If you’re overdue for a dose of lacrosse action, you’re in luck as some high-level lacrosse is about to hit the floor at Queen’s Park Arena.
The New Westminster Salmonbellies and the XLL All-Stars will compete in a three-game summer lacrosse showcase at Queen’s Park Arena on Aug. 25, 27 and 29. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth and seniors, and will be available at the door. (Exact change is appreciated as it will help speed up entry to the arena, which is expected to open 30 to 45 minutes before game time.)
Ray Porcellato, general manager of the Senior Salmonbellies, said his squad started practising as soon as restrictions eased up about two months ago, even though no Western Lacrosse Association season or national championship are taking place this year because of the COVID-19.
“It’s sort of business as usual, with no season,” he said. “But that does make us unique because no other team in the league was doing that. Then all of a sudden, we are ready to play, and some games popped up.”
The Salmonbellies and the XLL All-Stars will face off in a three-game exhibition series at Queen’s Park Arena on Wednesday, Aug 25 (7 p.m.), Friday, Aug. 27 (7 p.m.) and Sunday, Aug. 29 (currently scheduled for 3 p.m. but could be pushed back to 4 p.m. because of scheduling conflicts in the park.)
“We are just bringing lacrosse for the players, the fans and the community,” Porcellato said. “For all of us, depending on how you are doing with this COVID, it’s like medicine for us. Just to be able to do this feels normal.”
Based on attendance at recent Junior A playoff games and at a Senior B lacrosse series between the North Shore Indians and the Ladner Pioneers, Porcellato is confident lacrosse fans will be flocking to Queen’s Park for this week’s games.
“The Junior Adanacs and Burnaby played a series that culminated last week and wrapped up. And there was like 1,200 people at those games. It was rocking out in Coquitlam,” he said. “People are dying to go.”
Porcellato said some of the best lacrosse players in the world are suiting up for this week’s series, including many players from the National Lacrosse League. Xtream Lacrosse League primarily runs a box lacrosse league in the winter but recently added a summer series.
“They have a bunch of high-level players that are keeping sharp – WLA and NLL players,” Porcellato said.
The Salmonbellies’ lineup will include Mitch Jones, Jordan McBride, Kevin Crowley, Joel McCready, Logan Schuss, Will Malcom, Tony Malcom, Jason Jones, Brandon Goodwin and Tyrell Hamer-Jackson.
The XLL team’s roster includes Dane Dobbie, Connor Robinson, James Rahe and goaltender Christian Del Bianco.
“Between the 36 players that are playing, 25-plus are from the NLL,” Porcellato said. “It is very high-level lacrosse.”
But the three-game series is about more than action on the floor.
Harry Baker, a residential school survivor, will be doing the ceremonial faceoff at Game 1. Beforehand, his son Brad Baker will speak, his grandson Evan Skye will do a traditional song and lacrosse legend and a former member of the Squamish Nation Council Tewanee will speak.
“Tewanee Joseph created a helmet sticker to acknowledge the 215 kids found in Kamloops,” Porcellato noted. “Both teams are wearing the stickers on their helmets. The sticker says, Stand Together. With what’s going on, I just think it is the right thing to do to acknowledge it and to make sure those guys know that we are standing together with them.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, attendance in the area will be limited to 800 people.
“Queen’s Park holds 3,300 if it is packed to the rafters,” Porcellato said. “I would assume, given the level of talent and the ticket prices, that it is going to sell out. This is basically Team Canada.”
Porcellato said game attendees will be asked to follow all the COVID-19 safety guidelines that are in place. Masks are mandatory.
“There is no 50/50, there is no concession, there is no beer garden because those are places where people would gather, and that’s not allowed,” he said. “The most important thing is the lacrosse.”
Although there is no championship or trophy on the line in the series, the players are pumped to have an opportunity to play.
“It’s just about the lacrosse. It’s not about a championship. It’s about lacrosse and the community, and just doing it for the love of the game,” Porcellato said. “No players are getting paid. We will make a little money and we are going to share it with XLL, and we will be able to put that money back into our team. But it’s really just about lacrosse and the community. That’s all.”