By Neil Stevens
OTTAWA, ON – The addition of a Canada-Iroquois under-17 game boosts the excitement around a big night of international box lacrosse scheduled for Hamilton’s First Ontario Centre on October 21.
“Events like this grow the game in a big way,” says Josh Sanderson, who will help coach Canada’s under-17 side.
The main event, as previously announced, will be the Canada-United States men’s game for the Heritage Cup. Now the teens are getting a plate at the table.
The two games bring international box lacrosse to southern Ontario for the first time since the inaugural FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championship (WILC) in 2003 in Hamilton, Kitchener, Mississauga and Oshawa.
Sanderson, Bruce Codd, Bill Greer and Brian Biesel, who are all former NLL pros, will coach Canada’s under-17 side. They also coached the under-17 team that went 4-0 in two exhibition games against each of the Iroquois and the Czech Republic during the men’s world tournament at the Onondaga Nation in New York State in 2015.
“To coach kids getting first chance to represent our country is pretty neat,” Sanderson says in recalling that experience.
Those selected for the team will also get the opportunity to learn from a pair of Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductees in Curt Malawsky and Todd Lorenz, who were recently added to the coaching staff.
The first-half of the youth game in Hamilton will begin at 6 p.m. ET. The men’s team will then have its warmup. The teens play their third quarter before the men’s game starts and they play their fourth quarter during halftime of the men’s game.
Teens born in 2001 or 2002 must inform the Canadian Lacrosse Association of their wish to be considered for a lineup spot by submitting an application form before Thursday, September 14. Further details on the process, including eligibility criteria and costs, can be found on the form.
The coaches will pick the lineup from among those who apply.
“They’ll feel very honoured and excited to play in this game,” says Sanderson. “It’s unique, one game, but we’re trying to build internationally at a younger age. As we move forward, we envision that someday at the men’s worlds there will be a junior division.”
Sanderson attended the recent national youth championships in Whitby, Ontario, to get a look at the best under-17 players in Canada. He’s hoping the best of what he saw will try for a spot on the October 21 roster.
“We’ll have quite a few kids from Ontario on the team because it’ll be close to home but Alberta has some strong kids and there’s some good ones from British Columbia, too.”
The Heritage Cup was revived in 2013 in Montreal after a nine-year hiatus. Canada won 12-11 over the Iroquois Nationals. An under-17 game was played that night as well. The lineup included a player from Quebec and one from Saskatchewan so players outside Ontario are always given a chance to crack the lineup.
Sanderson, who retired from the NLL pro league last year. played in the inaugural 2002 Heritage Cup game in Mississauga, Ontario, where the United States upset Canada 21-16. That was the last time the men’s indoor team lost a game. Canada is 23-0 in winning four straight world indoor titles, which are contested every four years. Sanderson was on the triumphant 2011 team that won gold in Prague.
“It’s a huge honour to represent your country,” he says. “I grew up watching international hockey and to be able to do it in lacrosse was special and pretty cool. The 2011 trip was one of the best experiences of my lacrosse career.”
Most of the teens he’ll be coaching in Hamilton will get their first taste. It will be the first under-17 indoor international played in southern Ontario.
Canada’s lineup for the main game will be drawn from the 2015 WILC roster that captured gold in Onondaga.