Minto Cup, junior lacrosse latest virus victims

Among the athletes most poignantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have been those whose final seasons of junior, university or college eligibility have been wiped out.

The latest who will not get career closure are the graduating players on the Victoria Junior Shamrocks and Nanaimo Junior Timbermen.

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The Canadian Lacrosse Association on Thursday cancelled the 2020 Minto Cup national championship, which in turn led the B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League cancelling its season.

“All of our clubs and athletes are affected by this decision, especially the players who would have been in their last year of junior eligibility,” said BCJALL president Christiansen, in a statement.

The league said the decision was “unfortunate and regretful and does not come lightly. After careful consideration of the recommendations of guidelines of the B.C. Public Health Officer, the Ministry of Health and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, we as a league feel that this is the most appropriate decision for the health and safety of our clubs and the greater lacrosse community.”

The Junior Shamrocks and Junior Timbermen and six Lower Mainland teams comprise the eight-team BCJALL.

“We had hoped we might be able to compete this year, but it became evident we wouldn’t be able to have a normal season,” said Christiansen.

“Although we had discussed alternative scheduling, we realized that the [provincial] 50-person gathering order would not allow us to compete this year. In discussion with all the participants in the Minto Cup, we also realized we could not compete for a national championship.”

The last time the Minto Cup was cancelled was from 1941 to 1946 because of the Second World War. The 2020 Minto Cup was scheduled for St. Catharines, Ont. The next version will be held in St. Catharines in 2021.

The St. Catharines Standard reported Thursday that nine of the 11 Ontario Junior A teams back the idea of this season’s graduating 20-year-olds being allowed to play next season as over-age 21-year-olds.

“How receptive the sport’s national governing body [Canadian Lacrosse Association] would be to extending eligibility for another year isn’t known at this point,” reported the Standard.

The Junior Shamrocks, making their first Minto Cup appearance since 2008, beat the Okotoks Raiders of Alberta in the semifinals but lost in the final to the champion Orangeville Northmen of Ontario in the 2019 Minto Cup at the Langley Events Centre. The Junior Shamrocks were denied the Island’s first national Junior A championship since Esquimalt Legion in 1988, which featured the superstar twins Gary and Paul Gait. The other Minto Cup champions from the Island were the Junior Shamrocks in 1962 and the Kevin Alexander-led Victoria McDonald’s Bread in 1976.

The cancellation of the BCJALL season comes after the Western Lacrosse Association — which includes the Senior A Victoria Shamrocks and Nanaimo Timbermen — announced the cancellation its 2020 season last week. The Senior A national championship Mann Cup will not be presented for the first time since the modern era of lacrosse began in 1926. The three-time champion Peterborough Lakers of Ontario defeated the Shamrocks in the 2019 Mann Cup final at The Q Centre. The 2021 version will be held at the home of the Ontario champion.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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