Junior B lacrosse is coming to the city of Cambridge.
Earlier this month the Ontario Lacrosse Jr. B council voted to grant the city a franchise for the 2023 season.
When the team opens play at Galt Arena Gardens in the spring, it’ll be the beginning of a journey that was long in the making.
“For us, when it comes to lacrosse it’s huge,” said Highlanders head coach and general manager Brady Campbell.
“It’s the first time ever in 16 or 17 years as a minor organization that we've been able to get a junior team in the city.”
Cambridge Minor Lacrosse has spent countless hours focusing on the development of the game, from skills sessions and eduction to coaching.
But until now, when players reached junior age and were looking for a place to further their careers, they had to travel elsewhere. A junior team will help tremendously with the minor system, Campbell said.
“It allows us to have better retention of our players,” he said.
“The minor system can come watch and see the excitement, which hopefully will boost our numbers and get kids into the game. Those players who have the ability to play at a higher level get to stay together as a group instead of dispersing to other places.”
Retention is critical in Jr. B lacrosse as, unlike Jr. A, there’s no draft. That makes having a strong minor lacrosse association important, which is exactly what Campbell has been trying to build over the past several years.
Campbell has coached at almost all levels of the game including Jr. A, Jr. B and the national team program. However, he had stepped away from the junior ranks to focus on getting the older players in the minor association ready for their junior careers.
As general manager, Campbell will have one year to bring junior players playing elsewhere back to Cambridge, while focusing on the up-and-coming talent already in the city.
The team will also have access to a number of nearby players. Kitchener-Waterloo has a Jr. A franchise, the Braves, but no Jr. B team. That means any player from there that doesn’t make the Jr. A team will default to the nearest Jr. B centre, in many cases that will be Cambridge.
With the talent level expected to be high, the expectation for results on the floor will be right there with it.
“Playoffs,” Campbell said when asked about his goals for the upcoming season.
“The biggest thing is I like guys that aren't scared and won't quit. I hate guys that quit. We want to be tough team to play no matter what and you'll have to play three full periods. It's going to be a physical, hard fought game. We try to limit mistakes and win period by period. Sprinkle in the high-end talent and that's the the key to success.”
The team is hoping to play their home games on Friday and Saturday nights, providing quality entertainment for residents.
“Lacrosse isn't like most games, it’s faced paced, it’s physical and there's no real lulls in the action,” Campbell said.
“We’ll have announcers, music will be playing and you'll hear the guys communicating. It’s high intensity. How fast the ball and the players are moving is going to draw people in. It’s the fastest game on two feet for a reason.”
For more information on Cambridge Highlanders Minor Lacrosse Association visit cambridgeminorlacrosse.com.