven home dates for the Toronto franchise. The complete schedule can be found on the CLax website www.canadianlacrosseleague.ca. Ticket prices have been announced at $12 for adults and $8 for children/seniors/students. Season tickets can be had for $50 adults and $35 children/seniors/students. Tickets officially go on sale at the Mattamy box office and Ticketmaster Monday November 26th.
Shooting Stars notes: Veltman also announced a Toronto Shooting Stars Junior CLax program for ages 6-21. These players can sign up in 6 different age groups and they play against other Junior CLax programs with most of the games on the same day as the pros so they get to play at some great venues during the winter months, including the Gardens. For more information please visit the CLax website.