Editor’s Note: Thanks to Ondrej Mika and the LCC crew for allowing Brian to hop in a van and travel across Europe for the Ken Galluccio Cup. To view more sights from the weekend, check out our buddy Marek of ShutterLax.com’s galleries!
I’m the biggest fan of the international growth of lacrosse. Some people are die-hards for the Golden State Warriors, some people are fans of individuals like LeBron James, and for some bizarre reason, people like weird things as well, i.e. the Buffalo Bills.
But, I love watching international lacrosse takeoff. This is my team. I can watch it grow and grow, with new players and components always coming into play. Seeing true, honest, and organic development of these players and programs is the most exciting game for me.
When I started plotting this fall’s trip to Europe to play in the Frank Menschner Cup in Prague, I did as I do, and I took a look at what other events would book-end the FM Cup in the preceding and following weekends.
This time, the Ken Galluccio Cup was what I could come up with. Honestly, that was quite exciting in my mind. I had heard of the KGC last year about this time, and the description of the event made it sound like something that would be right up my alley, as the self-described biggest fan on international lacrosse.
Let’s Get Educated
The Ken Galluccio Cup is, and has always for the five past years been hosted in Ghent, Belgium by the wonderful and hard-working folks at Ghent Lacrosse.
The concept is so simple, it’s perfect.
Reigning champions of the current domestic lacrosse leagues meet for a tournament of champions, crowning a champion of lacrosse in Europe. After a one sentence description, I could honestly end the article right here and now.
You didn’t know about the KGC, and if I told you nothing more about it, you could now say you know exactly what this wonderfully simple and organic tournament is all about.
But there’s more.
Well, there really isn’t, but there is. What an excellent writer I am, aren’t you feeling enlightened? I am so damn good at this.
No, Really! There’s More!
The Czech men of Jizni Mesto played against the Cologne Indians, who had won the German National League months before. The Italians and the Polish could test their mettle against established programs like Cheadle, the winners from England.
On the women’s side, we saw Swiss teams and an Irish University program playing great games against the home team of Ghent and the Norwegian ladies. The less experienced programs were treated to an education by the more advanced and storied programs like the Scottish, English, and Czech women’s teams.
The parity between the top-tier programs and the fledgling clubs is probably my favorite part. Some of these teams, namely Cheadle (ENG) and Edinburgh (SCO), have historic clubs that go back a hundred years or more, compared to some of the teams which have their founding members still in college.
And this is how the game grows and improves. European clubs are able to weigh and measure their own abilities versus a club in a neighboring country made up of their peers. And once that assessment is made via scoreboard or otherwise, one club can look back and say, “what are my neighbors doing that I am not, and how can I remedy this parity?”
Finding a Place in the Field
And to be sure, some of these teams were not on the same level as the top tier clubs.
On the women’s side, Edinburgh (SCO) won the KGC with a dominant performance over the Centaurs (ENG) in the finals. Edinburgh were only really tested in the semi-finals by eventual third place winner LCC (CZE). Fourth place Munich was also a step above the rest of the field, but the top three teams really stood a head above the rest.
The men’s side was similar, although the game displayed it’s innate ability to pick up the Monopoly board and flip it upside down when you’re sick of your cousin’s uncanny good luck.
For the first time in the history of the tournament, we saw an English team dethroned, and not in the finals, but in the semis. The Turku Titans (FIN) have enjoyed tremendous success at home and abroad with excellent showings at the European Championships, European Box Lacrosse Championships, and other tournaments like the Ales Hrebesky Memorial, and of course the domestic field and box leagues back home.
Turku (FIN) upended Cheadle (ENG) in an awesome last-minute display of grit, hustle, and a dash of luck. On the other side of the board, Oslo (NOR) had beaten the Cologne Indians (GER) in a defensive battle to a final tune of 5-3. For those of you not familiar, the Norwegians are getting sneaky-scary-good and with very little recognition for their successes.
We had an all-British women’s final and an all-Scandinavian men’s final. As mentioned before, the Scottish university team of Edinburgh was just too fast and talented for any other program really to compete with (with the exception being a one goal quasi-comeback by the Czechs in the semi-final).
Then men’s final was an awesome back-and-forth battle, with mistakes made by any player on the field punishable by goals via potent offenses. It was an awesome final, and it was nice to see some familiar faces at unfamiliar podium finishes. A huge congratulation to both Edinburgh and Turku on your wins!
What Else Happened, Brian?
What the Ken Galluccio Cup is, is quite simple. These clubs represent what the very best lacrosse looks like in that given country.
For some, that level is high and getting even higher. For some, it’s not as great, but that’s quite alright with me.
I was disappointed there were no men’s representative teams from Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Slovakia, and so on. Given the strength and ability of their national teams, but the World Games in Israel are coming up and everyone has their different itineraries.
On the women’s side, I wasn’t familiar with a number of the smaller clubs, so it was nice to meet a couple of the ladies and actually learn something about women’s lacrosse in Europe. I was serious when I said I was international lacrosse’s biggest fan, but I completely acknowledge my ignorance and lack of knowledge regarding the current state of women’s lacrosse. Something to work on!
Watch and Learn
This was real, raw, and authentic international lacrosse. I loved every minute of it.
I didn’t play, and that wasn’t fun for me at first. I wanted to play, because I always want to play. Then I thought about what impact I would have, if I did play. On the scoreboard, very little, because I suck.
The implication of adding an ‘import’ or a ‘ringer’ would/could be probably a little bit broader. Every minute that any American or Canadian who was born and raised playing American or Canadian lacrosse is on the field, the level of play might rise. Sure, but those minutes aren’t being filled by Europeans who probably have a lot less of those minutes to begin with. Thus it would be much less of a European game if there were less Europeans in that game.
I sat my happy bum on the sideline and I cheered for my buddies. I butchered the pronunciation of their names, and I cheered for them. That felt good.
One of a Kind Weekend
This event obviously carries the name of Ken Galluccio. I never had the pleasure of knowing Ken, but if this event even comes close to reflecting on a man’s legacy, he must have been an an amazing person.
Over the span of 1995 until the late 2000’s, Ken has been rightfuly credited with being one of major driving forces behind helping structure European lacrosse, train and recreuit new officials, and even had his eyes set towards kicking off youth lacrosse in Germany before his premature passing in 2009.
Germany now boasts roughly 200 teams across their men’s and women’s club circuits. Officiating in Europe is not only improving drastically in quality, but has become a well renowned club and family all it’s own. This tournament does well by Ken, just as Ken did well by lacrosse in it’s infancy in Europe.
A huge thank you to the ELF, all of the officials and field staff, and Ghent Lacrosse as a whole for working so hard to put on this event. I’m not sure where exactly in Ghent we were, but the grounds and facilities that were enlisted to host the event are second to none.
From the food and beverages served affordably, to the teenagers riding around these crazy bike/wheelbarrow things to get water and supplies from place to place, this was an amazing event and I’ll be heartbroken if I can’t catch the next one.
I’ve also a thank you to extend to Ondrej and the LCC girls for letting me ride along with them from Radotin. I’d been hanging out in Prague for nearly a month because the food is better, beer is WAY better, and if people are arguing about politics, I literally don’t know because I can’t understand what they’re saying, which is refreshing.
Ondrej offered me a spot in one of the two vans that drove from Prague to Ghent for 10 hours out and 10 hours back to Prague afterwards. If riding 10 hours in a van full of Czech girls sounds like a fun time to you, you’re not wrong.
Memories Made in Bruges
We stayed in the city of Bruges, which I can’t honestly figure out how it’s supposed to be spelled so I’m just using the spelling from the movie “In Bruges”. Walking around this beautiful and quaint city really was one of my favorite sights in Europe.
All the flair and neon lights that plague tourist traps from sea to shining sea were absent.
Instead, floodlights of orange and white lit up beautifully restored buildings that had survived the worst of humanities’ efforts to destroy the world. Huge trees hung over still canals while swans floated on past gondolas. Everywhere you looked was a scene from a postcard you’d happily pay a buck-fifty for.
The Ken Galluccio Cup. An opportunity to see old friends and make new ones. The chance to explore parts of the world I really never knew existed and certainly never thought I’d be fortunate enough to see. All of these are reasons, along with many more, that I would like to claim to be a big fan of international lacrosse and its growth.
I have my favorite clubs, players, and programs, absolutely.
But, if you’re out there in the streets handing out fliers and letting kids try playing catch in the park. If you’re working tirelessly on growing the game in your part of the world. Especially if you’re getting your neighbor hooked all at the same time… then I’m a fan of yours as well, and I always will be.
Meet me in Belgium next summer and you’ll understand.