Forget Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. There’s only one presidential race the Nanaimo Timbermen are interested in right now.
That would be the Presidents’ Cup national senior B lacrosse championships next week (Aug. 31-Sept. 6) in St. Catharines, Ont.
It’s the third straight berth in nationals for the senior B Timbermen, but this time they really, truly earned the right to be there, winning the B.C. championship earlier this month.
“This year it’s a little more rewarding,” said Shane Chalker, T-men veteran. “It’s a better feeling than the past, because we kind of went by default or whatever in the past. This year I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
Joining the Timbermen and the host St. Catharines Saints in the tournament are the Capital Region Axemen, the Snake Island Muskies, the Onondaga Redhawks, the Six Nations Rivermen and the Rockyview Knights.
The T-men don’t know much about the opposition, but they know the games are going to be tough.
“It’s definitely a step up from what we’re used to here in the league – we’ve come to realize that the last two years that we’ve gone,” Chalker said.
Andrew Miller, T-men rookie, predicted that the opening minutes of games will be tentative.
“There will probably be some lapses early in games, but you get settled after the first five, 10 minutes and then you start to realize what the other team wants to do and how to stop it,” he said.
It’s not just the opposing teams that are unfamiliar – the style of lacrosse can be a little different, too.
“Offensively, they let you get away with a lot of heavy picks and stuff like that,” said Shawn Swanson, Timbermen general manager. He expects the Eastern teams to have big, strong guys with good stick skills inside, but thinks his team could have an edge with foot speed and getting up and down the floor.
“When we run the ball, if we get our legs going, I think that’s when we’re at our best,” said Miller.
Another difference at the tournament is the prevalence of wood sticks – a relative rarity in B.C. – which allow defenders to be even meaner around their crease. The T-men anticipate having one or two guys in their lineup wielding wood sticks, but they don’t expect it to be a major factor in wins and losses.
“Only if you’re effective with them,” Swanson said. “You have to be able to pick up a ball and pass it.”
The tournament format is different this year. The teams have been split into two pools and there are fewer guaranteed games.
“Every game means something,” Swanson said. “You don’t get to lose one and think you can come back from it.”
So the stakes are high, but the Timbermen look forward to the challenge and the whole experience. Even though it’s their third straight tourney, they know the opportunity won’t come around every year.
“Myself and a couple other guys, we’re all kind of coming to the twilight of us playing senior B,” said Chalker. “So it means a lot to me right now personally, and, I know, a couple other guys, for sure.
“And a couple of the young guys here, it’s probably a pretty cool experience for their first time out.”