Last year, it was hard to take seriously the Thompson Okanagan Senior Lacrosse League, which was comprised of two teams, the Kamloops Rattlers and Armstrong Shamrocks.
The squads agreed to play a six-game season series. Kamloops was unable to floor a team for one of the games. Armstrong won the series 5-0.
A much-needed jolt is helping to legitimize the senior C league for 2019.
The Vernon Tigers, an original league member that folded before the 2013 campaign, and the Kelowna Raiders, who took last year off due to a lack of numbers, have returned.
Brennan Plante of Vernon has played for the Shamrocks since the Tigers folded, but is working to revive his hometown team.
“Even a three-team league wasn’t fun, but a four-team league is pretty good,” Plante told the Vernon Morning Star.
“When Kelowna dropped out at the last second last year, leaving just Armstrong and Kamloops, I thought, ‘Oh man, we’re in trouble.’
“I figured it was now or never.”
Rattlers’ captain Mark Jurista said the return of the Tigers and Raiders is great for the league, but he remains concerned about the long-term health of his Snakes.
Jurista has been vocal in local media for years, appealing to graduating junior players to make the jump to the senior ranks.
“The aging core group is our biggest concern,” Jurista said. “It’s the same guys and we’re onto our later 30s. We might not be able to play senior C for that much longer. We’ll see how long our bodies can handle it.”
Liam Hagerty, who plays for the Rattlers, has taken over head coaching duties for the Kamloops Venom of the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League.
That connection may help foster the relationship between the teams and lead to a few more junior B graduates joining the Rattlers, Jurista said.
The TOJLL has been reduced to three teams, the Venom, Tigers and South Okanagan Flames of Penticton. The Armstrong Shamrocks and Kelowna Raiders are unable to floor teams this season.
Some of the displaced juniors from Armstrong and Kelowna are expected to join senior teams.
“It’s going to be tough on us,” Jurista said. “We don’t have that luxury of having that influx of 15 junior guys that can play for our team. We’re really hoping that we can get a relationship with our junior team and have some call-ups, for at least a few of our games.
“If we’re getting romped by teams that have 30 players because they have an influx of juniors, and we have 12 runners show up to the game, it might get a bit wearing on our guys. We’ll have to see. I’m not too sure how it’s going to pan out.”
The Rattlers will begin league play against Vernon at Memorial Arena on Friday, April 26. Game time is 8 p.m.
“We’re just happy there is still a league and we can be a part of it,” Jurista said. “If we have to scrape by for part of the season, where we’re a bit short on numbers, we’re OK with that, but, hopefully, we can get some younger blood in the coming years, as we say every year.”