Editor’s Note: In 2017, LaxAllStars.com teamed up with the ground-breaking team at Summit Lax Ventures. We’re on board to put a media spotlight on all of their marquee events. Brian is back with one last post from his Lake Placid adventures this summer, and we think he sums it up perfectly.
I’ve been to Lake Placid before. I’ve been a dozen times. It feels like I’ve been a hundred times, but something about that number doesn’t sound exactly accurate. I’ve heard Lake Placid described as a “second home” or a “home away from home” in a lacrosse sense. I guess I never really subscribed to that thinking.
That would be nice, sure, to be able to call Lake Placid a second home. I don’t think of it that way. It’s the place where everyone can be free from “home.” At home, the lawn needs to get mowed and bills show up in the mail (so I’m told).
Stepping out of your home, away from your job, or out of your taxi on the way to the airport, you get to just kind of press pause for a minute.
There are things you really should probably be taking care of, sure, but there will always be things you should be taking care of. They’ll be there. For one week a year, you can quite literally press pause. Just exist in an environment where you can be yourself.
This Place Is Different
Nobody’s going to ask about your second quarterly earnings. They’re going to ask how your wife and kids are. When a couple of your buddies ask you to go golfing, or to take the canoe out on the lake, they’re not looking for a business meeting. They actually want to drink a six pack and laugh with you. Your friends are there too. They want to put on some equipment and play as hard as they can for a couple games.
For the youngest competitors, high school boys and girls, those games took place in the early days of the week. Seven divisions, with an equal number of boys’ and girls’ teams, played for the first three days. Players from all over the country and beyond put their best foot forward.
Maybe some held high hopes of being recruited. Sorry, but the sidelines at Lake Placid aren’t lined with college coaches in camp chairs. They’re lined with parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters.
On Wednesday, the kids finish up. Champions are crowned with t-shirts and families take pictures with the iconic Olympic ski jumps in the background. This particular year, after the high school girls finals, we were treated to the UWLX Championship, for the first time at Lake Placid.
For those unaware, this is professional women’s lacrosse and the teams play on a sort of touring schedule. They try to align the games with popular girls’ camps and events to really showcase their game. For a young lady, what is a better way to end your Placid experience?
Let the Adult Swim Begin
Coaches turn into players around that time of day, later on Wednesday afternoon. The eldest of all the youthful gentlemen start to play their games in the 60+ division first. Whereas grandpa might’ve been watching a son or daughter coach his grandson or granddaughter that morning, now it’s his turn to play and their turn to watch.
The week will move along too quickly, as it always does. Before you know it, there are men of all ages playing. The youngest, at 18, and the oldest, pushing 70, compete just one field apart. The flow might look a lot different, but it’s still the same game played by the same rules.
This has always been one of my favorite parts. It really is tough to tell how old a man really is under a helmet. Young men can look older and stronger, and most helmets do a pretty good job covering up grey hair and beards.
Heading into the weekend, you’ll see the collegiate players and the recently graduated guys and gals going toe to toe. In no other sport (that I can really think of) do you have a tournament like this. Where else are the best in the game willingly playing against the average Joes?
That’s the Beauty of It
There were members of the gold medal capturing US Women’s National Team playing. Current Syracuse, Duke and Notre Dame players shared the field with no-name former D-III scrubs (hand in the air).
It doesn’t matter here. Whether you’re the best there ever was, or not, you’ve still gotta run by me to win. Then, you’ve gotta stop me from running by you.
To highlight the best players who came before us, there was the second-annual MLL Alumni Legends game on Friday night. Anyone and everyone you ever watched growing up was on the field. From Gary Gait, to the Leveilles and Byrnes, to Goettleman, Banks, Silcott, and Striebel. There were a handful of guys I don’t think I could pick out of a crowd without a helmet. But, on the field, I could pick anyone out in a second, name where they went to college, and drop other useless facts.
There’s a bizarre correlation between “legends on the field” and “legends off the field.” Correlation is not causation (learned one thing in stats class!). You’re more often than not going to run into some really amazing people by strolling around downtown Lake Placid.
I won’t get too far into detail. There really isn’t a point. If you haven’t been out and about, I can’t really explain the concept. How do you describe having the greatest lacrosse players ever alongside your greatest friends from all over the world, in the same four bars (five if you count Roomers… so four)?
Some bars have music, others have the shoulder to shoulder party. If you’re looking for something nicer, there’s a whiskey joint (never been) and a brewery down by Mirror Lake (totally been). Sometimes you just want to walk the street and listen to bands as you stroll, or go sit down by the lake. There’s something for everyone at night, and if you aren’t friends with someone, it’s because you haven’t met yet.
Everyone is in a great mood and friendly, and chances are pretty good you know a lot of the same people. Trust me.
Down Memory Lane
There were a couple stories this week. Some bigger than others. I won’t try to repeat the story of the Miracle on Grass. The 101 of the story is that one of the players in one of the older divisions had a heart attack on the field, and we almost lost him. We did lose him. Twice, actually. Brilliant action from the entire community resulted in the saving of this man’s life! It’s an amazing story. I heavily recommend reading up on what happens when safety and protocol really do come first!
The next story would kind of be my story. It’s not really a great story, and nothing really happens. But, it’s my favorite story this year.
Building the Scene
It was Saturday night, and everyone was out on the town. I bet you’ve heard that before. It really isn’t all that different. My father was there, he serves as competition director to the tournament. My brother was there, he’s been hired on full-time by Summit Lacrosse Ventures this year. This was his first Lake Placid in a corporate roll.
My college buddies, the Mill and Jimbo, were up all week. So we bounced around from sleeping in my van, to crashing with the referees, to hanging out with my buddy Big O and family at a gorgeous place on the lake.
Next to my college buddies were Blair and Drew. These two gave my brother and me our first real jobs keeping score at lacrosse fields for a rec league in Syracuse. They were there with Bart, who had played for my Dad at Oswego State. Weirdly, Bart actually babysat us when we were kids and went on to be our varsity coach in High School. Bart’s babysitting was infamous, once allowing me to eat pickles and Pop-Tarts for dinner. Apparently that’s all I would eat.
Anyway, different guys from former teams were all around me. I had teammates from the Vermont Voyageurs, teammates and opponents from Australia, Prague, and even Singapore and Hong Kong. Gary Gait was at the bar talking to somebody. Casey Powell was just behind us, towards the back, hanging out with some of his buddies.
I saw Casey Vock more than a handful of times, and he’s the reason you’re even reading this in the first place. Vock published my first article a number of years back. Without his doing, I would have no guidance in any pursuit of a life in lacrosse.
Looking around, it was pretty surreal. I was seeing all of these friends that have become family. Guys I watched on tv were hanging out with their friends, who are now my friends.
The Story Tells Itself
That’s Lake Placid. That’s what you come for. A spin out on the paddle-board and a round of golf is nice, sure. Getting to play lacrosse in this sort of environment is amazing, granted. The real reason I go to Lake Placid, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, is that everyone I know is up there. I like the greater majority of people I know, so it’s impossible for me not to want to be there.
You know these people too. Your high school coach is there. Your college buddies and your heroes are all there. Whether it’s on the field, or out to dinner or on Main Street, everyone you know in our little universe is there.
Every time some strange coincidence comes into play, someone will give the obligatory “lacrosse is such a small world” statement. Lake Placid is where that world lives for one week every year.
Yes, there are still other showcases and the final MLL games. The summer box season is wrapping up, sure, but the real nucleus of the lacrosse world is in Lake Placid for that one special week every year.
There are some other amazing tournaments to go to. There might be bigger, and there might be more travel efficient, but there is no BETTER tournament. Quality is what you get in Lake Placid. Quality of people, meets quality of lacrosse, meets quality of life.
You won’t eat better, you won’t sleep better, you won’t play better lacrosse.
Simply, you won’t live better than that one week a year in beautiful Lake Placid, New York.