Thursday, May 26, 2016

What has happened to Mississauga Lacrosse?

Time to peel off a few layers about me so you understand my unique place in all of this.

Many of you may know me as Sam Rook, the retired Board Referee or Sam Rook, President of Oakville Buzz. Very few of you know I have lived in Mississauga nearly my entire life and grew up wearing the Orange and Blue of the Tomahawks. When my Mississauga junior career wasn't going anywhere I became a bit of a suitcase in the junior leagues (Caledon, Milton, Brampton, Mimico) but I always gave back to Mississauga through officiating and coaching.

At the end of my playing career in 1997, I moved into coaching rep lacrosse for the Tomahawks. I started with a group of Tykes when they were 7 years old and coached them all the way until their final year of midget. During this time I became more involved in the association as first referee in chief, then Rep Director and finally a President for nearly 4 full seasons. I believe my last year as President was in 2008.

I was burned out and in need of some time away and Missy needed some new faces to take over. This ultimately led me to the Oakville Buzz, where I find myself now.

Mississauga is a wholly unique market that is unlike any other Lacrosse town in Ontario. The factors that made it such a hotbed in the 60s and 70s have completely disappeared. The demographics of the city have changed drastically as have the financials involved. Areas that were once filled with families and children and now filled with seniors whose children have grown up and moved away. I live in Clarkson and I can attest that there are huge swaths of homes with the original owners from 1964 still living there. The north of Mississauga is filled with newer homes but many of these are bought by new immigrants to Canada who have no cultural attachment to the sport...and the sport has no marketing savvy to attract them. Young families of Mississauga-raised kids moved to Oakville, Georgetown or Burlington where houses were more affordable and available.

The other issue that makes Mississauga unique is the massive overlay of 2 hockey organizations that are marketing behemoths. The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) covers AAA, AA and A hockey from Mississauga to Scarborough and up to Vaughan. On top of that, Mississauga has it's own hockey league that covers 4 levels of House League plus A-level rep teams. The freedom to move within the GTHL/MHL allows kids to play for the Marlies or Don Mills Flyers with little impediment. As players age the focus of coaches within the GTHL is to keep their players on the ice 12 months a year. Parents eat this shit up (It happens in Lacrosse too, let's not kid ourselves)but the reality is that when you are faced with a hockey bill of $5000- $10,000 a year, you are biased to continue to favour this "investment" to see some sort of return out of it.

The mix of the two factors above weakens Mississauga Lacrosse and makes it a very tough place to gain traction to develop players, coaches and volunteers. Mimico Lacrosse has always done a great job of connecting with their "small community in the big city" target market to maintain their program. Oakville Lacrosse has risen on the power of long-term dedicated volunteers and strong committment from a number of people to offer great coaching and facilities to attract players.

Mississauga has lurched from regime to regime over many years with whole swaths of volunteers departing all at once. When I see the names of their board members I recognize only 1 person that was involved only 8 years ago. I see no one that can explain the long and storied history of Mississauga Lacrosse to people. Everyone knows John Tavares is from Mississauga but few, if any, know Neil Dodderidge, Ted Dowling, John and Joe Rosa, the McMahons and Sandersons all have strong connections to Mississauga Lacrosse. Mary Rosa and Carol Wannamaker gave years of their lives to ensure that Mississauga Lacrosse would survive in the early 80s. Jack Wilson ran the Junior A franchise for so long he probably had orange blood. The list can go on and on.

Now we are here, where a guy named Kevin Johnston and his idea of "Select Lacrosse" has turned everyone on their heads. It makes me question a lot of things;

1- What is really wrong with house leaguers playing games against house leaguers from neigbouring towns? If everyone is for it then let's give some freedom for it to happen. You are always allowed to say no. We need to get over our obsession with "the way it has always been done" and open our minds to need ideas. Of course, the current rules are not set up to allow it but that is an easy amendment to discuss and vote on in November.

2- I have known Wendy Bennet-Costante for many years. She is a principled and fair person but will be tough when she needs to be. As Zone Director she had every right to investigate concerns raised about Missy House League per the OLA Bylaws.

3- What in the hell goes through the minds of some people to write a long diatribe and post it online (yes, I get the irony) using harsh, accusatory language? Worse, it was as if he was writing officially for the MTLA. Was his letter approved by their board before going online? If so, they should all take a hard look at their culpability in this whole mess. If not, they should be working to immediately remove Mr. Johnston from his position and find a capable adult to finish the season.
(letter here: )

4- perhaps we need a SAGM module on the implications of Insurance vs non-Insurance. I can run it quite well so everyone understands when they are covered and when they are not covered. This is very important because insurance is a sinkhole of costs UNTIL the time you actually need it because someone got injured and now your ass is getting sued.

So in closing, Kevin, if you ever read this I implore you to stop being such an asshat. Take your medicine now and work to properly change the rules at the OLA AGM in November (I'll save you some time after my 412 amendments-haha).

Years of dedication to lacrosse in Mississauga by many volunteers before you are being thrown out the window because you cannot simply adjust to the current way and work positively with people. You are getting attacked online from many different lax people, some of it brought on by yourself and some of it unfair. Take a timeout. It is only serving to make you look more like an intractable loon that is digging a hole for no reason.

Call and apologize to Wendy. I am sure she will be happy to have a constructive conversation with you about your idea. She should also apologize to you. It's what adults do...they move past shit.

Running unsanctioned games without carded officials is exposing you, the Tomahawks association, the City of Mississauga and all the players, coaches and trainers to serious legal risk. This exposure would be enough to wipe out the Association and likely be the death knell for the sport in a market with enough cards stacked against it already.