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2018 Presidents Cup Event Recap

From the first whistle to the last, the 2018 Presidents Cup was a resounding success in every way. The level of play across 36 games was outstanding, with a level only matched by the support from the local community. Whether you were wearing playing, sitting in the stands or a world away watching via our livestreams – the 2018 Presidents Cup made everyone a winner.

What made this event better than some of the other championships that Canada offers? Why am I writing about the Senior ‘B’ Championships and not the Founder’s Cup in Junior ‘B’, the Minto Cup in Junior ‘A’ or the currently-in-process Mann Cup in Senior ‘A’?

That is because this is Canada’s biggest and best championship. It is my opinion that the level of representation from across Canada, combined with the way that a champion is crowned is far better than any other championship that box lacrosse has to offer in the summer.

Seven league champions from across Canada, in addition to the hosting Nanaimo Timbermen filled the tournament field, making for a grueling round robin path to Presidents Cup Gold. Each team would be challenged to play ALL the other teams present, demanding the body to perform to the best of its ability in NINE games over EIGHT days.

Simple math says that means you would need to play more than one game per day. It takes no math at all to understand that playing two full CLA box lacrosse games in one day is absolutely sinister.

Late night wars would turn into early morning battles – each game as significant as the last as teams vied for playoff berths. Barely was their time for an ice bath before it was time to be back at the Frank Crane arena.

And so the round-robin raged on — with NO team walking out unscathed. The Caughnawaga Indians became fan favorites after handing the St. Albert Miners a loss. The Oakville Titans and Capital Region Axemen would each hand the Caughnawaga Indians a loss, thus creating a three-way tie with Oakville, Caughnawaga and the hosting Nanaimo Timbermen.

That three-way tie would define the semi finals. In what was a true testament to how close and competitive this tournament is, the upper-bracket semifinal took all 28 games of the round-robin to decide who was seeded in what place. The winning goal in the final round-robin game between the Miners over the Ladner Pioneers came in the last two minutes of pool play. To better expalain what that means, that is the eventual champion only beating the eventual sixth-place team by one goal, and all preceding 27 games combined to come down to less than two-goal differentials to decide semifinal matchups. Outstanding.

That minuscule difference pitted the hosting Timbermen against the Oakville Titans, a replay of a tight-knit one-goal game thriller only a day prior. The Oakville Titans were making their Presidents Cup debut and made a ruckus among established and storied clubs. The home team Nanaimo Timbermen were looking their first Presidents Cup since winning the trophy in 1969.

The city of Nanaimo and the co-hosting First Nations People of the Snuneymuxw came together behind their Timbermen in the semifinal win over the young Titans, and then again in the final, packing the Frank Crane Arena to a crowd of thousands. Definitively, this was one of the coolest games I’ve seen in recent memory.

THOUSANDS of locals turned out to the point where the line was 100+ long to get a ticket, and eventually heads had to be counted and doors shut due to fire code. The beer garden girls said they couldn’t remember EVER seeing this many people out for a lacrosse OR hockey game.

A dozen drums filled a section behind the benches, and the sound supporting the home team was deafening. The Timbermen went to war with the St. Albert Miners, the back-to-back champions looking to complete the three-peat. This final battle in the ‘War of Attrition’ that is the Presidents Cup could not be settled in the 60 minutes allotted to a regulation box lacrosse game.

Overtime was forced, with the overtime winner coming from Mike Triolo at 5:15.

The Miners completed the three-peat, and with that final overtime goal, President’s Cup 2018 came to a close.

Star-studded rosters were more or less a ‘who’s who’ of the NLL’s current, past, and future players. Although it was difficult to choose, the LaxAllStars.com all-tournament team is listed below:

LAS PRESIDENTS CUP ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

Goalie – Brandon Miller (Caughnawaga)

Defense – Brad Mazzocato (Nanaimo)

Offense – Keegan Bal (St. Albert)

Offense – Cree Blakely (Oakville)

Transition – Mike Triolo (St. Albert)

Other MVPs:

Officiating – John Szabo (FNLA)

Tournament Staff – Darlene Brebber (Thanks for carting us all over Nanaimo!)

A special note of appreciation goes out to Shawn Swanson, who took on the brunt of the work of this tournament singlehandedly. Nobody ever goes it alone, and there are a dozen others to thank, but Shawn was unequivocally the driving force behind this event. His dedication to detail made a good event into a brilliant one and made it a memorable Presidents Cup for all in attendance.

Other notable items from Presidents Cup 2018:

Something that really stuck with me was how clean the games were. There were penalties. There were ugly words exchanged. A dozen times there was the need to assess a match penalty or something similar, and that was all adjudicated correctly and fairly. The intensity level was nothing short of championship caliber – but still across all THIRTY-SIX games, there was not one fight. Guys definitely tried, and punches were thrown, but there was not one stand-up glove drop. The debate as to whether or not fighting belongs in box lacrosse is an interesting one, and I’m not strictly on one side of the fence or the other, but this entire eight day tournament was all the lacrosse with something else.

The opening ceremony was hands down the off-floor highlight of the tournament. In the morning before the first games started, the Snuneymuxw people of the First Nations ceremoniously gave permission to representatives from each of the eight teams to come ashore.

Two large canoes were paddled across from Snuneymuxw Nation Territory to the beach of Nanaimo. The Chief of the Snuneymuxw then welcomed the teams to come ashore and “do battle with good intentions” to play fairly and represent their people. It was something special to see the Onondaga Nation specifically welcomed, as a gift exchange from First Nations People from the East to the people of the West Coast.

That was the general feeling of the tournament, quite honestly. Players and teams from across Canada and the First Nations came to the small city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island to play hard and fair to decide a champion.

This is the roughest and most grueling championship that the sport of lacrosse knows. It’s brutal, it’s perfect. You don’t see one opponent 4-7 times. You see seven different opponents over nine games. It’s fair, it’s the war of attrition.

It’s the Presidents Cup.

Check out our favorite photos from the event.

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