When Chris played for Team BC in the Box National tournament in Ontario as a 14 year-old, we witnessed some amazing lacrosse.
Of particular note was team Iroquois. They were small, but fast and they never ever gave up.
I’ve written about them before but was reminded of them again this week when a video link was sent my way.
Johnny Powless played at that tournment and was a lacrosse wonderkid. Sort of Gretzky-like.
Amazing with the ball, without the ball and knowing where the play was going at all times.
This video link shows Powless scoring a goal in the NLL a few weeks back. He’s just 18.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Chris is still watching this kid go.
At the tournment back a few years ago, BC won the Bronze in an epic battle with Alberta. We all stayed to watch Iroquois Nation go against Ontario. Truly David vs Goliath. I’m literally getting goose bumps as I type this remembering the game.
The Ontario team was HUGE. They have a massive population and they could have had 3 or 4 top teams and still been competitive. The Iroquois team was small. But they didn’t give up.
I know they made a big impact on the BC boys watching. In many ways it was the early days of Be The Best.
Yes, Iroquois did prevail to win the gold in one of the most fantastic lacrosse games I’ve ever seen.
Here’s Johnny doing his thing today. I’m wearing my purple Iroquois t-shirt with pride today and still have the hand- made wooden lacrosse sticks dangling from the rear view mirror of our car.
Over Christmas I had a bit more time to look at some history and came across this article featuring a quote from Chris. I love the comments about team.
Funny story leading up to this tournie. The team was raising funds to go to Calgary and had received the ‘ok’ to stand in front of certain liquor stores with jerseys on and request donations via a donation bucket. (don’t ask why…it was easier than a car wash I guess…!)
Anyways, Chris and his buddy Brett Dobray were at a store and I noticed that they would get some people stopping and donating, but many would pass on by. That is to be expected. Lacrosse is a growing sport and people didn’t have an emotional connection as they might with hockey.
I had a marketing thought.
I made up some signs that said, ‘help us beat Calgary’ and ‘we’ll bodycheck an Albertan for $10’. You should have seen the difference! People were stopping….and donating and donating some more. It was incredible.
What was the difference?
All of a sudden there was an emotional connection. In BC, people love (usually in good nature) to bash Albertans! Hey, when we’re out of the country we’re all brothers and sisters! It’s like a brotherly competition…just watch the Canucks and Calgary or Edmonton and you get the rivalry. It was just amazing to see people engage emotionally and then with their wallets as they connected with the BC vs Alberta challenge. All of a sudden they felt like THEY were going to be playing simply by donating $10 or $20 bucks.
The boys loved that story and that experience…seeing how words and approach could make such a difference.
Secondly, those boys DID play for everyone of those donors and played their hearts out, winning gold, with 6 members of that team representing BC nationally later that summer.
Here’s the full story:
The Langley Thunder Bantam A1’s traveled to Calgary over the Canada Day weekend. Forget bull riding at the Stampede, they were there for some hard hitting, fast paced box lacrosse action. Perhaps the actual thunder storm on Saturday night was a good omen for the Thunder, as the young men (just completed grade seven and eight) took on competition from all over Western Canada.
Saturday match-ups had the squad take on the Sabrecats from Calgary beating them 11-3 with Adam Gallen earning game MVP for a strong offensive performance. The Thunder continued by defeating Saskatchewan’s provincial team in the afternoon game by a score of 9-2 led by game MVP goaltender Ryley Brown who’s saves propelled the offensive charge and final decisive score.
Sunday’s games featured a strong Red Deer team with Langley prevailing by a score of 7-5. Game MVP Chris Friesen had a strong defensive showing against a physical opponent. In the afternoon game, Langley fell behind a skilled Calgary Axeman team, but rallied from a 3 goal deficit to chop the tournament defending champion Axeman 10-7. A brilliant goal and full game hustle earned Will Vandenhooven the game MVP. Having gone 4-0 in tournament play, the Thunder headed into the gold medal game against an all-star team from Calgary called the Hornets.
The game lived up to the hype with the first period ending tied at zero. The Hornets came out stinging in the 2nd period and opened up a 2-1 lead with two Langley players in the sin bin with the period ending. The Hornets capitalized on the 2-man advantage at the beginning of the 3rd by netting a goal and opening a two-goal lead. If it were not for the heroics of Ryley Brown, the Thunder goalie, the score may have been much higher. Instead of folding their tents however, the Thunder rallied led by team wide explosive defensive performance leading to goals by Brett Dobray and Michael Messenger. With the game tied Adam Gallen scored a timely goal with 1 second left on the shot clock. Langley then iced the cake with a massive defensive effort during pure pandemonium breaking in the Thunder zone. With the Hornet goalie pulled for an extra attacker Brett Dobray flew down the floor with two Hornets all over him and scored a diving empty netter for a final score of 5-3 for the Thunder.
Chris Friesen, the team captain stated, “We have been working hard at team play. Working for each other and working together. I think we did that throughout this tournament and the results we achieved were excellent”.
“I’m proud of each member of this squad. Everyone played hard and played together”, added Coach Sean Beasley.
Next up for the team is the Provincial Championships hosted in Langley this year which will be held July 18-22.
Six members of the Langley Thunder Bantam A1 team will also be representing BC in the National Tournament in August in Ontario.
As much as we look ahead and live for tomorrow, there are still times to reflect on history.
I stumbled across some pictures from Chris and the Bantam Box Lacrosse squad from BC as they represented the Province so admirably in August of 2007.
I had written updates for the BC Lacrosse magazine and this was my final piece summarizing the tournament.
In that final game Chris played the game of his life to that point, being a physical presence that helped BC clinch the Bronze medal in a heavyweight showdown with Alberta. (ok, as heavyweight as 14 year olds can be…which is actually quite heavy…!)
The journey for the Bantam BC boys began months ago. There were regional selection camps. There was the Team BC final selection camp. For those chosen to represent BC, a number of weekends were spent training for the national championships.
The 22 lacrosse players, along with coaches and entourage, jetted out of Vancouver on Thursday, August 2. After spending 2 days in Peterborough, Ontario for a conditioning camp, the team traveled to the dorms at Durham College in Oshawa, which would be home for the next week.
On Sunday, August 5th, the highlight of the day was the opening ceremonies at the Iroquois Park Sports Centre, touted as Canada’s largest municipal sports centre.
The teams were cheered on by enthusiastic supporters as they entered the arena. Team BC looked strongly West Coast in their multi-blue and gold jerseys proudly showing the mountains and a west coast ‘feel’.
It felt like every team would be immediately ready to set up the nets and get playing, but there was one more night to go.
On Monday morning, seeing the Team BC players hit the floor in the warm-up of game one against Manitoba produced chills. “Those jerseys look awesome”, whispered one onlooker from an opposing team to his buddy. His friend couldn’t say anything. They were. And as good as the uniforms looked, Bantam Team BC looked even better in them. This was the first official game they had played together and the game ended with a score of 16-1 for the BC crew.
Team BC played Saskatchewan Monday afternoon which was a hard hitting matinee with both teams making their opponents pay the price to get to the net. Team BC finished the game strong with a final score of 10-2.
With two solid first-day games under their collective belts, rest was the top priority post-game, with a major test against Ontario on Tuesday.
Monday’s muggy weather made the arenas the equivalent of being in a steam room with a parka on and you could add an additional 10 degrees on the floor itself. The event staff could not operate the exhaust fans either, explaining that by doing so the draw of air into the building would produce dangerous slippery floor conditions because of the moist, humid conditions outside.
Tuesday’s conditions improved somewhat in the morning with overcast skies and less humidity allowing the exhaust fans to run.
Team Ontario plays big and they came out hitting and highly aggressive. Team BC took the first period to adjust and came back hard in the second with an exceptional effort but the spirited affair ended with a 5-2 loss for BC.
Team Ontario looked strong, but Team BC was immediately hungry to play again. They didn’t have long to wait as Nova Scotia was the challenger in the 6:30pm game. Team BC jumped to an early lead and dominated the run of the play. The final score was BC 10 and Nova Scotia 2.
Wednesday was a rest day.
Thursday’s results were not what Team BC would have wanted. The morning affair featured a game against a rough and tumble brand of lacrosse from Alberta. The Bantams got behind early and could never completely recover. The game ended in an all-out frenzy with Team BC running out of time to mount a full comeback.
Following a brief lunch break, it was ‘game-on’ with Iroquois Nation. A win in this game meant advancing to the 2 vs. 3 playoff game on Friday with a chance to proceed to the gold medal game on Saturday. A loss in the game would mean a bittersweet day off on Friday with a run at the bronze medal.
The Iroquois Bantams showed BC and every fan in attendance a little thing or two about lacrosse on Thursday evening. Their passing was quick and rhythmic; almost mesmerizing. Their shooting was beautifully wicked. It was as if the Iroquois were stating, “Don’t forget who invented this game.” The symphony of drive, desire, and stick skills mixed with quiet aggression and flawless execution culminated in a 9-1 win for the Iroquois.
This is not to say that Team BC didn’t show up. They did. They worked hard and at times their hard work was misinterpreted into penalty minutes that ended up putting them in multiple odd man situations.
Following the unexpected day off on Friday, the Bantam squad had one thing and one thing only in their sites on Saturday. The Bronze Medal.
They hit. They ran. They shot. They never gave up. If they wanted to have an excuse to fold their tents, they had one in the first period after out-chancing Alberta but finding themselves down by a couple of goals.
In a battle against a team that plays a mean and physical brand of lacrosse you have to play hard and you have to play smart. Team BC executed their game plan perfectly.
Building on a 2nd period attack that just wouldn’t quit, goals were scored by Wesley Berg, Drew Millikin, Mason Pynn, Steve Ferdinandi and Michael Henry. The final score was Team BC 8 and Alberta 4.
The boy’s elation was palatable. Parents and supporters hugged in the stands. The coaches high-fived each other as the players swarmed their goalie, Ryley Brown, in an embrace of champions.
“I’m glad we got things done”, said a proud Coach Sean Beasley. Getting things done was not an easy task. This team could have easily been very down after losing to Alberta and Team Iroquois on Thursday, but they rallied and came to work on Saturday like a team possessed.
With the Bronze Medals proudly around their necks, the players traded gear with new friends who had been foes and looked forward to the next time they could play for their Province in a National Championship.
The Bantam squad from BC did their province proud and they will inevitably bring back experiences, emotions and skill that will build their club teams and ultimately continue to build the beautiful game of lacrosse.
Firstly, Ontario is always favoured. Consider this. Based on population alone, Ontario (at 13 million+) could have three lacrosse teams for every one from BC (population 4.5 million).
Do I want some cheese with this ‘whine’?
The point is Ontario is always big, strong, tough, confident and ready to win.
The Iroquois had just beaten Alberta in the late afternoon game setting the stage for BC to get into serious medal contention and relegating Ontario to a bronze finish at best. That alone provided a huge motivation factor for the Ontario team, but it was BC who seemed inspired.
I think of Chris often when I watch. He LOVED this game. He loved the passion that it evoked. He loved playing for his local team and club teams, but there was always something special about representing your Province.
As the boys get ready for a showdown at 11:30 this morning (Aug 20), I will be thinking of them.
Depending on the outcome of the late morning game against Alberta, BC will go for gold or bronze later tonight.
The bronze and gold medal games are at 6pm and 8pm.
Have a great day.
2pm update! Team BC lost a close one with Alberta so they play Ontario for Bronze at 6pm.
Aside from lacrosse, what is the personal connection you ask?
Chris played at the National Bantam tournie in Ontario in the Summer of 2007 with BC winning a bronze medal in a tough show down vs Alberta. We loved watching the Iroquois play as well and they eventually beat Ontario for gold that summer.
As one Iroquois supporter told me in that very calculated vocal pacing after a disallowed goal back in 2007 against the much bigger and favoured Ontario squad, “You’ve got to score 3 to count 1”.
Sometimes that’s true…sometimes that is true. The point is to NEVER give up. They didn’t and they won gold.