After years of grinding it out in the National Lacrosse League, Matt Beers is looking forward to a new challenge — representing Canada.
The 29-year-old Vancouver Warriors defenceman will be on the Canadian team looking to defend its title when the world indoor lacrosse championship begins in Langley, B.C., on Thursday.
"It's unfamiliar territory," Beers said of joining the national squad. "I'm excited and humbled and a little bit nervous."
Canada has won gold at all four world championships since the inaugural event in 2003.
Twenty teams from around the world are competing and the Canadians are in tough a group with the Iroquois Nationals, the United States, Israel and England.
Beers knows the expectations are high.
"We definitely carry the tradition and strive to win like we have in past years," he said. "But it's one of those things where we can't be putting too much pressure on ourselves. As professionals, we just have to go out there and do our best. And I think the results will take care of themselves."
All 23 players on the Canadian squad are used to playing at the top of their sport, with each coming from teams across the NLL.
Five Canadians play for the Saskatchewan Rush, four come from each of the Colorado Mammoth, Calgary Roughnecks and Georgia Swarm, and both the Buffalo Bandits and Halifax Thunderbirds are each sending two. Challen Rogers is the lone representative of the Toronto Rock and Beers is the only Warrior on the team.
Eddie Comeau, general manager of the Canadian team, said in a statement that staff spent many hours looking at a deep pool of candidates and choosing the right guys to compete against the top talent in the world.
"As always, selecting the team that will represent Canada ... is a very difficult task," he said. "This year was no exception."
While Beers is the lone Warrior on the national team, he's still lining up with some familiar faces, including some guys he grew up playing with in Coquitlam, B.C.
Canada's lacrosse community is small and tight-knit, he added, which makes coming together as a team a little bit easier, especially because the players didn't get together for training until earlier this week.
"As much as we haven't played together, the chemistry and I think the cohesiveness is going to be there from the start," Beers said. "It's going to just be getting to know maybe a few tendencies. But other than that, it's definitely going to be easy, I think to get on the same page."
One thing that binds the entire group together is an unwavering commitment to the sport. Unlike many other professional athletes, Beers and several of his teammates hold down "day jobs" in addition to playing lacrosse.
"We have a weekend warrior sort of mentality in the winter time (when the NLL plays). And there's some guys that dedicate the better part of every year. They put their bodies on the line because they love the sport," explained Beers, who's been a firefighter in Burnaby, B.C., for the past five years.
"This is something we do because we're really passionate about it. We love the sport and the sport's given us so much in return."
Canada opens play Thursday against the United States.
The final is Sept. 28.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2019.