Lacrosse Editorial: Junior A Lacrosse Growing In Ontario

Back in January of 2021, the Junior Lacrosse scene in Ontario got shook up like it’s never been shook before.  The Six Nations Arrows made a bold announcement that it would no longer play in the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League (OJALL) but move to the brand new Tewaaraton Lacrosse League (TLL) as it’s inaugural team. 

One big reason for the move was the failed vote to increase the eligibility rule in OJALL to 22 years old.

Since that announcement, the league has grown to four teams, with players eligible to play between the ages of 18-22. 

A little background

Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League:

The OJALL has been operating in Ontario since 1933, sanctioned by the Ontario Lacrosse Association. It is an 11 team league wherein the top 8 go to the playoffs and battle it out for top spot in Ontario. The playoff Champion moves on to compete for the National Championship — the Minto Cup.

Played in the same form as Major Series Lacrosse (who compete for the Mann Cup), the league plays with different rules from the National Lacrosse League (NLL).  No centre line, Nets are smaller than the NLL, goalies use smaller wood sticks, as well as three 20 minute periods instead of four 15 minute quarters to name some differences in the game.  This has been THE place for juniors wanting to make the NLL to play in Ontario, and is widely considered the most competitive junior men’s box lacrosse league in the world.

The Tewaaraton Lacrosse League (TLL):

This league took a different approach on how to run it’s hierarchy.

From the TLL website…

“One question people ask quite often is what makes the TLL different from the other lacrosse leagues? There are several aspects that need to be looked at to answer that question”  TLL President Lewis Staats said. “The one that was put to action first by the TLL, was to form the Leadership Circle of Excellence. The Leadership is not just a group of people with prominent names. These individuals are all contributing to the start up of our major junior lacrosse league.”

Each member of the Leadership Circle of Excellence has been actively involved in all aspects of getting the TLL off the ground.  They participate fully in all the planning meetings that continue to take place. Ted Nolan and Claudia Jimerson both bring unique points of view on diversity and inclusion which are pillars of the league. Garrett Ball has been instrumental in the legal structuring of the TLL and advising on the financial framework and league policies as well. Rob Francis is focused on the overall health and safety protocols and policies that will be adopted and used by the TLL. Curt Styres has agreed to join the Leadership Circle to provide his insights on the roots of lacrosse and assist the league’s owners using his experience as an NLL owner.

This league is designed to play with the same rules as the NLL, with the idea that it would be easier for the player to transition to the next level without having to adjust to a different set of rules.

Can the two leagues survive in Ontario simultaneously without watering down the product?

Definitely! 

The game is growing leaps and bounds every year, and the more places to land with solid organizations, and top notch coaches, can only help develop more mature, skilled players to get to their goal…the NLL. 

Neither league will be able to get complacent with their rules or governing, and again the benefactors will be the players.

Traditionalists will say that winning the Minto Cup is the “be all, end all” to playing junior lacrosse, but in this day and age, maybe being more prepared for a career in the NLL can be more beneficial to today’s player.

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