Lacrosse is known as the fastest game on two feet. Although anyone who watched the 2014 World Lacrosse Championships final between USA and Canada may not agree. The Canadian team on that day played a slow, methodical and very deliberate game; eventually triumphing over their great rival by 8 goals to 5. The prospect of more monumental clashes between The Great White North and the Men from Dixie at this summer’s World Championship in Israel appear remote though; with long standing faceoff man Geoff Snider commenting that “he just can’t see the team getting on the plane”.
The lack of a Canadian team, or at least one without the plethora of top talent, is the result of a long, and at times bitter, dispute between the Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) and the National Lacrosse Team Players Association (NLTPA). Without going into great detail, the NLTPA want more expenses (such as flights, accommodation and insurance) paid for by the CLA, and not the players themselves. The Canadian Lacrosse Association isn’t necessarily averse to this, but is facing financial strain having lost their charitable status which affects how the association is taxed and their fundraising activities. Although the CLA has offered to cover the costs of the Men’s participation in Israel, and upgrade the insurance which covers the players, the NLTPA are showing solidarity with the women’s and junior’s nationals teams, and refusing to compete unless a long term solution, with greater funding for all levels, is agreed to.
The impasse highlights how even some of the world’s best players are expected to pay (or at least contribute) for the privilege of representing their national team, and even the US National team are fund raising to contribute to the costs of competing in the tournament.
The permutations of potential results of this standoff are ranging, and sadly familiar. In 2010, after the Iroquois National team were absent from the World Championships due to passport issues the German national team stepped into the elite Blue Division. If Canada does not enter then theoretically Israel, who finished one place outside the Blue Division in 2014, could step up. As the first country outside of England, Canada, America or Australia to host the games, being able to compete against some of the World’s biggest stars over the gruelling group stage would be a fantastic showcase for the home team, and their talented roster.
It would also be a huge opportunity for a country to take home a medal. Although a mammoth 48 teams could theoretically place in the top three, realistically without a strong Canadian team the US will take home the gold. But the Iroquois Nationals, Australia, England, Japan, Scotland and Israel all have a very real, and somewhat rare, opportunity. Further down the line, if a sustainable agreement was reached between the CLA and the NLTPA, would Canada be granted a spot in the Blue Division as the Iroquois were when they returned in 2014?
Hopefully, a full strength Canadian team will make it to the tournament. The games need their abrasive style and highly skilled players. But with negotiations stalled, and even regressing, it seems likely that the Games will miss out on the immensely talented squad, and whatever view you take on the financial situation, that will be a great shame.