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.
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.
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.
Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.
An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.
Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.
In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.
Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).
Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.
Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.