It's not the first time Barrie has lost a high-level lacrosse team, but the Junior 'A' Lakeshores are no more.
The Ontario Junior 'A' Lacrosse League (OJALL) announced this week that it was contracting the Lakeshores organization.
The OJALL cited the “lack of sustainable minor programs in Barrie and the surrounding area” as the reason for the contraction.
However, the league has since apologized to the Barrie Minor Lacrosse Association (BMLA), saying the statement had not been reviewed by the OJALL board of governors before being released.
And despite what seemed like it would be a rough start to lacrosse season in Barrie, the local Bombers organization says it is business as usual and they're ready to go.
BMLA Junior 'C' governor Jim Lowe says that while the news was unfortunate, the apology and retraction was happily accepted by the Bombers organization and the matter is being put behind them.
While there may not be any Junior 'A' lacrosse now in Barrie, Lowe says there's lots of great competition happening for lovers of the national game.
“Lacrosse is thriving in Barrie and across Zone 4," the area in which the Bombers play, said Lowe.
“We are producing great teams and players, both with boys and girls divisions," he added. "We have great Junior 'C' teams and there is a great fanbase for the sport in Barrie.”
The higher levels of lacrosse have had some difficulties staying operational in Barrie over the years.
The Lakeshores, formerly the Barrie Tornado Junior 'B' team, began operations in 2000 and enjoyed some success up until a championship year in 2003 where they won the coveted Founder's Cup, the pinnacle of Junior 'B' lacrosse in Canada.
In 2008, the organization joined the OJALL, rebranded as the Barrie Lakeshores, but failed to find much success.
In 2013, the Barrie Blizzard joined the Canadian Lacrosse League (CLAX) and won the Creator’s Cup as league champion in 2015 before folding after the 2016 season along with the league.
Lowe says it's hard to make high-level lacrosse work in Barrie, but for reasons out of anyone’s control.
“It isn’t wrong to say there are issues getting a level of Junior 'A' in Barrie, but most certainly not impossible,” he said. “We have less population than Toronto and GTA teams and we are, as a region, more spread out, which makes it difficult.”
Lowe compares Barrie’s lacrosse identity to places such as Guelph, Windsor and even Nepean.
“Peterborough, Orangeville and especially Six Nations are huge lacrosse towns,” he said. “It wouldn’t be unusual for Six Nations to have 200 kids out at the age of three to start learning the sport.
"We are behind them, in that sense, but our fans here that do love the sport, really love the sport and we have been told by players and fans who leave our games that they haven’t seen a crowd loud like that before," Lowe added. "That feels really good.”
In just seven years, the Bombers program has won five provincial championships, five provincial silver medals, sent three teams to prestigious 'A' qualifiers and won dozens of tournaments at all ages and competitive levels.
“The goal of the BMLA is to help youth, in peewee and bantam, for example, grow and develop,” said Lowe. “We have equipment here for any new kids who want to try it out and see why it is so much fun.
"Right now, there are 20 or so kids without a team to play on in their city and the sport they love," he added. "If we continue to grow this game from a grassroots level, keep plugging away and making great athletes like the lot we have, we can make lacrosse as big here in Barrie as anywhere else.”
On Sunday morning at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, a dispersal draft will be held for the former Barrie Lakeshores players and the annual midget entry draft.