Shawn Slaght, All Lacrosse All The Time – A Division of The Edge of Philly Sports Network
Is it time the Canadian Lacrosse League and Lacrosse Canada take notice of players in Canada’s prairie provinces?
The Edmonton Miners certainly made a case for it with their historical run at this year’s Minto Cup. The Miners made the first-ever championship final by an Alberta team.
Generally speaking, the Minto Cup has always come down to either a BC or Ontario team taking the title.
The Miners opened the tournament with an 11-8 loss to the Whitby Warriors. Although it was a loss, it was a sign of things to come, that this team was going to be competitive.
Game 2 they dropped a 9-8 decision to the Toronto Beaches. It was two losses, but by this time Alberta teams are usually getting blown out and can’t compete.
The miracle run began with a 10-8 upset over the Victoria Shamrocks. The Miners finished the round robin with a 1-2 record, which was impressive for an underdog team. The Miners would go on to shock the Beaches 20-12 before taking the Whitby Warriors to a full three games in the finals.
A little bit of history
Let’s start with the league that the Miners play in.
They play out of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League’s Junior A division. It only consists of four teams: the Miners, the Saskatchewan SWAT, the Okotoks Raiders and the Calgary Mountaineers (also known as the Mounties).
Because it is such a small league, it’s widely considered that teams in the RMLL don’t see the same level of competition as the BC and Ontario leagues. It isn’t unheard of for stars in the RMLL to move farther west or east to find stiffer competition. Yet, the RMLL have produced NLL players such as Adam Shute, Keegan Bal, Dan Taylor and Holden Cattoni to name just a few.
Now a little background when it comes to the Miners. For many years, there were two Junior A teams in the Edmonton area: the Edmonton Blues and the St. Albert Miners.
For the most part, these teams struggled to stay competitive in the RMLL. A few changes, however, and all of that would change.
Turning around the club
In 2019, the Blues and the Miners held a meeting and it was decided to merge the two teams to create the Edmonton Miners. The next year, they named defensive coordinator and NLL player John Lintz as the new head coach. This proved to be a turning point for the club.
Having an NLL player as a head coach and finding success wasn’t unprecedented. The Okotoks Raiders came the closest to being competitive in a Minto Cup under the direction of former Calgary Roughneck Andrew McBride.
One of the issues with the Alberta league was that most of the time the coaches are volunteers or parents. Bringing an NLL player in to coach was able to bring those kids to the next level and teach them what it takes to compete against their BC and Ontario counterparts.
What does the Miners’ run mean?
Simply put, it means that teams out of Alberta and Saskatchewan now need to be taken seriously. They are no longer going to be pushovers on the national stage.
Secondly, it’s time for the CLL and Lacrosse Canada to add more funding to the Canadian prairie leagues. They need just as good of a shot as their BC and Ontario counterparts.
Finally, it’s a huge boost for the RMLL. This could mean expansion and more teams, which equals more competition. Also, keep in mind that this year’s World Junior Indoor Lacrosse Championships were played in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There really are no Junior A programs in Manitoba. Many of those players either have to play lower-level lacrosse or move to Saskatchewan or Alberta. It could be time to expand east to Manitoba.
But, in the end, the Miners have put Western Canadian lacrosse on the map and may have already started by announcing that Edmonton will be hosting the 2023 Minto Cup.
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Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years and has experience covering everything from junior hockey to World Cup skiing to all levels of lacrosse. He is the Saskatchewan correspondent for All Lacrosse All The Time.