Grow the Game®

LASNAI 2016, Day 1 - Tsha’ Thoñ’nhes
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The Best Box Lacrosse Tournaments Are Made Of This

Two box lacrosse tournaments had their births this year modeled after the world-famous Ales Hrebesky Memorial.

It isn’t easy to copy or recreate something. You try to match the big picture, as well as the tiniest little details in hopes of replicating whatever it is. It sounds simple enough: Do what what they did, and your product will be the same as that. The issue is that you’re not them. Your version could be better, it could be worse, and it will likely end up being totally different. In reality there are no clones.

The Frank Mencshner Cup was held at the beginning of September in the Czech Republic, and our very own LaxAllStars North American Invitational (LASNAI) took place three weeks later on the Onondaga Nation in Upstate New York.

The first inaugural Mencshner Cup to honor Frank was a beautiful retroversion back to the games that made Frank fall in love with Radotin. You can read more about that tournament HERE.

Scott Neiss and Oren Lyons - LASNAI 2016, Day 3
Just a couple of great guys enjoying the game. – Photo by Ondrej Mika

The LASNAI Experience

The North American Invitational was something all its own. From its inception, the LASNAI was pretty closely scripted from the time-proven international success of the Ales Hrebesky Memorial.

While you can say that your rules will be the same, and your tournament structure will be the same, what you got with the LASNAI was something totally different, and something beautiful all its own. You can’t get the Memorial experience at the LASNAI, sure. On the flip side, there was no other way of getting the real deal North American Invitational feel unless you were there at the Onondaga Nation Fieldhouse this past weekend.

LASNAI 2016, Day 1 - Tsha’ Thoñ’nhes
Tsha’ Thoñ’nhes – Photo by Ondrej Mika

I guess we’ll start right there. The pavilion. Home of the best box lacrosse tournaments.

The real name for this world-class venue is Tsha’ Thoñ’nhes. Translated from the Native Onondaga language, means “Where they play ball.” This breathtaking structure recently won some major awards as an engineering masterpiece, after being completed in just 8 short months in time for the World Indoor Championships last September.

LASNAI 2016, Day 1 - LCC Radotin - Box Lacrosse Tournaments
LCC Radotin warming up – Photo Ondrej Mika

This building alone made the event a draw for so many players who are used to playing box lacrosse tournaments in the subpar and occasionally hazardous venues that are available. Any and all new players who walked through those doors for the first time last weekend had that same smile as they looked up at the beautiful arching wooden ceilings.

The empyreal atmosphere drew stares and camera phones much alike the tourist in his first time seeing the skyscrapers of New York City. The thought to think was “I can’t believe that I get to play the game I love in such a beautiful place.” I know this to be fact for only myself, but I have a hard time believing I’m the only one.

LASNAI 2016, Day 1 - Onondaga Nation Fieldhouse
Immaculate – Photo Ondrej Mika

In a venue suitable for the elite professionals, it’s no real wonder that teams were in fact made up of elite professionals. The Ales Hrebesky brings talented teams, of course, but they aren’t loaded with the guys you watch on YouTube during your lunch break. Big name players from big name pro teams getting to pick and choose their rosters without the meddling of contracts and rights allowed for loaded rosters and for everyone to have a good time doing it.

Hiana Thompson hoisting the LASNAI trophy
Hiana Thompson hoisting the LASNAI trophy – Photo by Ondrej Mika

The Thompson Brothers squad embodied an NLL All-Star team headlined by the biggest names in the business. Lyle didn’t even play and Hiana played goalie. That’s how good that team was!

I’ve got to imagine that a few text messages flew around between a bunch of the big names who weren’t present, and it’s not hard to imagine a second and/or third all-star team giving the Thompson Brothers a run for that beautiful trophy next year!

Playing against professionals, in a beautiful professional arena, on the nation territory of the people who first played the game and have given it to us… that’s something special other box lacrosse tournaments cannot replicate.

It’s something so special that you’d think it would be so very difficult for the average player to find himself able to participate in such an event. Coming from a very average player, on his best day, I can tell you that this might have been my favorite part of the tournament.

It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, or how good you were.

If you came, and you worked hard, and you played your heart out for the guys next to you in uniform as well as the creator who’s front yard you happened to find yourself in, you found success.

Where the game and box lacrosse tournaments originated
THE front yard. – Photo by Ondrej Mika

Every team got a win. Even the hodgepodge of free agents and lone wolves that formed the Lax All-Stars house team were able to find some chemistry and get a win. Even though they went undefeated, the Thompson Brothers were played to overtime by the Vermont Voyageurs and barely got by the Caughnawaga Indians 14-12.

The Czechs came from 4,057 miles from Prague to Syracuse to play in a tournament just like theirs! “Hey, dude, you know that really sweet party you have on one side of the planet every year? I’m going to have a party that’s kinda like your party, will you come?” If someone said that to me I don’t really honestly know exactly what I’d say, but the world-famous Custodes from Radotin said “Hey bud, let’s party!”

LCC Radotin - LASNAI 2016, Day 3
Case in point. – Photo by Ondrej Mika

(Editor’s note: The photos in this article are all courtesy LCC Radotin, taken by team’s incredibly skilled photographer Ondøej Mika. Click here to see more photos by Ondøej featuring the team’s entire experience at LASNAI and visiting New York City.)

To see LCC running the floor and really playing their own true style of play against all these North American teams made me feel a little better about losing to them 4 times with 3 teams in one year.

LASNAI 2016, Day 1 - Radotin v Nova Scotia
Radotin v Nova Scotia – Photo by Ondrej Mika

My latest and most frustrating loss to LCC came at the LASNAI. I was proud to run with the Nova Scotia Privateers for the tournament, and I thought we really had a chance at taking this game from LCC.

We had a good win over Caughnawaga who would finish 3rd, as well as the only shutout in LASNAI history over the Goldstar Tel-Aviv guys. We dropped games we didn’t think we should’ve, but that’s unfortunately part of playing the game.

We dropped our final game to our good buddies and tournament sponsors, the Uncommon Fit Lasersharks. Our bench was a little light with a couple absences, as was theirs. While we didn’t take home the hardware we would’ve liked to, it was still an excellent weekend with great guys who I’ve become great friends with over the past few years.

Jamaica vs Nova Scotia - LASNAI 2016, Day 3
Us against Jamaica – Photo by Ondrej Mika

Arguably our most frustrating loss was to Jamaica. A heritage team of Jamaican players from all over the east coast beat us in overtime. While we weren’t thrilled about losing to them, much less in overtime, everyone was happy they were, in fact, there. This was the first EVER international lacrosse event for Jamaica.

When I say EVER in all caps, it’s probably because I’m still over the moon that the first ever event attended by Jamaican Lacrosse was hosted by LaxAllStars. To actually be living and breathing the trademark slogan of “grow the game” is just a solid testament to the LaxAllStars brand and way of doing things. This tournament was put on solely to grow the game.

LASNAI 2016, Day 3 - Jerome Thompson, Sr.
Jerome Thompson, Sr. against Vermont – Photo by Ondrej Mika

There are videos surfacing of box lacrosse being played in Mexico. There are teams all over Europe sending WhatsApp messages to each other seeing who’s in for 2017.

And next year, you ask? I could say “just watch,” but I invite you to do more than that: Get involved. Get on the horn and get a team together. Show the world what you guys got! (Grammatically it should be have, but I just really like the word got right here.)

I’ve been immensely fortunate, and hopefully I’ll never lose sight of that. There are only a handful of players who attended the Ales Hrebesky Memorial, the Frank Mencshner Cup, and the North American Invitational this year. These are the best box lacrosse tournaments in the world.

I’m fortunate enough to say that I was one of those guys who attended all three box lacrosse tournaments, and I guess that gives me a little shred of credibility when I say the inaugural LASNAI was truly something special.

If you weren’t there, you weren’t there. Next year the LASNAI won’t be replicated, because it can’t be. Even if there is the same number of teams, and nothing really changes, it still won’t be the same. Try and try you might, but you just can’t replicate the special slice of heaven that existed that weekend. You’ll never find it at any other box lacrosse tournaments.

Next year will be big and beautiful and it’ll have me grinning ear-to-ear from sunup to sundown, sure, but there was something special in the air for the first ever. For the birth of a great event, in a place where the game was born so many more years ago, it was something else.

Of all the box lacrosse tournaments in the land

I really, really hope to see you at the LASNAI next year. I’ll be there. The rest is on you!