Sunday, January 25, 2015

US Lacrosse Convention 2015 Report

Part of the US Lacrosse display at this week's convention (Photo / T. Flynn)
 by Boxer Journal, January 25, 2015
Baltimore - The 2015 US Lacrosse Convention concluded Sunday after several days of exhibits, displays and demonstrations. The material covered and instruction offered is too extensive for a single article but suffice to say it was significant. I had the opportunity to welcome in guests while volunteering for US Lacrosse, and assisted several from as far distant as Japan, as well as many from across the country. It was great to see the enthusiasm they were bringing to the event despite long flights and weather reminiscent of an Irish winter: raw, cold, and the sun making only cameos, if at all.

Turning to the Emerald Isle, a level below the registration desk I visited Ireland Lacrosse at their Ireland Lacrosse Foundation booth and met members of the women's team, as well as several other Foundation coaches/administrators. The women's next major event will be held in Prague later this year; unconfirmed, but they may be making a go at the Prague Cup, which appears to have Czech teams and a growing ensemble of international competitors. I'll update the comments section once I confirm.

Michael Kennedy was here from Ireland, and has had a pivotal role in developing a feeder structure in Dublin to fill out the Irish roster. Former Cornell coach Richie Moran was also on hand with the Irish contingent.
Several members of the Ireland Lacrosse women's side (Photo / T. Flynn)
The vendors I most enjoyed visiting included Boathouse Sports, a Philadelphia-based sports apparel firm that was founded in 1985 by Olympic rower John Strotbeck, and shows good community stewardship by manufacturing its apparel locally in Pennsylvania. I also met and spoke with the people at HeadWrapz who make very impressive designs/decals for augmenting helmets. I'm not generally a fan of slick helmets and uniforms, my inner-Vince Lombardi chafes at the idea, but the level of detail and craftsmanship in the design of the helmets was nothing short of amazing, and the company story was a great one. Started by a 14-year old, Grant Gravitt, now 19 and a freshman attackman for Denver.

The firm will be providing their helmets to the 2015 Notre Dame squad and fans of the Domers will certainly recognize and appreciate both the tradition and skillful design acumen that went into their production.
Mock-up of a Maryland helmet design on display (Photo / T. Flynn)
Several miles up the road from the HeadWrapz booth at the convention on Saturday, Johns Hopkins hosted a scrimmage against Denver at Homewood Field. The DU Pioneers are Inside Lacrosses's choice as the #1 team in the country heading into the season. Denver is led by former Princeton coach Bill Tierney, who coached the Tigers to four championships while at the helm there. He also spent the early days of his coaching career as an assistant at Hopkins.
Assistant Matt Brown instructs DU during a break (Photo / T. Flynn)
Under a steady drizzle and in the pervading damp cold, the Blue Jays held their own with the score roughly tied at 6-6 at the half (during scrimmages the scoreboard typically only shows clock time). The Pioneers struggled at times defensively with the Blue Jays keeping steady pressure in the DU zone. Denver competes in the Big East while Hopkins will become part of the inaugural class of the newly-formed BIG-10 lacrosse conference in 2015 - TF

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dallas Baptist Lacrosse Set to Launch


The Dallas Baptist Patriots men's lacrosse era begins Jan. 30 (photo / DBU)
 by Boxer Journal, Jan. 16, 2015
Dallas, TX - The Dallas Baptist University (DBU) Patriots athletic program grabbed national headlines in recent years during an extended run in the NCAA Division I College Baseball postseason. 

This year, the University is making a club sports addition that, with time, could again draw national attention to the southwest Dallas university of some 5,500 students.

The city is rapidly proving a lacrosse hotbed in a state where the sport is growing exponentially. Episcopal School of Dallas currently produces top Division I prospects annually. Should some of those prospects choose local lacrosse options like Dallas Baptist and Southern Methodist (13-2 in 2014), Dallas-area collegiate teams will quickly rival the best MCLA teams in the state and beyond.

The university, founded in 1898, made the decision in 2013 to launch the program this spring. They will be members of the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) and competing at the Division II level in the 27-team Lone Star Alliance (LSA). The MCLA is a unique, lacrosse-only, governing body of some 200 teams across the country. Many of its top teams look much more akin to varsity caliber-programs rather than traditional club teams.

Of the 27 teams in the LSA, 11 others will compete at the Division II level along with DBU. Dallas Baptist will be stepping onto the campus's  Patriot Field for its first MCLA game ever at home on January 30 against the University of Texas - Dallas. 

The Patriots celebrate a practice in the books (Photo / DBU)
Following the UT-Dallas game they'll play the University of Houston on January 31. The Patriots' 2015 roster is made up of 20 players. They'll be coached by Massachusetts native Joe Richardson and the program will be fully funded by the University.

With the addition of the men's lacrosse team, Dallas Baptist now has 15 NCAA programs, and seven club sports teams. 

When asked what prompted the addition of the men's lacrosse team, Associate Athletic Director Tyler Knox responded, "I would say the popularity of the sport in the Dallas area first spurred our administration to begin researching the sport." 

He added,"With the recent success of adding men's club ice hockey...we had the University backing and sport addition layout to find success with lacrosse."

The long-successful Canadian model of leveraging the hockey/lacrosse connection has made its way to Texas.


(Photo / DBU)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Books: Canada's Overlooked Outdoor Legacy

Vancouver Lacrosse Club, 1912 (Photo / public domain)
 by Boxer Journal, January 4, 2015
Baltimore, MD - Inside Lacrosse currently features the Denver Pioneers as its preseason choice for the best Division I team in the nation in 2015.

One of the first games I ever covered live was the Denver vs. Hopkins 2011 NCAA quarterfinals at Long Island's Hofstra University. In that game the Pioneers upset the Blue Jays to claim a spot in the semifinals.

As Canadian midfielders Cameron Flint and Jeremy Noble sprinted past the Hopkins' defense, the sentiment in the press box was that their dominant stick skills and open field awareness, both honed in close quarters indoors, helped them to excel on the vast expanse of an outdoor lacrosse field. Box lacrosse was the once and future king of the sport in Canada and was clearly a primary source of their ability. It's an oft-repeated notion when listening to a broadcast of Bill Tierney's talented Pioneer teams.

While that may be largely true, it obscures another truth: professional field lacrosse once commanded an unmatched popularity in parts of Canada, namely British Columbia, before the box game gained the prominence it holds today.

As the National Lacrosse League's (NLL) indoor season gets underway, we caught up with Canadian author, researcher and lacrosse player David Stewart-Candy. Stewart-Candy wrote Old School Lacrosse - Professional Field Lacrosse in British Columbia 1909 - 1924  and pens the blog Old School Lacrosse with entries on the same topic.

We asked about his considerable efforts in compiling the book. The interview was conducted via email and has been edited for length and clarity. - TF
*****
Boxer Journal: What got you interested in the era?

D.S.C: It was really by a process of elimination - when I first got into doing lacrosse historical and statistical research around 2000 or 2001, the Canadian box game at the top level (i.e. Senior A, WLA, Ontario MSL) had already been documented fairly extensively by Stan Shillington and Larry Powers.

So I felt there was no point spending any more time documenting or going over what had already been found. Before I got interested and involved in lacrosse, I came from a hockey research background and was pretty used to having contact with a large network and depth of researchers all working on their various niches of the game.

But when I started bringing my interest in sports research over to lacrosse, I quickly realized that there were whole vast areas and eras of the game that no one had ever done a serious statistical examination (or any examination, for that matter) of. There were huge historical voids just waiting to be tackled. Even within the niche I've carved out for myself to focus on, there is still a lot of work to do.

It took me 12 years to document just a portion of a 15-year period. It's really inspiring and yet at the same time intimidating and overwhelming when I think that there are less than a dozen people that have ever seriously documented the game in Canada. In other sports, like hockey and baseball, that number would be in the hundreds or possibly thousands.

Boxer Journal:  Has anything resulted from the book & blog that you didn't anticipate? Any idea where most of your readers are geographically? 

D.S.C:  Nothing really surprised me with the blog, mostly because I honestly wasn't sure how well it would do or whether people would even read it. I knew there would be some curious readers out there, but lacrosse history in general has such an oral tradition and legacy that has long been a real bane to the game compared to other sports [in terms of record-keeping].

For so many people who play and are involved with the game in North America, so few people are really aware of the game's history or great players beyond some common oft-repeated facts (and urban legends) or the modern, current players.

Meanwhile in baseball and hockey you can find casual fans with a solid knowledge of the game's history or groups of people here and there nitpicking about this or that game or league or player.

Lacrosse  sadly doesn't have that depth of fan knowledge or people really that interested in the factual history, even among its own players, as in most other other sports. Or, to put it another way, lacrosse doesn't have the geek factor that most other sports have in regard to its own history.

So that all said...I had no clue whether it would get ignored or would get picked up by those in the lacrosse community hungry for history of the game. By and large, the reader response I have had has all been positive.

As for readership, I expected the blog readership would be mostly Canadian with a sprinkling of Americans - and the readership stats support that: roughly 80% Canadian, 15% American, and 5% International. Overall, I've had readers from 42 countries.

Boxer Journal: I have a workable knowledge of the box game, but what of this era (1909-1924) lent itself to field prominence there?

D.S.C:  Here on the West Coast in the geographical triangle of Vancouver-New Westminster-Victoria where lacrosse took root, with our mild winters, it took much longer for Canada's winter pastime to establish any foothold. Natural ice for skating is a rarity, so it was very easy for lacrosse to fill that void and maintain its primacy as the sporting public's first love when Vancouver was founded in the 1880s.

When lacrosse came to town, it's only other competitors at the time were "British" sports such as cricket and rugby and those remained in the amateur realm and sometimes restricted within certain social classes. Lacrosse was more of an everyman sport, so had more appeal.

The "Golden Age" period - which I parallel with the years when the professional game was played here between 1909 and 1924 - had a level of popularity that the modern game has yet to come close to matching. The best example is attendance records from 1911 that were not broken until the arrival of the NLL's Ravens some 90+ years later - at which point greater Vancouver's population was then more than ten-times what it was in 1911. However, despite those old records being broken, lacrosse remains a fringe sport in the minds of the general population. One hundred years ago, however, lacrosse was king.

I reference 1911 a lot in my work as a comparison point with the present - because I view that year as the zenith of the game's popularity in British Columbia (still to this very day) as well as the same year ice hockey took root here with the building of the first artificial ice arena. I find the coincidence of these two events occurring in the same year ironic as well as ominous, as hockey soon went on to replace lacrosse as the primary, popular culture sport here.

Boxer Journal: What's your playing experience, if any?

D.S.C: I picked up a stick and first started playing in 2002, at the age of 33 in what is an over-35 field lacrosse club/rec league (we call it "masters" lacrosse). That said, the playing level I was introduced to was, and still is, quite good. It included everyone from brand-new guys like myself all the way to ex-NLL and Hall-of-Famers.

Author Dave Stewart-Candy (Photo / D.S.C)
In what is unusual for most Canadians, I played the field game before box - but that's just because the opportunities at the time for new adult players were non-existent in the box game. But that is something that I do find ironic considering where my interest in the historical aspects of the game eventually ended up.

A couple of years after I started playing field lacrosse, I began playing box lacrosse in a somewhat more competitive environment in 2004. I'm just really fortunate that despite getting into lacrosse late in life that I have lucked out on finding opportunities to get into the game and find places to play.

**Information on Stewart-Candy's book, now in its second edition, is available at his website and by contacting him at davidjsc@gmail.com.**  


1911 Minto Cup Final, Vancouver (Photo / D.S.C., click on image to enlarge)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Washington Wins a True Winter Classic


View image | gettyimages.com

Washington's Alex Ovechkin celebrates the Capitals' victory


Washington, DC - The 2015 NHL Winter Classic proved just that as the hometown Washington Capitals' Troy Brouwer buried a goal with 13 seconds left in the game to capture a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The matchup was played in perfect weather for an outdoor game before 42,832 fans at Nationals Park. It was the first time the city hosted the NHL's marquee regular season event and temperatures hovered in the low 40's with the skies clear throughout.

"The whole day was unbelievable," Capitals' Alex Ovechkin said after the game. "This event was outstanding." Ovechkin also was outstanding, scoring the Capitals' second goal and adding an assist on Brouwer's game-winner after taking a slash that broke his stick. He also rang two of his 13 shots off the iron. Eric Fehr had the first Washington goal.

Prior to the first puck drop both the Capitals and Blackhawks players were introduced to the crowd when they stepped out into view from behind a miniature replica of the Capitol Building, and skated down a replica of the reflecting pool on the National Mall to the rink.

Fehr encapsulated the feelings of many after the game. "I don't get chills very often going out for games or anything like that, but when we came out of the Capitol, skating down the reflecting pool, and seeing the crowd go crazy, that was a real special moment," Fehr said. "I thought they did an unbelievable job of what D.C. represents to this stadium and showing America what D.C. is."

Chicago's Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad had goals for the Blackhawks, while Jonathan Toews added an assist to make him the all-time leading points scorer in outdoor games with five.

Another Western State Adds Varsity Lacrosse

For several years I've contributed lacrosse articles to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).  This week I w...