The Magic of Lake Placid was originally published 7/14/17 on PowellLacrosse.com via their Field Exploration series and republished with permission.
When you hear Lake Placid, what immediately comes to mind? The Miracle on Ice, the winter Olympics, or an Adirondack getaway would be a typical response for most. If you grew up with a lacrosse stick in your hands, it’s probably more like: bucket list, family, the best week of the summer. What makes a town of around 2,500 people, buried deep in the mountains of Upstate New York, that connected to the game?
There’s no local college lacrosse, no freeways cutting through town, and hotbeds aren’t exactly up the street. The hometown of the Powell brothers, Carthage, NY, is about 2 hours west. The Canadian hotbed of Montreal sits 2 hours north; Burlington, VT, is about 2 hours east; and Albany lies roughly 2 hours to the south. In the middle, towns are few and far between. Everything from farm houses of the blue collar families, to city slickers’ multi-million dollar vacation homes populate the region. Thousands pack up the cars and head for the Adirondacks every fall to watch the leaves change, a big money attraction for the wooded Northeast. There’s plenty to do, from fine dining to exploring the great outdoors, but for a whole week at the beginning of August, every year the town is overrun by thousands of lacrosse people. Not just kids, or just men reliving their glory days, but anyone and everyone who is truly head over heels for the game.
Over the past twenty-six summers, the Lake Placid Summit Classic has grown into arguably the most important lacrosse event of the entire year. The brainchild of George Leveille, now spearheaded by his son and Powell Pathfinder, Kevin Leveille, has stayed a tightly run family operation and for good reason. Lake Placid has become a second home for the Leveilles and many lacrosse families because of the tournament. From ages six, to over sixty, everyone who loves to play the game has a place to play in Placid. That is, if you can squeeze into a roster, with an exclusive waiting list that can last years. For the men, women, and children that compete annually in the event, this isn’t just another summer tournament or chance to knock the rust off.
It’s an opportunity to carry on tradition, make a name for yourself, or become a part of something so much bigger, the Lake Placid family.
That’s a term you’ll hear a lot, should you be lucky enough to take on Placid in August. “Family.” In one week, you will witness some of the most intense, knock-down drag-out wars the game of lacrosse ever gets to see. You get the chance to watch the best players in the world, at any level, go head to head, all in the same place. If you’re lacing up the cleats, you’ll be trying to match feet with arguably the best competition you’ll ever face. But, when the games end, whatever happened that day is put aside and everyone becomes one. The smell of barbecues will overwhelm the air, the water will be saturated with floating bodies, and the streets of town will be shoulder to shoulder with lacrosse players bonding and looking to make lasting memories.
When the event formed, it was a way to have a version of what Vail had built, much closer to where the majority of lacrosse is played. Over the years, people have made their way to Placid once, and quickly decided to make it a yearly adventure. Before there was pro field lacrosse, Lake Placid was the spot to be to see the biggest names in the game go at it. The MLL had to make it a rule that players couldn’t break away mid-season to play in the event, because it pulled away too much talent for a whole week. Players, like Casey Powell, have backed out of their pro commitments for a summer just to play in Placid, that’s how appealing it is. Current college players hop on a variety of rosters, alumni teams are assembled by some, and the older crews put together teams of long lost teammates. We promise you, when the Syracuse alumni take on Cornell grads, it will be one of the most exciting and hard-fought games you could hope for.
It might also be the only place to catch all three Powells on the field at the same time these days.
Everyone goes hard between the lines during the day, then let’s go of all anxiety in the evenings. The bonds formed off the field and memories created amongst friends and families are truly what make Lake Placid great. Even when you aren’t there to play, families load up the RVs and vans, then pack into local hotels and camping spots for the weekend. There is something to do, with plenty of like-minded people to do it with, at any given time.
The event has continued to take leaps forward every year, never rolling things back. With the growth, it’s now a generational thing. Guys that competed in the original event are now returning for the Master’s and Grand Master’s divisions. Their sons and daughters that watched from the sidelines are now competing in the Open divisions. If they’re lucky, grandchildren that weren’t even a thought at the time are entering today’s youth brackets. It’s not even far-fetched to see grandparents, parents, and kids all on the fields in the same day. So many of the game’s biggest names perennially make way to Placid, that the MLL partnered up with event organizers to host the annual Alumni Game. Dozens of all-stars from pro lacrosse’s past go head to head for old time’s sake. If you can’t be there, we highly recommend watching live on Lax Sports Network.
Lacrosse’s impact in the Adirondacks lasts much longer than just seven days. The game doesn’t leave the region when the tournament pulls away. Instead, over the past twenty years, the seeds have been deeply planted and the community welcomes the lacrosse family with open arms. When you arrive to the complex, the first the first sign to greet you is on the street corner, reading: “Lacrosse Fields Way.” Cruise around Baltimore, Syracuse, or Boston and you’re not going to see that. Drive through town and look at the shop windows. Lacrosse memorabilia, apparel, and equipment is sold year-round. In Lake Placid alone, they have men’s pick-up games and youth teams assembled, with big plans to keep growing.
With all of the Olympic sport training going on around town, it would be easy for lacrosse to sit at the bottom of the totem pole. Yet, the Lake Placid Summit Classic has remained one of the biggest economic engines in the community and not only brings a lot of money to the area, but jobs for locals, entertainment for all, and inspiration to the youth. Ask any local business owner what they think about lacrosse and your ears will be flooded with honest praise for the game, the people, and the organizers, Summit Lax Ventures. Don’t be surprised when the future of NCAA lacrosse is littered with kids hailing from the Tri-Lakes region. Lake Placid lives for lacrosse now and lacrosse players are living just to get back to Placid. The love is mutual and it’s all inclusive. Meet us in Placid at the end of this month and you’ll be hooked into the Placid Family for life. It’s one family you’ll actually be excited to reunited with each and every summer.