Various goals achieved at Heritage Cup in Montreal Sunday

NLL teammates Cory Vitarelli (left) and Sid Smith faced each other in the Heritage Cup Sunday. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
NLL teammates Cory Vitarelli (left) and Sid Smith faced each other in the Heritage Cup Sunday. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

The Heritage Cup game between Canada and the Iroquois Nationals at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Sunday was an exciting affair, giving over 7,000 fans a down-to-the-wire finish between two teams composed of some of the best lacrosse players on the planet. But it was more than that for both teams and the organizers of the event. For Canada and Iroquois it was a chance to get a look at prospective players for the 2015 worlds, and for the organizers it was a stepping stone en route to the possibility of bringing the National Lacrosse League back to Montreal.

“There’s obviously a bigger picture here and that’s the sport of lacrosse, growing it and getting it into new markets, and I thought it was very much a spectator-friendly game today with two amazing teams and it’s great that it was a close game for the spectators,” Team Canada captain Dan Dawson told IL Indoor.

Dawson, who also played in last year’s exhibition game in Montreal between the Rochester Knighthawks and the Toronto Rock, would love to see the league return to the Quebec city. So, of course, would the event’s organizers, Martin Routhier and Jamie Batley. “I think we showed the area that Martin and myself could put another event on,” Batley said. “We worked probably nine months to put this on and it’s turning into kind of a festival, starting at nine in the morning and going right till five.”

The day started with a game between bantam teams from Quebec and the Iroquois Nations, a one-goal game that went to the final seconds. That was followed by Iroquois and Canadian U17 teams meeting in a virtual rematch of the Iroquois versus Ontario gold medal game from this summer’s Canadian midget championships, which was won in overtime by Ontario.

Two teams of masters players then took the floor for a fun contest before the main event, which of course also went to the dying seconds before being won 12-11 by Canada. The crowd, similar in size to the audience for last year’s game, appeared to enjoy the game thoroughly.

“We’re happy with the turnout,” Batley said. “We’d like to have more, you always want to have more people in the stands. We’re pretty happy with it so far. It takes a while, but we’re moving forward with trying to get a team here.”

Batley pointed out that he and his partners are “getting the lay of the land” for putting on events in Montreal, including finding a local company that produced the turf for the game. The turf was an interesting design; it consisted of rug-sized rectangular sections that join together to cover the floor, rather than the more common rink-wide strips.

Batley told the Peterborough Examiner that he thinks the chances are good of returning a team to Montreal, although it wouldn’t be till at least 2016 because they would be looking at playing out of a yet-to-be-built 10,000-seat arena in Laval rather than the Bell Centre.

The coaches on Sunday, meanwhile, were more focused on preparing for the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships to be held in Onondaga and Buffalo than for any NLL return to la belle province. “It was really an exciting game. I’m really proud of the players,” said Iroquois Head Coach Dewey Jacobs. “We seen some things tonight moving forward in our development with the young kids coming up. It was really encouraging to see, because at this stage what we’re looking forward to is 2015. That’s a good team over there. Maybe it’s not the team we’re going to see in Onondaga in 2015 but none the less that was a solid team over there.”

Jacobs was pleased with the play of young guns Randy Staats and Vaughn Harris, each of whom scored four points. But he was particularly excited about a couple of other youngsters. “Wenster Green and Adam Bomberry out of the back end, both of those guys are young and they’ve got some athleticism to them, and I think that’s really the area that we’ve wanted to address for a long time,” Jacobs said. “We just can’t seem to get the size back there. Those two guys are going to be, barring any big injury or something, I see them on our lineup in 2015.”

For Ed Comeau, Canada’s Head Coach, it was a chance to see some guys who haven’t suited up for Canada before alongside guys who have and see how it would work out. He pointed out that both teams showed a fair bit of rust. “It certainly wasn’t a mid-season form game for either team,” he said. But he liked the way his players stepped up and took the shots that came available. “It’s tough sometimes in these games because there’s so many good players. We always caution guys not to defer to others. So our guys, when they had their shots they took their shots. We hit a lot of pipes early but we kept shooting the ball. We said we want to be effective and the extra pass is sometimes not the right decision, just take the shot.”

In the end, Canada was happy with the win and everyone got to enjoy a terrific lacrosse game in Montreal. And now, the organizers can start getting ready to put on another event next year.

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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