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Going fast - Valley Thunder hosts action-packed East Coast Junior Lacrosse League game


KINGSTON, N.S. —

Young players from across the Annapolis Valley got a good look at the high-speed world of junior lacrosse when the East Coast Junior Lacrosse League came to town May 14.

League commissioner Brendon Smithson was also on hand for the contest between the Sackville Wolves and St. Margaret’s Bay Rebels.

“This is the first time the league has been up in the Valley so we’re excited about it,” Smithson said in a locker room interview.

Did he know what to expect when teams met for the first time outside the Halifax and Moncton?

“I wasn’t sure. I was hoping that we would get a really good reception here. The minor lacrosse program is going really well with such an increase in numbers,” he said. “I was really hoping they were going to support that and it’s been a really great crowd here tonight.”

He was impressed and in fact, said it was probably one of the biggest crowds they’ve had all year at any one of their games.

PLEASED

“I’m super pleased with the turnout. I didn’t know what would happen,” said Sara White, president of Valley Thunder Lacrosse. Several hundred people of all ages filled the stands. “We’ve been here at the club in the Valley for 11 years. I don’t know if people necessarily know we’re here, but we are.”

They have kids in their Kingston-Berwick program that come from Falmouth to Middleton twice a week for practice. On top of that are the games.

“We travel across the province, so people don’t necessarily know we’re here,” she said. “We’re really trying to grow the sport and we had 63 kids last year and we’re up to 91 this year. We’ve got fabulous coaches who love the sport, lots of university-age kids that are still into the sport and help us as coaches, and some really senior guys.”

They even trained a half a dozen refs this spring.

“Some of them are 16-year-old kids that are learning how to ref the sport, and they’re going to be our next generation of people,” she said. “It’s nice to put our face out there – we’re a club and we play lacrosse.”

THE GAME

If the crowd thought the Wolves-Rebels match was exhibition, they soon figured out if was regular season league play. It was fast and the action never stopped. In fact Smithson describes it as faster than hockey but not quite as fast as hurling.

“Sackville is the home team tonight because their arena is not open until June, so they were looking for a place to play a game in May, so this opportunity came up,” said Smithson. “The recreation director of Kingston was talking to me and he asked if there was an opportunity to put a game here, so that’s how that came about.”

Smithson hopes youngsters getting to see a junior game has a positive impact.

“Hopefully it first of all entices some more kids to play the game, and hopefully entices them to enjoy the game more, and hopefully learn a few things from this,” he said. “And hopefully show them there are some opportunities beyond the minor program. “

In fact there are six players from Valley lacrosse in the ECJLL.

“There’s three of them on the floor for the Rebels tonight, so it’s really exciting to see that kids are making that transition, and hopefully at some point we could have a Junior A or Junior B team here in the Valley,” Smithson said. “It would be a really exciting expansion for us.”

SCOTIA LEAGUE

Smithson said lacrosse in Nova Scotia has been slowly growing. “It’s had its ups and downs. In the last five years it’s actually started to spread across the province,” he said. “We’ve seen some new associations pop up in the Valley and in Pictou County and up in Cape Breton. So it’s been really nice to see that kind of growth.”

Valley Thunder Lacrosse is part of the new Scotia Minor Lacrosse League, White said.

“We worked all winter and it’s all the clubs that are in Nova Scotia outside Halifax. Ice time is tight, travel is challenging, we were struggling to find places to play, so Truro, Pictou, Cape Breton and Valley, we formed our own league called Scotia Minor Lacrosse League.”

She hopes the league grows provincewide to give kids an opportunity to play.

“We’re having a phenomenal first season,” she said. “We’ve got lots of attention. The kids are having a good time. Everybody is getting games – and we’re really pleased. And it was not hard for the four clubs to work on this.”

As for the ECJLL contest May 14? The Wolves won it 13-3. White was pleased with how the evening went and hopes it created some new lacrosse fans – and perhaps a few new players.

“This is the highest level of lacrosse you’re going to see outside the national lacrosse league,” White said. “And some of these kids are ours. There’s a path here that our little kids can get to. It’s fun.”

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