A trio of key players have stepped away from their regular duties with the Ladner Pioneers to suit up for Team England at the inaugural European Box Lacrosse Championships in Finland.
Nate and Sam Clare, along with Dan McDermott, flew to Turku yesterday to begin preparations with their England teammates for the tournament opener on Saturday against Germany.
The 14-team event, which will be co-hosted in Kaarina, features eight countries in the top tier and the remaining six in the second tier. England has been seeded second and is in a round-robin group that also includes Czech Republic and Finland. If all goes well, they will meet top seed Israel in the gold medal game July 15.
Playing for England is nothing new for the Clare brothers. They took advantage of their parents heritage to play at the 2015 World Box Lacrosse Championships in Syracuse, New York.
"Sam and I have been in constant contact with England since the Worlds. They still have a team chat room where we connect on everything and this came up," explained Nate. "We had the opportunity to be part of it and, obviously, we didn't want to turn that down. Financially, it's a bit of a stretch but for the experience, why not?" It was during an off-season workout session where Nate wound up doing some recruiting.
He was in the gym with McDermott and thought what an addition he would be to the England defence.
McDermott already had an impressive international resumé, having played for Canada at the U19 World Field Lacrosse Championships back in 2012.
"Danny was looking like an absolute beast in the gym and I could tell he was in for a big year," continued Nate. "I slipped it to him if he had English heritage and it turned out he had enough to make it work.
His grandmother's British roots made him eligible to play for a second country on the world stage.
"It's a real honour," said McDermott, who joined the Pioneers last season and already has been appointed an assistant captain. "I got to play for one of the top teams in the World and now one of the top in Europe. I couldn't ask for anything more."
There were no tryouts for the nine Canadians on England's 26-player roster. All were selected based on their past experience with the team or reputation. However, the "imports" are expected to go above and beyond their regular duties, even assisting with the delivery of North American made lacrosse equipment for the tournament.
"One of the things I do is make myself available to bring over a ton of gear. I have a hockey equipment bag that weighs 150 pounds coming with me," laughed Nate.
"It's a little bit of politics when you are coming in and taking a roster spot from an English guy. They are devoted to growing the game over there and it really is on us to do whatever we can. Not only our we representing the flag but are expected to spread our knowledge of the game among the guys."
Games in Turku will be played at the 12,000 seat Gatorade Centre that has hosted three World Hockey Championships and features Olympic size dimensions.
"There is going to be lots of extra running," said Sam. "That's one of the things I wanted to be ready for at the start of our season and it's going to help over there."
Unlike the Worlds which were played in September, this tournament takes place in the heart of the Pioneers' season. They have three regular season games remaining and enter this week with a three-point lead over Langley for first place in West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association.
Ladner was hoping to extend the cushion before the trio's departure but fell to 9-2-0 with a 9-6 upset home floor loss to fifth place Coquitlam last Thursday. With games remaining against Langley, third place Victoria and a trip to Nanaimo, there is still work to be done to lock up at worse a top two finish and a bye in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Clares and McDermott made it clear to Pioneers head coach Ross Frehlick their Team England commitments long ago and will be available for the best-of-five semi-final series that is expected to start on July 20.
"I get back at 6 p.m. that night and the plan right now is to play," chuckled Nate who is second in team scoring with 35 points in 10 games.
The Pioneers host Langley on Thursday (8 p.m.) then welcome Victoria on Saturday (5 p.m.).