Reflections on the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship 2003

by Ted Montour, Canada Editor

It did many hearts proud, including mine, to see Championship Day at the WILC begin with Iroquois songs and dance, and the blessings of the Creator on all participants.

After a couple of surprises in the round robin, the medal games of the 2003 WILC ran pretty much true to form last Saturday at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario (Steeltown - the Pittsburgh of Canada). The biggest surprise, at least according to "conventional wisdom", was the absence of Team USA from the gold medal contest. While their line-up boasted several bona fide National Lacrosse League stars, including Kevin Finneran, Mike Law and Dwight Maetche, their loss to Scotland ultimately 'relegated' them to the bronze test against the selfsame Scots, with their Canadian and US pro journeymen and a sprinkling of talent from the Auld Sod.

Not to diminish the efforts of either side, but this was not the same Heritage Cup-winning Red, White and Blue who stunned the Canadian box lacrosse cognoscenti last fall. Once again, Major League Lacrosse, which, like the World Series and the Super Bowl World Championship is a wholly Stateside affair, cast its shadow over an international event, barring its contract players from playing in the WILC. The 15 - 9 bronze medal win, in a credible contest from both sides, gave the US players a measure of payback, although the Scots were clearly the Saturday morning crowd favorites.

With a line-up rebuilt for the purpose of exacting revenge on the Yanks, Team Canada G.M. Johnny Mouradian and Head Coach Les Bartley instead found themselves facing the Iroquois Nationals for the championship. With a player base in the low hundreds, the Nationals made for many of the exciting moments in this tournament, for Iroquois and non-Iroquois fans alike. They were, however, no match for Team Canada, a stronger squad than any panel of selectors could put together as an NLL All Star Team.

As a matter of fact, this was the NLL All Star team: - John Tavares, Colin Doyle, Tracy Kelusky, Jim Moss and Pat O'Toole from the NLL First Team, John Grant (still referred to as Jr. here in Canada, in deference to his accomplished father), Blaine Manning and Jim Veltman from the Second Team. Only goalie Bob "Whipper" Watson missed an All Star selection this year, but he is the one with a piece of the Champion's Cup again.

Canada powered to a 10 - 0 lead before the end of the second quarter, chasing Nationals starter Derek General in the process. The Iroquois, who had dominated the preliminary round scoring race, led by Six Nations' Delby Powless, just returned from a stellar year at Rutgers, could ultimately muster only four goals. They were thwarted at every turn by Canada's defence, while John Grant Jr. would win his first major lacrosse championship, contributing seven goals to the final 21 - 4 tally. The crowd of 7,000 plus gave a rousing post-game ovation to both teams.

John Grant, Jr. was Team Canada MVP

So, whither the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships? While initial indications point to the Czech Republic as the next tourney site for 2007, I wonder if moving so quickly out of the game's North American heartland is the most prudent strategy.

Something has to be done about the intransigence of Major League Lacrosse, and Eastern Europe is hardly the best "battleground", especially with the 2006 Men's World Championship already slated for Canada. Alliance building with the Canadian Worlds organizers, not to mention with the NLL, a move which, in my humble opinion, is an absolute necessity, are much better advanced on everyone's home turf. It is pretty hard to draw a line in the sand with MLL, several thousand miles away from the US and Canadian lacrosse media. Facing a united front of Worlds and WILC, MLL is much more likely to see the light and accede to a mutually beneficial, not to mention less costly, agreement which allows the best players on the planet to represent their countries without threat to their livelihoods and lacrosse futures.

The Men's World championships cut their teeth in Canada and the USA before moving across the pond. Fundraising to take most of the players in the WILC tournament to the Czech Republic would be a daunting task, particularly one short year after the Worlds in London, Ontario - cheaper to bring the Europeans, possibly even the Japanese, here. It also seems to me that 2007 would be a welcome opportunity to cross-promote the NLL-style WILC box game in, say, the western United States, which is clearly where the National Lacrosse League's expansion plans are headed.

Finally, while I don't begrudge Johnny or "Bart" or the OLA's Stan Cockerton and others, the opportunity to style around Europe conducting box clinics, it does rub the keepers of the Creator's Game the wrong way to see those with whom we have shared our Gift, promoting it as their own. Better to nurture and grow this event here on Turtle Island, at least until it has matured.

Ross Powless, 1926-2003

Post Script: The lacrosse world mourns the passing this past Monday of Iroquois and Canadian lacrosse icon Ross Powless, father of fellow Canadian and Ontario Hall of Famer Gaylord Powless (who died just two short years ago), and partiarch of Six Nations' preeminent lacrosse family. Ross won everything there was to win in Canadian box lacrosse as both a player and coach, from the 1940's through the '60's, with the exception of the Minto Cup national junior title (although Gaylord more than made up for that, with the legendary Oshawa Green Gaels). A retired carpenter and building inspector, Ross was instrumental in the establishment of the Six Nations minor lacrosse organisation, and also served his community as a councillor, and also CAO, with the local government. Powless was a lacrosse mentor and inspiration to many, including myself. He had been ill for some time with diabetes and related afflictions.

All photos by 20 Toe Photo

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World Indoor Lacrosse Championship 2003 Medal Round Preview - May 2003

2003 German Preview - May 2003

Italian Report - Spring 2003

German Report - Winter 2002/2003

Latvian Report and Germany Report - Fall 2002

Germany Report and World Indoor Championships - Late Summer 2002

International Report - Summer 2002

Czech Lax Report - April 2002

Dutch Lax Report - Summer 2002