The Quesnel Crossfire have been suspended from the Prince George Senior Lacrosse League after forfeiting their second game of the season this Saturday (June 8).
Teams are require to field at least five players and a goalie in league games, and the Crossfire have had a tough time doing so.
They finish the shortened season with a disappointing 1-11 record after starting it as one of the favourites to win the league.
A demoralizing 18-1 loss to the still-unbeaten Prince George Devils got the year off to a bad start for the Crossfire, and things did not improve from there. A rash of injuries affected the team, with nine players suffering setbacks like broken wrists, cracked ribs and concussions.
Quesnel Lacrosse president Lisa Scott is upset by the developments but hopes for the best.
“You have to be optimistic,” she says. “We’ve had different hardships in the association in the past, and as long as people still want to be paying lacrosse and people want us to be around, we’ll keep going.”
This is unfortunately somewhat common for the league. The Prince George Stylers shut themselves down after last season, and the Prince George Assault did the same after the season before that. While the Stylers have taken the season off, the Assault reformed this year and are performing well.
“If you look at the history of lacrosse in the region, it’s like waves in the ocean,” says Crossfire head coach Albert Cooper. “It comes up and it’s really popular and it drops off and then it comes back again, and I think we’re in the lower part of the cycle right now.”
The squad is still a relatively young one, with most players ranging in age from 17 to 22. They are all starting their first jobs, and a number of them had to skip games due to work commitments, whether it was helping out during the mill shutdowns or getting called out to logging camps.
Chase Ballendine, one of the team’s top offensive players for the last couple of years, says the timing has been terrible.
“I know personally I have been trying to get my life figured out because that’s the age I’m at right now. I just turned 20 at the beginning of the year. I just finished my first year of school and I wanted to go back in August, so I wanted to make enough money to support myself while I do that. I’ve been pretty busy, so I’ve missed a couple games, but I know there should be a lot more commitment.”
A couple midget players got the call up, but not all of them were comfortable making the big jump into a fairly rough-and-tumble league.
“A lot of the game is a physical sport and you’ve got to protect yourself, but there’s some guys who are just out there to hurt people and you’ve got to be careful around them,” says Ballendine.
“That scares the younger kids when they show up and see everyone out there taking hits. I played on U16 Team BC and U19 Team BC, and it’s not nearly as physical. It’s more skill and you don’t get hurt nearly as much. The midget guys are just a little smaller, and they’re a little nervous to get in there and get started. [The Senior league] is a big step up compared to Midget. The guys are lot bigger and older.”
The suspension will affect all of the players, who will not be able to be picked up as alternates by teams playing in the provincials in Prince George.
Next steps for the team will be pleading their case at the league’s annual general meeting in January.
“Technically, we’re allowed back provided we have a team, but they might put some stipulations on us,” says Scott. “It will be voted on, and then it’ll be a waiting game. “We’ll get the team together at the beginning of the year when we normally do our registration and see where we’re at. If we’ve got a bunch of guys who still want to play lacrosse, we’ll keep plugging at it.”