Due to a lack of community support, transitioning players and inflexible scheduling, the Niagara Thunderhawks Jr. B Lacrosse team will be taking a sabbatical for the 2020 season.
Past and present success hasn’t seemed to get the support of our community. The Thunderhawks were one of the lowest fan-supported teams in the whole 24-team league, especially compared to centres with a similar population.
Contrary to these difficulties, NOTL has been able to produce a number of elite lacrosse players over the past 50 years. A number of them have reached Ontario and Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame stature, won national championships, played professionally and represented Canada on the world stage.
August, 2019, saw Chris Weier and Zach Belter win the Minto cup with the Orangeville Northmen after the Thunderhawks were eliminated in the first round of playoffs. They and a few other players will probably be leaving the Thunderhawks to play at the Jr. A level next season.
September saw alumnus John Wagner, drafted by the New York Riptide of the National Lacrosse League. John grew up playing lacrosse for NOTL Minor Thunderhawks and upon graduation headed to Marquette University, played for the U19 Team Canada team and played for Brooklin in the Major Series of Lacrosse.
September also saw current player Michael Wilson, attending Canisius College and playing defence for the Golden Griffins, invited to the U19 Team Canada tryouts. This is a huge honour to be one of 64 players from all across Canada to be considered for the team. Wilson also grew up playing in the minor ranks for NOTL and moved to Jr. B the last two seasons to hone his skills and add to his natural abilities.
Due to the Thunderhawks’ geographical location, the team is only able to take players coming up from NOTL Minor Lacrosse and College players from the U.S. Although skilled, a large proportion of the U.S. players have difficulty transitioning from field lacrosse to the box lacrosse game, reducing the number coming to play. Also, the past three seasons saw the number of minor players willing to play Jr. B drastically decline. The 2020 season sees less than a handful of minor players moving into the Jr. B ranks.
After requests by staff to the league to modify the schedule to meet the changing environment of players at college and university were denied, the opportunity to have a viable team was eliminated. Players in U.S. colleges aren’t available to play until the middle of May. This, however, at minimum, is six games into the season. This isn’t new for the Thunderhawks, but due to a low number of upcoming players capable of playing at the Jr. B level, the team could be out of the playoff race by mid season. Not the ideal situation the team staff were willing to take on. For this reason, the team is taking a one-year sabbatical to bolster their position for the 2021 season.
There is a plan. The NOTL Minor intermediate team has always been a development team for the Jr. Bs. The 2020 season will not be the exception. With the help of last season’s intermediate coaches, Jr. B managerial staff and one of their coaches, the Intermediate staff will attempt to put together a team which will be able to resurrect the Jr. Bs for the 2021 season.
The Thunderhawks would like to invite all players wanting to play Jr. B in 2021 to sign up for the 2020 intermediates through the NOTL Minor League webpage at https://niagaralacrosse.com/ after the new year.
To our 2019 sponsors of the Thunderhawks, we thank you for years of continued support. We invite you, and any new sponsors, to continue that support of the Thunderhawks’ future by sponsoring the Intermediate team. Contact Dave Mines through the Jr. B website, https://thunderhawksjrb.ca/, for more information.
To our community and the alumni, for any future team to be successful, requires volunteers. We implore you to remember your years of playing for the Thunderhawks and recognize it requires a lot of hands doing lots of jobs in order to get a team to run. If 2021 is going to be a success, it will be determined by the number of behind-the-scenes supporters we can arrange. Go to https://thunderhawksjrb.ca/register-an-alumni/ to add your support.