OTTAWA, ON – Shawn Evans is one of the grittiest forwards to ever pull on pads and his scoring exploits have made him the pro league MVP.
Dhane Smith has moves only he can execute and has such impact on the floor that he’s also earned the MVP nod in the NLL.
Curtis Dickson is known in lacrosse circles as Superman for his gravity-defying leaps into creases to score goals.
Dan Dawson is a prolific pro playmaker and his leadership traits are such that he was chosen to be captain of the most recent lineup to win the men’s indoor world championship.
These players and many more will be putting their talents on display on Oct. 21 in Hamilton in a revival of the Heritage Cup game, giving southern Ontario fans their first chance in more than a decade to see the best in the world in an international scrap in their neck of the woods.
Canada will draw players from the 2015 team captained by Dawson, including captain Jordan MacIntosh of the 2017 NLL-champion Georgia Swarm. Added to the roster is Brodie Merrill, who had to withdraw from the worlds trip in ’15 due to injury. All in all, Oct. 21 promises to be a memorable reunion.
Providing the opposition will be a U.S. all-star team that might include newly-crowned NLL rookie of the year Tom Schreiber.
Ed Comeau will be Canada’s head coach. Comeau headed up the coaching staff when Canada won its fourth straight world indoor championship in Syracuse, N.Y., in September 2015 and most recently coached MacIntosh and the rest of the Swarm to the NLL title.
“The world championships have not been in Ontario since 2003 to this is a great opportunity for fans to come out and watch the best players from Canada and the United States compete,” says Comeau.
Canada’s record in the four world indoor tournaments held to date – 2003 in southern Ontario, 2007 in Halifax, 2011 in Prague and 2015 in Syracuse – is 23-0. Langley, B.C., will be the host in 2019.
“Team Canada sets the standard,” says Regy Thorpe, who has played for the Heritage Cup and who now coaches the U.S. side. “Everyone is chasing them but we’re excited to see more Americans playing in the NLL and getting the experience we’ll need to be competitive.”
This will be the fourth Heritage Cup game. Canada’s coach for the first two was the late, great Les Bartley.
In 2002 in Mississauga, Ont., the U.S. defeated Canada 21-16. It remains the lone U.S. win over the Canadian men’s indoor team in international play. Canada’s all-star lineup included John Tavares, Gary Gait, John Grant Jr., Colin Doyle, Jim Veltman, Tracey Kelusky, Steve Toll, Blaine Manning, Gavin Prout, Josh Sanderson, Dan Teat and Curt Malawsky, but the back end sagged. Bolstering the U.S. attack were nine Wings including Kevin Finneran, Mark Millon, Jake Bergey and Tom Ryan from the Philadelphia team that won the 2001 NLL championship in Toronto.
In 2004 in Denver, Canada trounced the U.S. 17-8. Tavares, Gait, Grant, Doyle, Veltman, Kelusky, Toll, Manning and Prout all returned, and added up front for Canada were Dawson, Kaleb Toth and Peter Lough.
Nine years later, when the Heritage Cup was last contested in 2013 in Montreal, a new wave of talent was available and Comeau coached Canada to a narrow 12-11 victory over the Iroquois Nationals 12-11. Dawson was one of the few returnees and Dangerous Dan was in his prime. Among those joining him up front were Evans, Ryan Benesch, Kevin Crowley, Stephan Leblanc, Jordan Hall and Cory Vitarelli.
The Nationals had a strong lineup that included NLL stars Cody Jamieson, Sid Smith, Jeff Shattler and Johnny Powless as well as Randy Staats, who would go on to win the NLL award for 2016 rookie of the year.
The national team’s deal with Hamilton’s First Ontario Centre includes another Heritage Cup game in 2018.
“The game in October will be a kick-start of an annual Heritage Cup game,” says Team Canada director Johnny Mouradian.
It’s the best way to prepare for what is ahead.
“There is no question that the 2013 game against the Iroquois Nationals in Montreal helped prepare our staff and players for the 2015 world indoor championship,” says Mouradian. “Bringing the guys together in Hamilton for the 2017 and 2018 Heritage Cup games will help us get ready for the 2019 world championship in Langley.”
“Dhane Smith was our youngest player last time around and he made a real impact for us. We have a coaching staff that isn’t adverse to selecting younger players. We also have a minor lacrosse system in Canada that continues to develop the type of team-first character players that win gold medals.”