The Orillia Junior B Kings hosted the West Durham Ironheads for an exhibition doubleheader this past weekend. It was the first Ontario Lacrosse Association (OLA) box lacrosse game in Ontario since the pandemic started.
The doubleheader took place in the Township of Tay at the outdoor rink in Port McNicoll.
“We can’t have indoor functions with lots of people and spectators yet. We found out about Tay Township’s arena which is considered an outdoor rink and they have allowed us to play over there,” explained Kings general manager Rob Blasdell.
“We can have two teams on the floor, have people there watching; it works well for us. The Township of Tay has been great to work with.”
Over 70 people watched Saturday’s action while maintaining a social distance standing around the boards. The Kings were victorious in both matchups, winning 7-5 and 6-5.
Blasdell says the players looked well-conditioned despite missing all of the 2020 season.
“The stick skills are a little bit rusty, but it’s no different than if you put the golf clubs away for two years and then tried to play at the same level you were at before,” he explained.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time, but they are young kids, they are in good shape, and they are getting their skills back fairly quick.”
While Blasdell says this past weekend was a great experience for players, staff, and fans, the organization is anxious to eventually get back home.
“The plan is to come back to Orillia eventually, but that will be whenever it’s allowed. My understanding is Orillia will be putting the ice in soon so there are limitations,” he said.
This season the Kings have more than 35 players registered as part of the program, ranging from second-year midgets who will be trying out for the first time next year, to veterans who are rounding out their junior career with the team.
“We have a core group of 35-40 kids that are quite frankly probably tired of sitting around and doing nothing. This gives guys the opportunity to get back on the floor to run around a little bit and get back to doing something,” Blasdell said.
“We are running it more like a camp than a try-out for the team. We are trying to get everyone into games, trying to get everyone to play a little bit, and have a little bit of fun and get back to some sort of normality.”
Blasdell says all the players in the Kings program this season are just happy to be back on the floor and a part of a team.
“They are all thankful, all grateful ... they are so happy to be back to doing some of the things they were doing before,” he said.
“We wanted to do this for the kids who are dying to do something and get back to playing lacrosse. We want to keep their interest up and let them know we aren’t sitting on our hands waiting for next year’s start. We are trying to be proactive and getting things going again.”
The Orillia Kings have been able to financially survive as an organization through the pandemic through the support of sponsors like Orillia Experience Nissan, Orillia Sports Medicine, Mister Transmission, and Multicare Group Orillia.
“They have been wonderful through the pandemic even though it’s hard for them to still support the team when their advertising dollars aren’t really going anywhere. So, we want to show them that we are still doing things and still moving forward,” Blasdell said.
The Kings will be back on the floor in the Township of Tay on Saturday, Aug. 14 at 4 p.m. when they take on Newmarket.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the team should email Blasdell (email@example.com).