(Courtesy Greg Horn/Iorì:wase)
Kahnawake will be hosting the 55th annual Presidents’ Cup Senior B men’s national lacrosse championship, beginning this Sunday.
The tournament runs from August 26 to September 1 and is held by the Canadian National Lacrosse Association, with eight teams participating from around the country. The Kahnawake Mohawks are hosting for the third time in franchise history at the Kahnawake Sports Complex.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to host this, it’s an honour,” said Greg Horn, Mohawks general manager. “They (Mohawks) are happy to be doing this once again.”
“We’ve been looking forward to this tournament since they (CNLA) announced we were the host,” said Jamie Batley, Mohawks head coach. “It’s a phenomenal responsibility and we’re looking forward to doing that. We’re at our home rink and home venue.”
The Mohawks have five silver and five bronze medals in their history but have yet to win a President’s Cup trophy. The last finals appearance was in 2016, where the Mohawks lost to the St. Albert Miners of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League. That win for the Miners began three straight President’s Cup victories, as they are the current defending championships heading into this year’s tournament.
“This organization has been bronze medals and silver medals over the years many times but we really feel we put a good team together,” said Batley. “The motivation to win is here.”
Kahnawake won silver in 1968, 1979, 2004, 2013 and 2016. They earned bronze in 1987, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2010. The host team has won the Presidents’ cup seven times in 54 years, according to the CNLA, so the chances are not in Kahnawake’s favour.
“If you look at history, the host has only won the championship so many times,” said Horn. “The odds are against us, but we’re looking to change all that.”
The team acknowledges that there is added pressure to win the title as a host team. The Mohawks are remaining focused and not letting that become a distraction.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the local guys. Probably half our team is from Kahnawake,” said Batley. “Guys are really motivated to show up this Sunday.”
“I think the pressure and expectations are always high but when you’re hosting, it’s that much higher,” said Horn.
The message Kahnawake wants to send is that they are contenders with championship attitude.
“These guys understand what they’re fighting for,” said Batley, “The ownership and the management have been organizing and trying to develop to compete as a team and win this championship.”
“There’s never a year where we’re never looking at not being a contender,” said Horn. Because we’re hosting, that mentality hasn’t changed.”
The team qualified for the Presidents’ Cup despite getting swept by the Capitol Region Axemen in the Quebec Senior Lacrosse League finals. They lost a best of three series on August 10 and 11. The loss has kept the team humble, according to Horn and Batley, and gave a valuable learning experience.
“Sometimes it’s good to lose. Our timing was off and we weren’t playing our best (against the Axemen),” said Batley. “That gives us extra motivation.”
“I’d rather our team performance hit a snag in the road before the Presidents’ Cup rather than in it,” said Horn. “I think it’s a positive thing (the loss) for the team. Everybody knows what we want to do, so we start training day one.”
Despite only eight teams competing for the championship, the Mohawks know it will not be easy.
“It’s a very tough championship, there’s no margin for error. The strategy is to lay it on the line every game, every shift,” said Batley. “If you lose one, you’re in jeopardy. Every period is going to matter and we need to put it out 100 per cent.”
“I’m expecting my team to perform at the highest of their abilities and to the best that the team can play,” said Horn. “You can’t take any championship lightly, we can’t think that we’ve got it the bag.”
The Mohawks will play their first game this Sunday against the Snake Island Muskies of the Three Nations Senior Lacrosse League at 8:00 p.m. The Mohawks won convincingly against the Muskies by a score of 18-7 July 20 in their last meeting and did not lose to them in the regular season in three matchups.
The entire tournament schedule can be found on the CNLA’s official website.
The President’s Cup will feature the following teams:
Kahnawake Mohawks* (Quebec Senior Lacrosse League)
Akwesasne Bucks (Can-Am Lacrosse League)
Six Nations Rivermen (Ontario Lacrosse Association)
Snake Island Muskies (Three Nations Senior Lacrosse League)
Capital Region Axemen (Quebec Senior Lacrosse League)
Ladner Pioneers (West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association)
Team Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Senior Lacrosse League)
St. Albert Miners** (Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League)