With the ice off at the Twin Arenas, lacrosse is back in the box this year, with an extra team wedging between the Crossfire and the midget Wildfire.
“We started the Cariboo Central Interior Intermediate League,” President of the Quesnel Lacrosse Association Lisa Scott said.
The new league includes Prince George and Mackenzie, along with Quesnel. Williams Lake, originally part of the league, did not have the runners to set up their own team. So without a team, the dedicated runners from down south will come up to Quesnel to play with the Wildfire, strengthening the Quesnel team.
The team fills the gap between midget and senior that left some players floating free last year.
The new team will have runners from last year’s provincials winning midget Wildfire and some runners who got bumped up to the senior Crossfire.
Pat Gibbs, who coached the Crossfire last year, will coach both the midget and intermediate Wildfire, leaving the Crossfire to new coach Hugh Whalen.
The new Wildfire joined the midgets for their first practice in the Twin Arenas last Wednesday and were joined by some Crossfire players eager to begin.
It wasn’t the first practice of the year, however. The Wildfire jumped back into gear while ice and snow still had a firm grip on the Cariboo.
They took their game to the QYSA indoor soccer fields because the players were too eager to play to wait for the ice to come off.
“There were so many kids texting and calling: ‘Can we do something?’; ‘When can we start?’ So we went into the soccer facilities and it was great.” Scott said.
“It was nice and we’re definitely going to utilize that again.”
It’s this enthusiasm that has kept lacrosse in Quesnel and allowed it to flourish, despite similar-sized towns, like Williams Lake, not having the runners to field a team.
“This is a direct result of our coaches that these kids have had,” Scott said.
“It shows the dedicated coaches these kids have had, who have followed these kids through. And the parents – the parents of these kids are here (watching), and that goes a long way. You can see the dedication of these kids, the parents and the coaches.”
It’s the younger players that are missing in Quesnel, so the B.C. Lacrosse Association will be taking the game to the elementary schools to drum up some more young players by teaching them the history of the game, along with how to play.
The seniors are starting their season officially with a practice Wednesday, after the younger players finish.
They are looking forward to another year of growth and competition.
“We’ll have a full bench again and then we’ll have the intermediate team to fill in those gaps,” Scott said.
New coach Whalen is jumping back into coaching lacrosse after taking a break from the sport a few years back.
After watching the Crossfire for the two years they’ve been back, he is confident the team is moving in the right direction to win..
And with a strong team, he wants to get the word out.
“It’s time people understand: we have a good enough team now that people can come out and enjoy it,” Whalen said.
The Crossfire is full of younger players, which has been difficult the last couple of years as they’ve played against veteran teams that have played together for years.
“A lot of our big players are heading into their twenties while their big players are heading into their forties,” Whalen said.
But what was once a drawback is a positive now as the young Crossfire come into their own, while the veteran teams begin to show their age, Whalen said
That leaves the Crossfire in a great place to start this year, with a full bench of players and the intermediate Wildfire to pull from if they need more players to fill in gaps.
“I think we’re right there – on the cusp of greatness,” Whalen said.
The Crossfire start their season April 24 in Prince George against the Bandits, a team which the Crossfire has a bit of a history with.
All of this was supported by the community at the pub night the association had and Scott is so happy and thankful for the support that has come.
“It was a huge success – a big thank you to everyone who participated or sponsored us,” Scott said.
It was a great way to start the season off.
“The season hasn’t even started and it’s fantastic.”