Playoffs underway for Venom after tumultuous season
Bad blood between Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League (TOJLL) teams likely won’t spill onto the floor in Round 1 of the playoffs.
The Kamloops Venom and the South Okanagan Flames of Penticton met in Game 1 of a best-of-five semifinal series on Tuesday, July 3, at Memorial Arena in the River City. The Venom won 14-7.
Kamloops was accused of forming a super-team this season when the Rattlers — the other junior B lacrosse squad in town — amalgamated with the Venom.
“It was more a push from Vernon and Kelowna,” said Rob Smith, an assistant coach with the Venom.
“It was really disappointing to see that Kelowna had jumped on the bandwagon because they did exactly the same thing last year, amalgamating to one team, and no one said a word about it.
“Right from the start of the season, [the Flames] were one of the two teams that weren’t involved in the politics.”
The Armstrong Shamrocks, Smith said, were the other team that kept relatively quiet about the merger.
Armstrong and Vernon are matched up in the other TOJLL semifinal.
Kelowna finished fifth and missed the playoffs.
The B.C. Lacrosse Association cleared the Venom of wrongdoing in May, but the drama did not end there.
“It’s been a lot of turmoil with all the politics behind the scenes and everybody’s comments about the super-team,” Smith said, noting games early in the season were cancelled in protest.
“Kelowna won the league last year. They won the playoffs and they finished second in provincials, and yet no one said one iota about them winning.
“We just wanted the same respect out of everybody and it went south in a hurry.”
Competing against teams like the 2012 Venom is nothing new for Flames’ head coach Troy Ramsay.
“We’re a small club and I know there’s been issues of teams combining in Kelowna before, and also Kamloops, in the past,” Ramsay said.
“For our purposes, I just want our kids to play against the best competition available and just leave it at that.”
Game 2 of the Venom-Flames series will be played at Kelowna Memorial Arena on Friday, July 6, starting at 7:30 p.m.
The floor at Penticton Memorial Arena has been covered with ice and McLaren Arena in Penticton is also unavailable, meaning all of the Flames’ home games will be played in Kelowna.
Game 3 is slated to get underway at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, at Memorial in the Tournament Capital.
Game 4, if necessary, will be played in Kelowna on July 9 and, if the series stretches to a fifth game, the decider will be played in Kamloops on July 10.
Kamloops finished the regular season atop the standings at 14-1-1, while the Flames snuck into the post-season with a 4-2-10 mark.
“Despite them barely getting into the playoffs, it’s been a real good battle,” Smith said.
If Kamloops and Vernon can escape the semifinals, the TOJLL championship series will likely be a heated affair.