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2013 Ales Hrebesky Memorial: Total Success

We’ve covered the 2013 Ales Hrebesky Memorial quite nicely this week, with up to date posts featuring First Photos, the Quarterfinals, the All-Star Game (with photos), as well as LCC Radotin’s triumph in the finals. This coming week, we’ll be back with some great highlights, and tons of photos. For now, it’s time to talk about the overall tournament, and how 2013 was certainly a year for the record books.

I’ll hit up the areas of success for the tournament point by point, as they enter my scattered and sleep deprived brain, and leave my bruised and sore fingers. Will I miss something? Probably, especially if it is a cage. Box goals are small, and hard to shoot on. Zing.

I'm still learning. Obviously.
I’m still learning. Obviously.

The Teams

The 20th annual AHM saw 20 teams enter. 13 different countries were represented by teams alone. Numerous other countries and at least two Nations were represented by individual players. It was truly a great gathering of talent, but it was also the most internationally diverse group of lacrosse teams and players that I have ever seen or been a part of, outside of a world or continental championship.

Sean Gibson playing for Ireland.
Sean Gibson playing for Ireland.

If you want to get a good snap shot of the lacrosse scene across Europe, and not just box lacrosse, come to the AHM any year. There are always teams from across the continent, and quite a few from Canada, and the diversity and distances traveled is truly astounding. There is lots of box talk, but plenty of field discussion too. There is a lot of sharing of ideas.

I heard from numerous long-time attendees that this LCC Radotin team is the best they’ve ever seen, and not just the best LCC Radotin team they’ve seen, but the best AHM participant team they’ve seen… ever. Those are high words of praise. Love You To Death (my squad) had at least 3 guys with NLL experience this year. The Pioneers were basically a WLA Sr B team. They (we) both lost in the Quarters. That alone should give you some idea how good this tourney was.

The Green Gaels were loaded with talent, and more box experience than any other team in the tourney. Nova Scotia is a serious program, and they represented their Province to the fullest, and with class, once again, making the Semis with the Gaels. The Megamen had at least 6 or 7 guys with NALL or NLL experience. LCC Radotin has three guys who may get to try out for the Edmonton Rush and a host of national team stars. The teams in attendance are no joke.

The People

Traditional and a smile.

Awesome teams are only awesome because of the people on them, and nowhere is this truer than at the AHM.

The guys on the Finnish team, the Silver Birch Leafs, are literally some of the nicest guys that  I have ever met off the floor, and yet on the floor they play with speed and passion and don’t shy away from contact. They were a pleasure to be around all week, and their smiles were infectious. Their play also improved dramatically from a year ago, and I’m starting to think Finland has a really bright future in this sport.

The fellows from England also improved, and brought an almost all English side to the event finishing in the top 8. Ireland also looked pretty good on the floor and both nations’ recent box development was evident. Scotland joined the fray and it was good to see more teams from GB pick up box. These boys played hard on and off the floor and were always quick with a smirk while playing, and a smile off the field.

The Canadian crew was large, with teams from BC, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. All four of these teams made the quarters and brought support staff and family along on the trip. The different styles and personalities make this a special treat, and it certainly elevates the play on the floor, and makes it a little easier for the sometimes lonely Americans, who can feel way out of their element at times (prime example: me).

Scott Komer, a true gentleperson.
Scott Komer, a true gentleperson.

I got to play with Love You To Death, and these guys were an absolute pleasure to be around. I got a ton of good tips on how to be a better a player, and how to work towards becoming a better box player. They let me play offense, even though I had no right to do so, and they let me learn as I went. I even managed to score my first goal, and that never would have happened without guys like Jordan West-Pratt giving me some great tips.\

The Megamen represented the USA with class once again, and played their hearts out all tournament. The Megamen are serious about lacrosse, but they are also there to have some fun. A round of mini golf (DG Fortuna is the hardest course I’ve ever seen) with George Castle and Scott Joyner was ridiculously fun, and Bendig proved he’s a good shot on the mini golf course as well. When the Megamen accepted their second place trophy this year, they gave the hosts a Megamen jersey with Hrebesky and #15 on the back. Like I said, these guys are a class act.

Scott Prestridge has been coming to Prague for 13 years now.
Scott Prestridge has been coming to Prague for 13 years now.

I could go on and on about the people, like Francois Labbe from France and his crew, or Israel’s Scott Neiss, as they are the ones who make this event great, but I think you get the point, and I can stop name dropping. It’s an extremely diverse crowd, and everyone there really does love the sport at their core. Lacrosse starts it off, and from there people just tend to get along. It’s a beautiful thing to see, especially when you consider how heated and violent some of the games can get.

The Facilities

LCC Radotin’s home floor is outdoors, in front of the old Sokol building, which has housed athletic and educational activities for Radotin for over 80 years. Grandparents of current club members helped build the structure, and it holds a special place for the town. The building still houses a lot of different activities, but it also offers a restaurant, has a weight room, locker rooms for teams, a large community space, a roof deck, showers, bathrooms and a whole lot more. It’s a club house like nothing else I’ve ever seen.

People show up early for an 8:30 AM game.
People show up early for an 8:30 AM game.

Playing on the floor is amazing. If you’re playing in a big game, or playing a Radotin team at any time, the crowd is serious. The other players seem to mostly cheer for good play, but the home crowd is decidedly pro-Radotin. Playing against LCC is a huge highlight because of that. I got that pleasure last year, and it was awesome.

The guys on my team all rave about a couple of places to play box, and Queens Park, and Six Nations are two that every one of them mention. Radotin is the third. It’s that amazing.

LCC Radotin

The last aspect of the tournament that I’ll talk about (for now) is the host side, LCC Radotin. To some, they come off as a little cold, but many of them are working during the day (when they aren’t playing), and they take their preparation very seriously. They run up a big hill before games, and do not mess around. They want to win, and it shows. It also forces everyone else to step their game up, and that is a great thing!

LCC Radotin has their fans behind them 100%. It's all love.
LCC Radotin has their fans behind them 100%. It’s all love.

The guys on LCC (and some of the other Czech teams) don’t speak the best English, but last year I got to speak with Dominik Pesek, and he opened my eyes to the LCC mentality a bit. This year I spoke with Petr Poupe a bit after their championship win, and the thing that came across more than anything else was how baldy they just wanted to win. Since we are visiting the Czech Republic, I guess I just need to learn Czech for next year so I can talk to these guys more. As a visitor, it’s only fair that I should put in the effort.

Learning more from the Czech guys is already what I’m most excited for next year.

Overall Impressions

If you love lacrosse… heck, even if you only kind of like lacrosse, you should come here and see it for yourself. The level of play is very good, especially at the top, and it is only getting better. The atmosphere is charged and positive. If you can’t enjoy yourself here, you have serious issues. I didn’t know, or truly love, box lacrosse before I came to Prague. Now I can’t get enough of it.

Here's to 2014's first face off!
Here’s to 2014’s first face off!

Now, before you think that it was all ponies and roses, it wasn’t, because it is life. There were some downs, and some stuff that went wrong, some of it controllable, and some of it not. I’ll get to that later though, as I delve into the nitty gritty of the event. Overall it’s hard to give the 2013 AHM anything other than a 10/10, and to focus on the little bumps in the road right now would be foolish.

Congrats to LCC Radotin for hosting another stellar tournament, and for winning the championship for the first time in quite a while. Not a bad thing to accomplish on the 20th anniversary of the best box tournament in all of Europe.