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Lacrosse leagues face uncertainty from COVID-19

Kahnawake Mohawk Jacob Ruest scores a goal while fighting off captain John Lintz of the then three-time defending President’s Cup champion St. Albert Miners at the Kahnawake Sports Complex in 2019. (David Tuan Bui, The Eastern Door)

 While several leagues typically begin playing lacrosse in late May, COVID-19 has caused several suspended or cancelled seasons for 2020. 

“We (Hunters) would have played out our tenth game as of last week,” said Greg Horn, Kahnawake Hunters and Mohawks general manager. “As things keep on getting extended, the stoppage of those activities creates some uncertainty. Now we’re looking at a modified schedule that would start in July.” 

Travel for both Kahnawake squads would be an issue since they have to cross provincial borders to play other teams. This problem would make things trickier for a season to happen, according to Horn. 

“All non-essential travel between provinces are banned,” he said. “It would be difficult to travel to Ontario and then host a game. Until those restrictions are lifted in Kahnawake, Quebec, Ontario, and even Canada, it’s going to be difficult to see something happen.” 

The Canadian Lacrosse Association will decide if lacrosse can be played in a safe format for Canada. Their board of governors will meet no earlier than June 15 to decide to cancel, start or postpone all operations for another 15 days.

“We don’t know what the government is going to do so instead of shutting it down right away, they’re (CLA) taking it slow,” said Joseph Hiltz, Ontario Senior B Lacrosse League commissioner. “There could still be hope for June 15. We just don’t know.” 

Hiltz is unsure of what the CLA’s decision will be, but said the league will not be the same if it runs again. 

“There will be a lot of steps on taking the floor and having fans in the building,” he said. “We could still play in the fall, do 3-on-3 or play, no contact, but with what’s going on in the world, there’s no sense at putting anyone at risk. Lacrosse is supposed to be the game of healing and it wouldn’t make sense to play if things weren’t safe.” 

The National Lacrosse League had postponed play on March 12 and cancelled all remaining regular-season games on April 8. Most teams had already played 11-12 games when the announcements were made. The NLL has not officially cancelled the season and is assessing the situation for a possible return. 

“NLL will take priority with whatever happens and hopefully there will be some form of lacrosse this summer,” said Warren Hill, Halifax Thunderbirds goaltender. “Ultimately, whatever is in the best interest of everyone is what matters. Lacrosse can wait, if that means people will be safe and healthy.” 

Major Series Lacrosse terminated their season, including the Mann Cup, on May 19. Government restrictions on large gatherings, limiting non-essential travel and COVID-19’s negative economical impact on MSL’s business partners and sponsors, were reasons for its cancellation. 

The Ontario Lacrosse Association has postponed all operations until June 15 at the earliest. The association governs leagues in which both the Mohawks and Hunters play. It also includes the defending President’s Cup champion Six Nations Rivermen. 

“It’s not a good feeling, obviously, especially coming off a championship, but it’s the motto that runs through the league,” said Stu Montour, Rivermen head coach. “It’s family first and when it comes to safety, we have to take that into account first. I think everyone thinks that way.” 

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