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Mann Cup champions delighted to be playing in Kingston

June 6, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Ted Higgins thought for a moment about how proud Bob Joseph would have been to see the Peterborough Lakers play a game in Kingston.

It brought a smile to his face.

He suggested Joseph, who died six years ago, would be delighted to see “his Lakers” play in Kingston Saturday night in the inaugural First Capital Cup game, a regularly scheduled Major Series Lacrosse match with the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks.

Game time at the Rogers K-Rock Centre is 7 p.m.

Joseph, who founded the Kingston junior team in the 1970s, later served the Lakers as an executive and a major patron. He is a member of both the Kingston District and Ontario Lacrosse halls of fame.

“The people in Kingston should know that Bob had a big part in putting this Lakers team together, and keeping us together, financially,” said Higgins, owner of the Peterborough club.

It wasn’t just for that reason, however, that Higgins was immediately receptive to the idea of playing a game in Kingston when the notion was broached by Al Orth, owner of the Kitchener club. Orth, an associate vice-principal at Queen’s University, offered to move one of his team’s home games here to support the Kingston Lacrosse Association’s youth tournament being played this weekend.

“It’s so good for the game,” Higgins said, “and I’m delighted to expand the game (beyond) just the six teams we have in the Major Series. I’ve been in the game a long time and it’s not about the Lakers, it’s about lacrosse in general in Canada. It’s our national sport. We should do more of this.

“I might sound like a preacher but I think it’s terrific. I hope it happens every year. Maybe 20 years down the road Kingston may have its own team. Who knows?”

It may sound like a stretch to suspect that a city where the game is not endemic might one day have a team in the premier league in the land, but Higgins alluded to the advance sale of tickets — more than 2,400 have already been sold — and suggested that detail may catch the eye of some Major Series clubs.

“If the crowds like it, I’m sure we have a couple of teams, one or two that I know of, that would be glad to move, just to have the financial support,” he said.

Peterborough, a team that has won the Mann Cup, emblematic of the national senior championship, five of the last nine years, is a perennial power in Ontario. The Lakers average 3,200 fans per game, a figure that Higgins says is more than the other five teams in the league combined. To sell 2,400 advance tickets in a non-traditional lacrosse market, Higgins said, “is fantastic.”

“Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch,” he said, “but this could be a stepping stone for something really good.”

One of the charms of senior lacrosse in Canada is the players who play the game professionally in the National Lacrosse League in the winter are the same ones who come home and play for their hometown teams in the summer. Peterborough’s Shawn Evans was the NLL’s leading scorer this past season with Calgary; John Grant, Jr., who plays for Colorado, is a two-time NLL most valuable player; Cory Vitarelli was a member of the NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks.

Among the Kodiaks, Jesse Gamble and Scott Johnston played last season for the Toronto Rock; Jamie Batson and Matt Hummel won the league title with Rochester.

Make no mistake, though, Higgins said.

“Our Peterborough team, in the NLL, without a doubt would win,” he said. “The talent that we have on our team is enough to win the NLL. Absolutely.”

Not only that, Higgins said, playing senior ball, for the Mann Cup, “means far more to these players” than playing in the pro league.

“You could do a survey and 99 per cent would say the Mann Cup is what they’re playing for,” Higgins said. “The NLL is just a financial situation. The Mann Cup means everything to them. It’s a hometown sport, (with the pride of) playing for your country or your city kind of thing.”

Essential First Capital Cup

What: Regular season Major Series Lacrosse game between the Peterborough Lakers and Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks

Logistics: Saturday, Rogers K-Rock Centre, 7 p.m.

Why here: It’s a home game of the Kodiaks, moved here by the team’s owner, Al Orth, to support the Kingston Lacrosse Association youth tournament, also being held this weekend

Significance: The Lakers are the reigning Mann Cup champions, as the pre-eminent team in Canadian senior lacrosse

Also: It’s an important game in the league; Peterborough is in third place in the six-team league at 2-2, the Kodiaks are next at 1-3. Six Nations and Brooklin share the league lead at 3-0

In addition: The Mann Cup will be on display, and there will be an autograph session with players after the game

Record: Organizers say almost 2,500 tickets have been sold; if the crowd reaches 4,000 it will set a MSL record for attendance at a regular-season game

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