The Nanaimo Timbermen decided to go into the biggest games of the season without their star player.
Lewis Ratcliff has been suspended by the senior A lacrosse team for the rest of 2011 for missing too many practices and games.
The decision, made earlier this week, came down from ownership.
“We need the type of player for our franchise that they are here, they practise with us, they play with us and they are fully here,” said Hadi Abassi, president of the Coastal Windows Timbermen. “He couldn’t be here for all the practices and he missed some of the games and I decided that’s not a very healthy thing for our franchise.”
Ratcliff missed Nanaimo’s game in Coquitlam last weekend, a 10-9 overtime loss. Abassi said there was “miscommunication” regarding the star’s absence, but Ratcliff said the team was aware that he couldn’t make the game. As director of the Seattle Starz lacrosse team, he was on a road trip in California.
“I missed an important game but it was one they knew I was going to miss a few months back,” he said. “I do my best to be there as much as possible… A lot of guys are only 20 and 21 years old, they don’t have jobs and families and I have both and it’s hard to juggle. I’ve done my best.”
Ratcliff is 30 years old and is already one of professional lacrosse’s top-10 scorers of all time. But Abassi said it was still important for the star to be at practice.
“Practices is not just benefiting the player, it’s benefiting the team, too,” Abassi said. “You can’t have two rules for two different players.”
The timing of the suspension couldn’t be more strange, as the T-men played Friday after press time against the Victoria Shamrocks and play the Shamrocks again tonight (July 30) at Frank Crane Arena. Victoria is Ratcliff’s hometown and the Shamrocks are his former team.
He had 26 goals and 26 assists in 10 games this summer. Timbermen coach Art Webster said the team will miss the sniper’s contributions, but will try to move on.
“We’ve won games without Lewis in the lineup,” said Webster. “If you ask me, if you ask any team, would you rather have him in the lineup? Of course you would. Other guys are going to have to step it up and find their way to the net.”
Abassi said a player of Ratcliff’s calibre can’t be replaced.
“He’s one of the top five best players in the league. However, the team plays really hard as a team, we have a great young group, a bunch of young guys and they play their hearts out,” the team president said. “I believe in them.”
Ratcliff has one year left on his contract and the T-men want to trade him for fair value, not simply offer him his release. But his time in the Western Lacrosse Association might have come to an end.
“I don’t see it happening at all anymore,” he said.
GAME ON … The Timbermen and Shamrocks play at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Webster is anticipating that the high-stakes matchup will be intense for all the players involved. “They know what the task is at hand. They’re very well prepared and ready to do battle,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotions that will be in this game. The spot that we are in the standings just fuels more emotion.”
-with files from Travis Paterson