Road Trip Dad -
The WILC Games Are Coming To Town!

Dan Witmer | September 14, 2015
Full disclosure: I’ve always been a field lacrosse fan. It’s the game I grew up with, the game I played in elementary school, high school, college, and (to a very small degree) in the years since then. However, I’ve been aware of, watched, and (to an even smaller degree) played a little box lacrosse in my post-graduate years, too.

I am certainly not an expert on indoor or box lacrosse, but it has been part of my lacrosse life for a long, long time. For summers in the ‘80s, I refereed a hybrid indoor lacrosse league in the Fulton War Memorial, learning on the job with certified lacrosse officials Terry MacNabb, Ken Peterson, and Jeff Akin. Jim Werbeck was the varsity lacrosse coach at Fulton at that time, and he tried to emulate the summer program at his alma mater, West Genesee. For probably five to ten years, the league drew not only Oswego and Fulton’s best players, but also local college talent (from Ithaca College, Oswego State, Geneseo, Cortland, St. Lawrence, Morrisville, Herkimer, Clarkson, Alfred, LeMoyne, and Syracuse University), and high school talent from Jordan-Elbridge, Liverpool, J-D, Baldwinsville, West Genesee, C-NS, ES-M, and Central Square. I still run into people who claimed they played there, and we always agree how much fun that league was…

Then there was the brief run of the Oswego Hawks, a Sr. B box team that was put together by Oswego HS varsity coach Doc Nelson. The roster consisted of Oswego HS alumni, a few Oswego State alums, and players from the Syracuse area. The team was coached by Russ George, a native Onondaga and Oswego State alum himself. I managed to get talked into playing on the team – this was around 2000, when I was a ripe old age of 40, and I still don’t know why I agreed to play. I remember playing in one home game – at Oswego’s Fort Ontario, and getting hit into the boards by two opposing players at the same time. I think both players received penalties, but I took very little consolation; I was done not only for the night, but also for the season and any season beyond. The only memory I have of the pain that night, as I sat on the couch watching TV, was when I glanced down at my wrist to see what time it was – and my hand, wrist, and arm ached. My box-playing career was officially over.

Doc Nelson , of course, has been my primary source of information about box lacrosse. He grew up in Canton, NY and played both basketball and lacrosse at Oswego State, but along the way he picked up a love for the indoor game. At age 59, he’s still playing today – goalie, no less; he plays for the Onondaga Masters team and drives down to Nedrow several times a week just to be shot at. He’s a staple at the Family Indoor Center on Jones Road and can be found there most every Tuesday night. Back in 1999, he even made a brief pro appearance with the short-lived Syracuse Smash NLL team; maybe I’ll tell that story some other time…

I don’t know much about the history of the Rochester Greywolves box lacrosse team, except that I first heard about them back in the early ‘80s when my Oswego State teammate Mark Serron ‘81 told me he played for them after graduating from Oz, and how Bill Tierney, then head coach at RIT, was a teammate of his. Fast forward some 30 years and suddenly my son Brian is telling me he made the Greywolves’ roster in 2013, and there I am, watching his first game down at the Onondaga Nation and then home games at the Canandaigua Civic Center. Although Brian only played half a season with the Greywolves (due to a job with 3d Lacrosse in Denver), I’ve enjoyed watching him – via the internet – play in Prague the past two springs – once with the German Deutschland Adler team, and this past year with Scotland’s Glasgow Clydesiders.

So with all this vast body of (mostly) second-hand experience with box lacrosse, I decided I’d answer the call for volunteers for this month’s World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, which, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all summer, you know opens up this week in the Syracuse area. The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Nation, is playing host of the 2015 Games, the first time that’s ever happened. Thirteen nations are sending their national teams, and games will be played at the Onondaga Arena, the brand-new Village Pavilion, the Onondaga War Memorial, and the Carrier Dome.

The 13 teams are grouped into three divisions – Red (Australia, Finland, Switzerland, and Turkey), Green (Germany, Ireland, Israel, and Serbia), and Blue (Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Haudenosaunee, and the United States). Each team plays a round robin within its division and then teams are re-seeded and advance to the championship.

This will be the fourth WIL Championship, and the final results for first, second, and third haven’t changed yet. In 2003 (not sure where…), Canada took the first gold medal and has won it again in 2007 (in Halifax, Nova Scotia) and again in 2011 (in Prague, Czech Republic). Only one team has won silver – the Iroquois – and only one team – the United States – has finished third. The Czech Republic upset England in 2011 for fourth place.

Of the 13 teams, six will be making their WILC debuts. I spent a little time looking over the 2015 WILC website, and found the following in terms of a preview…

AUSTRALIA – HISTORY Australia finished 5th in 2003, 6th in 2007, and 6th in 2011. They list one player on their roster who plays NCAA lacrosse, #21 Tristan Rai (Lehigh). The only other name to cacth my eye is #2 Jesse Whinnen, who lists the Woodville Warriors as his home club – that’s the club my son Brian played and coached for this past spring and summer.

CANADA – HISTORY Like I said above, Canada has won three consecutive WIL Championships, the only three WIL Championships to date. Every player listed on its roster is an active NLL player, and the names that got my attention included #17 Brodie Merrill, #24 Jordan MacIntosh (RIT and Rochester Rattlers), #42 Mark Matthews (Denver U, Rochester Rattlers, and Edmonton Rush), Zack Greer (Bryant/Duke, Denver Outlaws, Edmonton Rush), and Matt Vinc (Canisius, Rochester Knighthawks goalie and 2014 Canada World Team defenseman).

CZECH REPUBLIC – HISTORY 6th in 2003, 7th in 2007, and 4th in 2011. The only name with any North American connection, other than Canadian Hall of Famer Jim Veltman, the head coach, is Mike Poulin, a goalie who plays with the Calgary Roughnecks.

ENGLAND – HISTORY England did not participate in 2003, finished 4th in 2007, and 5th in 2011. They only have one player with NLL affiliation listed on their roster. I was surprised; I thought I’d see some former college players listed.

FINLAND – HISTORY The Fins are one of the six teams making their WILC debut. They don’t have any players with NCAA , MLL, or NLL pedigrees, but they do have four with connections to minor Canadian teams. Assistant coaches are Tracey Kelusky (Hartford University and then numerous pro teams) and Neil Doddridge, who played ice hockey at Oswego State and then went on to a pro lacrosse career.

GERMANY – HISTORY This is Germany’s first WILC. They have no NLL players, but 10 players are from the Deutschland Adler Lacrosse Club, the team Brian played with in Prague in 2014.

HAUDENOSAUNEE – HISTORY The Iroquois have finished with the Silver Medal all three years, in overtime in 2011. Their roster boasts not only 14 active NLL players, but three of the Thompson brothers – Lyle, Miles, and Jeremy. Other notables familiar to CNY include players like #26 Brett Bucktooth, #76 Warren Hill, #79 Sid Smith, and #83 Randy Staats.

IRELAND – HISTORY Ireland finished 8th in 2007 and 7th in 2011. The only name I recognized on their roster was Stephen Keogh, who played at Syracuse and then with the Rochester Knighthawks.

ISRAEL – HISTORY This is Israel’s first trip to the WILC. #77 Jason Silberlicht went to New Hartford HS and played college lacrosse at Hobart. General Manager Bill Beroza hails from Long Island, was an All-American goalie at Roanoke, played on three USA World Teams, and is a member of the National Hall of Fame.

SERBIA – HISTORY This is Serbia’s first time playing in the WILC. None of their players’ names rung a bell, but four of their players have NLL ties. Thirteen of their players list the Belgrade Zombies as their home club, which might be one of the coolest team names I’ve heard of in a long time.

TURKEY – HISTORY Turkey is also playing in their first WILC. I didn’t recognize any names on the roster, but I thought it was interesting that, where everyone else listed club affiliations, one Turkish player listed McDonough HS, while another listed 3dSelect. They also have one player from NCAA D-II Grand Valley State, and two from Drexel/Onondaga Redhawks.

UNITED STATES – HISTORY The US has three bronze medals in three WILC outings. I count five CNY/Upstate alums on the roster – Blaze Riordan (Fairport), UAlbany’s highlight reel-goal-scoring goalie who made this team as a forward; Joe Walters (Irondequoit), who starred at Maryland before starting his 8-year MLL and 6-yr NLL pro careers; Joe Resetarits (Hamburg), who played NCAA ball at UAlbany and then professionally for the Bandits and Knighthawks; Greg Downing (Auburn), who played at Fairfield University and then in the NLL and MLL; and Joel White (Cortland), who played at SU before taking his pro career to both the MLL and NLL.

So there you have it – your own handy guide to the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Opening ceremonies and the first games are on Thursday at the Onondaga War Memorial in downtown Syracuse. My volunteer shifts are on Sunday and then the following Saturday, both days at the Onondaga Arena in Nedrow, and I have a volunteers’ training session on Wednesday night. If all goes as planned I hope to bring you firsthand highlights in the next RTD or two.

For more information, go to Tickets are still available, and I think they’re still looking for volunteers.

In the meantime, please drive carefully.

- Dan Witmer