Island lacrosse legends reunite for event in Hawaii

 

The jerseys fit a little more snug these days and the white of the lacrosse ball is matched by the corresponding specks in the hair and beards.

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But the love of the game remains.

Many of the greatest Island lacrosse players of all-time, including Kevin Alexander and Gary Gait, will pick up the sticks one more time this week for the men’s masters division of the 25th anniversary of the Hawaii Field Lacrosse Invitational that is played in the shadow of Diamond Head on Oahu.

They will play for the Victoria Seasprays Oldtimers, resurrecting an era in which the Seasprays (later known as Waxmen) won 14 national championships in the 1980s and 1990s.

Gary Gait, along with brother Paul, and Alexander represented Canada at the world championships and are enshrined in both the British Columbia and Victoria sports halls of fame.

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the 50 greatest Canadian athletes of the 20th century. The Islanders named to the list, headed by Wayne Gretzky, were the Gait twins along with Olympic rowing legend Silken Laumann.

Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash of Victoria named Alexander among the five athletes who most influenced him growing up, along with Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Diego Maradona and Glenn Hoddle. Alexander was perhaps the greatest natural scorer in the history of the box game.

“We caught on pretty quickly, and we played together as a team,” Alexander said of the box players who came to dominate the field game with the Seasprays.

It’s that history that will be celebrated in Hawaii, an annual tournament that attracts elite, oldtimers and youth teams from as far as Baltimore and Long Island, New York, where the field version of lacrosse is popular.

“We got some pretty good players on this [Seasprays alumni] team,” added Alexander, a Camosun College welding instructor, who turns 60 next month.

He and Gary Gait will be joined in Hawaii by the likes of John and Grant Hamilton, Darren Reisig, Bill Marechek, Neil Doddridge, Chris Prat, Del Halladay, Warren Blackwell, Al Zozula, Ted Dowling, Gerry Cadwallader, Scott Browning and Rob Desormeaux.

“It was Kevin [Alexander] and [the late] Chris Hall who studied it and taught us the outdoor game,” said Reisig, whose Claremont Secondary program has sent more than 50 players on to play field lacrosse in the U.S. on NCAA collegiate athletic scholarships.

The Gaits began the deluge when they came out of Victoria as box superstars to revolutionize the field game at Syracuse University.

The former Seaspray players remain as competitive as in their heyday.

“We wouldn’t be practising [as the alumni group did weekly throughout the fall] if we were not going there [Hawaii] to win it,” Alexander said with a laugh.

Some things never change.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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