Organizers are hoping that what is traditionally known as “the creator’s game” will see more interest among Port Alberni youth now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing.
After being held off for two years due to the pandemic, the Alberni Valley Minor Lacrosse Association is bringing back its spring Novice tournament, with help from a design by a Nuu-chah-nulth artist.
The tournament is being held over the weekend on May 6-8 at the Alberni Valley Multiplex for eight and nine-year-olds.
Association President Kelly Fines hopes that the event will lure more youth to the sport, after two years of COVID-19 has kept many children indoors.
“Today there’s still some parents on the fence about bringing their kids back,” said Fines. “There are kids that have moved on, they’ve found other things, whether it be soccer, video games. It’s going to take a year or two to build our numbers back up.”
With participation open to kids aged 4 to 15, approximately 50 are currently enrolled in the sport in Port Alberni. But the association expects involvement to grow if promotion at Haahuupayak or other schools becomes possible in the future.
“We weren’t able to go into any of the other schools,” said Fines. “To get it to grow, it’s tough when you can’t get to where they are.”
The May tournament will also include a Junior B game on Saturday May 7, showcasing the speed of the Oceanside and Saanich teams.
“There’s no gliding in lacrosse,” said Tyler Boyer, the association’s second vice-president, of the running game.
“It’s team building, it’s getting out and meeting new friends. You’re running, which is good exercise,” added Fines.
This will be the 20th anniversary of organized lacrosse returning to the Alberni Valley, which was started by co-founders Fines and Larry Ransom when the Multiplex opened in 2002.
“When I was a child playing lacrosse here, I think I was about 15 and lacrosse folded from lack of volunteers,” recalled Fines. “Then when the Multiplex opened up 20 years ago, Larry and myself got together to see if lacrosse would fly again...We had 100 kids that first year.”
To help mark the occasion, Geena Haiyupis made a design incorporating salmon and lacrosse sticks. The logo will be printed on T-shirts provided to each of the tournament’s participants.
“The cycle of the salmon is really huge for all the First Nations, but not just the First Nations,” said Haiyupis, who is a member of the Hesquiaht First Nation. “The cycle of salmon is the whole life cycle for everybody.”
“I sent her pictures of the history of lacrosse,” said Novice Coach Dennis Bill. “She took the most memorable sticks to utilize.”
Lacrosse originated from First Nations in central Canada, first documented when a Jesuit missionary watched Huron playing the game in 1637. Mohawk, Algonquin and other tribes in the region were also known to play the game before colonization, often involving several hundreds of players on a field.