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Getting To Know Kelowna Lacrosse (Canada)

1 - Published April 28, 2011 by in International

Editor’s note: Patrick McMillan, LAS reader (and now CONTRIBUTOR!), on the proto-typical box lacrosse league and players. His intent is to introduce people to box lacrosse; the game, the people, and the environment.  Whatever, and whoever, in Canadian box lacrosse!
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A little background on myself: I currently play for the Kelowna Raiders Jr. Lacrosse Club of the Thompson Okanagan Jr Lacrosse League.  I play box lacrosse in British Columbia, which currently, is for the Jr. B system in Kelowna.  I am a lacrosse fanatic; I love everything lacrosse and have really educated myself on lacrosse around the world.  I am currently enrolled in Okanagan College in Kelowna, working on my Associates of Arts degree.

I’m going to be introducing everyone to lacrosse in the Okanagan Valley and Kelowna, and later I’ll hit up British Columbia Jr. A and Sr. A lacrosse.

First off, Kelowna is a city in the middle of the Okanagan Valley with about 120,000 people.  The Okanagan Valley is located in southern British Columbia, which is in western Canada.  British Columbia has always been a hot bed for lacrosse, mostly coming from the lower mainland and the Island.  Vancouver, New Westminster, Burnaby, and Victoria are the hot beds.  However, lacrosse in Kelowna has always struggled for exposure and popularity; Kelowna is a hockey capital by nature.  There are several hockey clubs located in the City of Kelowna, ranging from Major Jr. to Jr. C.  Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Tyler Myers, Jamie Benn, and Brandon McMillan of the NHL all have played for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.

Shea Weber kelowna pride

Kelowna Pride! Shea Weber.

Like I said, lacrosse in Kelowna has struggled for exposure over the years.  In fact, recently it has affected the team I played for; as of last year I played for the Rutland Raiders, Rutland being a part of Kelowna.  Kelowna had two Jr. B teams in the Rutland Raiders and the Kelowna Warriors. The two teams suffered immensely in the attendance aspect, unfortunately being overshadowed by the local Jr hockey teams.  This change has caused the two teams to merge together into the Kelowna Raiders.

Crease dive! Kelowna Raiders

Crease dive! Kelowna Raiders in action.

However, Kelowna is on a rise in the minor systems. In Canada, instead of running lacrosse through the school systems, as a school sanctioned team, lacrosse is played through local club teams.  It starts with novice, and goes through peewee, bantam, midget, intermediate, junior, and finally, senior.  Games are played in hockey arenas after hockey season has ended, and after the ice has been removed.  Games are played with three periods, at 20 minutes length each.

As I said, minor lacrosse in Kelowna is currently on a rise; and for Kelowna, the youth minor teams starting with peewee, which are ages 10 to 12.  The peewee age group has about 4 teams coming through the ranks, and that’s 3 more than when I was playing in that age bracket.  Bantam, which includes kids ages 13-14, has about 2 teams, and midget, ages 15-16, has 2 teams as well.

Kelowna Bantam lacrosse game!

Kelowna Bantam lacrosse game!

Most people who have little idea of what box lacrosse really is may find it chaotic; and in fact, they’re right.  It’s not so much chaotic in that people are just randomly running around with their sticks in the air, it’s more a controlled chaos.  People on offence  ARErunning plays (ask anyone who knows!), and their focus is on setting that pick, or cutting through the middle.  If you’re standing around on offence, you’re pretty useless.  I think one thing that has really contributed to the success of Canadians in the NCAA, is the fact that they have a box background.

Now, before you stop reading because you heard that story before, just wait: it’s not so much that they have a box background; it has much more to do with their “lacrosse IQ”.  This means knowing where the ball is, following the play,  and knowing the next step before it even happens.

Typical Jr lacrosse faceoff

Typical Jr lacrosse faceoff

In a lot of areas around Vancouver, box lacrosse is prominently played, but field lacrosse is also quite popular, mostly because it’s played after the box season has finished, in the fall.  In Kelowna however, field lacrosse only exists for younger ages, and really caters to younger kids to get lacrosse’s popularity to grow.

There are certainly other steps that have really increased the popularity of lacrosse in Kelowna as well.  Stores in the area are carrying more lacrosse equipment, and this helps.   A few months ago, if I wanted any sort of gear I had to order it from Vancouver, or Ontario.  When I played minor, everyone had the same stick: a Gait Torque or an STX Profile.

Lacrosse in Kelowna is a growing sport, and I believe in a few years, maybe less, it could really be a popular sport passing soccer, and football, which a lot of kids grow up playing.  Like I said before, it’s growing in popularity, but really to take the steps to become a major sport in the Okanagan area, the junior programs and senior programs need to produce more interest in their games.  If more interest is shown in, local T.V. stations need to start showing college games, and NLL games, and schools need to start teaching lacrosse as a part of the physical education curriculum.  But that’s another story for another time!

Unfortunately, because this video is a weird format, here’s a link to some Kelowna boxla video!

Lacrosse rivals team up – little excerpt from Kelowna’s news station on our Jr. lacrosse program!

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