The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse program will once again be involved in a prestigious international competition.
Earlier this year it had been announced that the Canadian and American men’s box lacrosse teams would be participating in the Heritage Cup, which is actually just one game between the two squads, on Oct. 21 in Hamilton, Ont.
But this past week it was revealed that that match will be preceded by an under-17 boys’ contest, pitting the Iroquois Nationals against Canada.
This will mark the fourth time the Heritage Cup has been staged.
Canada defeated the U.S. at the inaugural event held in 2002 in Mississauga, Ont. The Americans avenged that loss with a victory at the 2004 game staged in Denver.
The Heritage Cup wasn’t held again until 2013 in Montreal. But instead of the U.S., the Iroquois Nationals provided the opposition for the Canadians in that contest.
Ansley Jemison, the Iroquois Nationals’ executive director, said he found out earlier this year from Dean French, the head of the Canadian national team program, the main event at the Heritage Cup would be between Canada and the U.S.
“I fully understood that and embraced that,” Jemison said. “I didn’t feel slighted by it. And I think more than anything Dean was just looking to expand box lacrosse (by including the Americans). Team USA’s focus is more on field lacrosse.”
Jemison was also told that French was keen to include an under-17 contest involving the Iroquois Nationals. Organizers officially announced details of that game last week.
French is eager to expand the game globally at the under-17 level and has had some discussions about one day even staging a world tournament for this age grouping.
“Hopefully (the Heritage Cup match) will continue to grow at this level and other countries will want to come along as well,” Jemison said.
While the fact the Iroquois Nationals will battle Canada in the under-17 outing at the Heritage Cup, Jemison does not have too many more details he can offer yet.
“We’ve got a couple of different coaches in mind but I don’t want to release that yet,” Jemison, who lives in Ithaca, N.Y., said in a phone interview with Windspeaker this morning.
Jemison is also not quite sure how players for the Iroquois Nationals’ roster will be selected.
He admits it will be challenging to stage a training camp that would be convenient for players living in Canada and the United States to attend. The fact that this competition will not be held in the summer but during the fall when all eligible players are in school complicates matters.
But there is certainly no shortage of talented players that could be on the squad. A number of Indigenous programs, including teams from Six Nations in Ontario, Akwesasne on the Ontario/Quebec/New York borders and others in the state of New York have had their share of successes this season and are stacked with elite players.
“We’ll see how it all works out,” Jemison said. “We want to be representative of all of our communities. We’re trying to get this done as soon as possible and trying to figure out what makes the most sense.”
Jemison is hoping it won’t be long before he can officially name the coaching and management staff for the Iroquois Nationals’ under-17 side that will participate in Hamilton.
He’s got a hectic schedule, however, as he’s also trying to make some plans for another one of the Iroqouis Nationals teams.
The men’s field side will be participating in its world championships next July in Israel.
Jemison is trying to prepare for the open tryouts that club will have on Sept. 24 at the Onondaga Community College near Syracuse.
Besides the Iroquois Nationals men’s field side, Jemison also oversees a couple of other existing squads in the program. He’s also in charge of the men’s field team as well as the boys’ under-19 field side.
And now, the boys’ under-17 box team has been added to the mix.
“This is going to be more of a development type program,” he said. “We need to see what we have to do as we take this one on.”
The Heritage Cup games will be staged at the FirstOntario Centre, formerly known as Copps Coliseum.
The facility has a seating capacity of about 19,000.
Organizers are hoping for a decent crowd as it has been a number of years since an international lacrosse event was held in southern Ontario.
Back in 2003 the men’s world box tournament was held in southern Ontario. Matches were held in Hamilton, Kitchener, Mississauga and Oshawa.