Lacrosse Editorial – The Significance Of The Ontario Junior A Whirlwind Season

Let’s begin  this editorial by congratulating the St. Catharines Athletics for winning the 2021 OJLL Championship last weekend 14-13 over an equally deserving team in the Brampton Excelsiors.  The entire tournament/season was run absolutely flawlessly from controlling who watched, to the concession stands, to having top notch competition, to having fantastic media/video coverage of all 44 games.

Both semi-finals were breathtaking, being decided by one goal in each game, with the second one not being decided until the final minute.  In the final, you had two teams known for stingy defenses, but explosive offenses, facing each other.  Although the game started off as per script (3-3 after one period), the game opened up in the second and third. 

The Result

Twenty seven goals were scored, spectacular saves made by the three goaltenders involved, a fight, an ejection, and a last minute that had everyone on their feet clutching their chests.  Let’s not forget, a team winning a championship that hadn’t won since 2003.

The Significance

A lot of these players had a good chunk of their junior careers erased by Covid-19. Would this affect whether they were drafted by the National Lacrosse League (NLL) teams?  For some no, but for the late bloomers…maybe. 

The players born in 1999 and some in 2000 would not have any more opportunities because they would be over age for junior after this year.  Luckily the province of Ontario relaxed restrictions enough that sports teams could start playing indoors again.

Enter Commissioner Mark Grimes

Even though Mr. Grimes had only been in office a short time, he had been in lacrosse a lifetime.  A player, coach, and advocate of the sport, Commissioner Grimes moved very quickly to get this two week season underway.  Able to secure a facility with two rinks (Toronto Rock Athletic Centre), media (JVI Sports Network), and all eleven teams, this tournament/season was off and running. This would now give one more opportunity to all the graduating players.

It would’ve been very easy to just do nothing claiming there wasn’t time, but OJLL management’s credit they attacked the issues, and made it happen.  They were even able to implement all the rule changes made over the winter with their committee, to make it more streamline towards the professional league, and goal for most players, the NLL.

Taking advantage of an opportunity

The skill, and energy on display in every game of this season was second to none, with every player knowing that this opportunity wasn’t there for them just recently.  Come September when the NLL has their entry draft, there will be a handful of draftees that will be forever grateful to this Commissioner, and his drive to make things happen, even in impossible times.

Congratulations to Commissioner Grimes, the St. Catharines Athletics, and everyone involved on the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League (OJLL) for going above and beyond, making the summer of 2021 memorable for great events.

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