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Canada - 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Champions

Canada National Team Program Leaders Resign

Canada Lacrosse has officially accepted the resignations of Dean French, Dave Huntley, and Johnny Mouradian. This is a big change for the CLA.

Canada Lacrosse is going through some with some big changes. The Canadian Lacrosse Association has officially accepted the resignations of Dean French, Dave Huntley, and Johnny Mouradian. The resignations were tendered by the three men in late October in a letter to the CLA Board. The Board just recently voted to accept these resignations, and then made the public announcement via press release and twitter around 8pm Eastern on Friday night.

The resignations signal a big change for the CLA, as French, Huntley, and Mouradian were all heavily involved in Canada’s national lacrosse programs in volunteer leadership positions for the last number of years. Dean French was the Chairman of the National Team Program, Dave Huntley was the Director of Men’s Field Lacrosse, and Johnny Mouradian was the Director of Box Lacrosse.

Canadians celebrating a gold medal win over USA at FIL Wold Championships 2014

According to my Canadian lacrosse scuttlebutt sources, there have been some growing issues within the CLA and the National Team Program for at least a year, if not more. Much of it seems to stem from the management of the teams’ operations within the CLA. A clash was brewing between these volunteers and the CLA board, but much of it was kept behind closed doors and out of the public eye.

The story came to a head publicly when the Peterborough Examiner revealed that the three men above, as well as Gary Gait, had sent a letter to the CLA threatening to resign if their demands were not met. The letter requested that two members of the CLA board, Joey Harris and Sohen Gill, would step down. The letter also included a request to improve National Team Program insurance coverage, and decried the CLA’s lack of status when it came to being a Registered Canadian Amateur Athletic Association member.

The CLA lost its RCAAA status in 2010 due to a tax shelter issue, which the Examiner article explains in more depth. It’s an interesting case, and worth further reading. Since then, the CLA has been in and out of court, fighting the revocation of its status, but after 7 years the CLA’s RCAAA status remains lacking. For French, Huntley, and Mouradian, this seems have been a breaking point, and they argued that the status issue created sponsorship appropriation and cost issues for the teams and players.

One item that is interesting to note here is that while Gary Gait was included in the original letter, he was not listed as one the “accepted resignations” in the Friday release. Gait was, and still is (as of the release), the Director of Women’s Lacrosse for the National Team Program. We will have to keep any eye on how that changes, or doesn’t.

Another issue here, which is truly fascinating, is that these differences in the CLA do NOT stem from international on-the-field or on-the-floor performances, as Canada has been highly successful in that regard over the last 8 world lacrosse championships, winning four gold medals and four silver medals. This is the best run of medal performances for any country over the last 8 world championships, with the US coming in second with four gold medals, two silver medals, and two bronze medals.

In case there was any confusion, the CLA President, Joey Harris, made it clear that the split was not about on-field performance with these quotes from the press release:

“We would like to sincerely thank Dean, Dave and Johnny for the time and energy they have given to the National Team Program over the years. The international success on the floor and the field was due in no small part to the leadership of these individuals.”

“As the governing body for all aspects of the sport of lacrosse in Canada, we have determined that to enhance lacrosse in our country we needed to create a model that better integrates our National Team Program with all other aspects of our sport.”

“We will take this as an opportunity to enhance the National Team Program, building off the elements that are already in place, to ensure that we meet our Sport Canada funding criteria and remain fiscally transparent and responsible to our members.”

Reading between the lines, it seems like the CLA wants a leadership group and overall national team structure that is more involved in the development of Canadian lacrosse at every level. I’m not sure what this will look like in the end, but if “winning” wasn’t the reason (it can’t have been because Canada won so much!), there has to be a deeper divide on how to move forward in general.

Canada's Alie Jimerson tries to avoid USA goal keeper, Devon Wills, at the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women's Lacrosse World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, Guilford, Surrey, UK, 15th July 2017
Photo credit: Adam Scott / England Lacrosse

So how does the Canadian Lacrosse National Team Program move forward from here? Who will take over these extremely important roles for the national teams? Will the positions be filled by people who live in Canada full-time and are involved in grassroots development work? What changes will we then see in how the national teams integrate with the overall lacrosse development plan for Canada? What is the actual development plan? Is there one already, or is it a work in progress?

With the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships for the men less than a year away, and all of this change going on right now, it’s an interesting time for Canada Lacrosse.

The Canadians have been at or near the top of the international game since 2011, and I am immensely curious to see how all of this change impacts their performances on the field. The players will be the same (one would assume), but will this leadership upheaval come into play at all? Beyond that, I am also really curious to see how things change at the CLA in general, and I really want to see a public development plan sometime soon.

Canada vs United States 2014 World Lacrosse Championship Gold Medal Game

By accepting the resignations of three men responsible for at least some of the success on the field and floor, the CLA has taken the full burden of Canadian Lacrosse success and development onto their own shoulders. It’s where the weight should be, and now it all comes down to whether or not the CLA, as it currently stands, can lift it.

Given the CLA’s trajectory, success on the international stage, and the current explosion in international growth, I believe the foundation is there for continued success, future change, and growth. With reflection on the past, a new National Team Program leadership group, and incremental change, Canada can stay at the top, but there is no denying that the loss of French, Huntley, and Mouradian creates a void that very much needs to be filled, and quickly, especially on the men’s field side of things.

The full press release (in English) from the CLA can be found below. The French portion has been included because why not?  And yes, it’s still pretty cool that the CLA does releases in two languages. Never forget Quebec!

OTTAWA, ON – The Canadian Lacrosse Association’s Board of Directors have accepted the resignation of three members of its National Team Program – Dean French, Chairman; Dave Huntley, Director, Men’s Field Lacrosse; and Johnny Mouradian, Director, Box Lacrosse – effective immediately.
These individuals tendered their resignation to the Board in writing on October 22, 2017, and the decision to accept it was made during the Board’s meeting on November 17, 2017.
“We would like to sincerely thank Dean, Dave and Johnny for the time and energy they have given to the National Team Program over the years,” said Joey Harris, President, Canadian Lacrosse Association. “The international success on the floor and the field was due in no small part to the leadership of these individuals.”
Positive results on the playing field are one of many priorities that a National Team Program must focus on to be deemed successful.
“As the governing body for all aspects of the sport of lacrosse in Canada, we have determined that to enhance lacrosse in our country we needed to create a model that better integrates our National Team Program with all other aspects of our sport,” stated Harris.
Off the playing field is where the CLA and this group disagreed and the differences are irreconcilable.
“We will take this as an opportunity to enhance the National Team Program, building off the elements that are already in place, to ensure that we meet our Sport Canada funding criteria and remain fiscally transparent and responsible to our members,” added Harris.
All inquiries or requests for comment on this matter should be directed to Joey Harris, President, Canadian Lacrosse Association.
OTTAWA, ON – Le conseil d’administration de l’Association canadienne de crosse a accepté la démission de trois membres de son programme d’équipes nationales – Dean French, président; Dave Huntley, directeur, crosse au champ masculine; et Johnny Mouradian, directeur, crosse en enclos – en vigueur dès maintenant.
Ces personnes ont présenté leur démission au Conseil par écrit le 22 octobre 2017 et la décision de l’accepter a été prise lors de la réunion du Conseil le 17 novembre 2017.
«Nous aimerions remercier sincèrement Dean, Dave et Johnny pour le temps et l’énergie qu’ils ont consacrés au programme d’équipes nationales au fil des ans», a déclaré Joey Harris, président de l’Association canadienne de crosse. “Leur leadership a contribué grandement au succès international sur le terrain.”
Des résultats positifs sur le terrain de jeu ne représente qu’une des priorités sur lesquelles un programme d’équipes nationales doit se concentrer pour être considéré comme un succès.
«En tant qu’organisme directeur de tous les aspects du sport de crosse au Canada, nous avons déterminé que pour améliorer la crosse dans notre pays, nous devions créer un modèle qui intègre mieux notre programme d’équipes nationales avec tous les autres aspects de notre sport.
Hors du terrain de jeu est l’endroit où l’ACC et ce groupe étaient en désaccord et les différences sont inconciliables.
«Nous considérerons cela comme une occasion d’améliorer le programme d’équipes nationales, en renforçant les éléments déjà en place, afin d’assurer que nous répondons aux critères de financement de Sport Canada et que nous demeurons transparents et financièrement responsables envers nos membres», a ajouté M. Harris.
Toutes demandes de renseignements ou commentaires additionnels à ce sujet devront être adressées à Joey Harris, président de l’Association canadienne de crosse.
We will keep an eye on the CLA and future announcements as they become available.
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