Lacrosse Editorial – Junior “A” Lacrosse is finally starting up again

For the first time since the Orangeville Northmen won the Minto Cup in the summer of 2019, the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League (OJALL) is playing League games again this weekend.  With the stringent lockdowns Ontarions have endured, this day seemed to be too far out of reach, but lo and behold,  the government has allowed indoor games to take place under Covid-19 protocols.

What is different about the league?

The first thing that is different is the Six Nations Arrows team is not the same team as the one that played in 2019.  In a very public split, the Arrows left the league to be the inaugural team in the upstart Tewaaraton Lacrosse League (a league designed to have rules more like the National Lacrosse League).

Upon the announcement that the team was leaving, the league expelled the “old” Arrows team from the OJALL, as well as removing its governor, and placed NLL player Cody Jamieson as the governor of the “new” Six Nations team.  NLL star Randy Staats has since joined Jamieson, and the team will compete in this year’s league (there is still a court battle brewing between the league and the teams…stay tuned, it will get very interesting before it’s done).

The next change in the league is that over the last winter, the new commissioner, Mark Grimes, formed a committee to go over the current rules of the league.  The group included Philadelphia Wings head coach and GM Paul Day, Saskatchewan Rush GM Derek Keenan, and Georgia Swarm head coach Ed Comeau.  They were looking to where they could streamline the rules to be more of an NLL style, helping the youth with an easier transition once drafted to the pro league.  They came up with nine changes, some examples included goalies using plastic sticks (not the old wood sticks), time count violations if they haven’t got the ball over centre in 8 seconds, face-off protocols, with non face-off players standing on the restraining lines to name a few.

How will the “season” be run?

Their are NO home games, the entire “season” will be played at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) in Oakville, in front of an invite only crowd.

The season is only two weekends, and works in a tournament style round robin.  Each team will be playing four times in a weekend (2 games each Saturday, and 2 games each Sunday), for a total of eight games played.

The top four teams at the end of the second weekend will play in the semi-finals, which will be held in the daytime of August 7th, and the championship game being played that same night.

Pros:

The teams are playing again! 

Organizations can start to get some normality to their routines, and the players can get back to the business of team play, skill development, and most importantly…game play!

Cons:

This is a whirlwind “season” held over two weeks, not letting a team develop chemistry, or familiarity with each other.  A team that has been together previously has a distinct advantage as opposed to a team being pieced together for the first time.

This is a “season” of endurance, as opposed to team building, and developmental instruction, as what the Juniors were designed to do.

My biggest fear is that players who will be good eventually, lose another year of opportunity for guidance, and leadership to get them to the next level.

No Minto Cup Tournament:

An announcement was made months ago that for the second straight year, the Minto Cup (East vs. West championship) would be canceled, and although both ends of the Country have started playing again, the tournament has not been reinstated this year.

Finally…

For management, players, and fans alike, just the idea that there will be games and, more importantly, that normality is just around the corner, is uplifting.  All of us have missed the game, cheering or playing for our teams, seeing our friends and colleagues, and just getting on with life as we know it.

My congratulations to the OJALL and commissioner Mark Grimes for being able to put on this event at such short notice, so that the summer of 2021 doesn’t have the same cloud over it as that of 2020.

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