Lacrosse returns to Timmins

Timmins Rock forward Derek Seguin fell in love with lacrosse while playing Minor Midget ‘AAA’ hockey in Hamilton during the 2015-16 season. After returning to the city in the off-season, he launched the Timmins Lacrosse League in 2016. It grew in 2017 and the owner, president and player is confident that trend will continue in 2018. Registration will be held at O’Reilly Sports on April 24 and April 26, with action getting underway in early May. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

TIMMINS – If Derek Seguin has his way every hockey player in Timmins will opt to fill their off-season void with a little lacrosse this year.

The 18-year-old Timmins native, who spends his winters putting pucks — lots of them — in nets for the NOJHL Rock, is owner, president and a player in the Timmins Lacrosse League, which will play its 2018 season out of the Mountjoy Arena.

Seguin fell in love with the sport while playing hockey for the Minor Midget ‘AAA’ Hamilton Huskies, of the AHMMPL, during the 2015-16 campaign.

“I saw huge improvements in my skills, so I thought it would be great to bring the sport to Timmins,” he said.

“I like to play my (hockey) game in front of the net and hand-eye co-ordination is huge. You watch a guy like Sidney Crosby in front of the net and it’s crazy. He is like a magician in front of the net.

“A lot of my game is tipping pucks, just getting a quick stick on it. Lacrosse really helps with all the hand-eye stuff.”

The Timmins Lacrosse League was born in the summer of 2016, starting small but growing in 2017.

“The first year was more of a shinny-based league, with two teams of 10 players in each of the three divisions (Under-12, Under-17 and Men’s),” Seguin said.

“They would show up, throw on jerseys and just kind of go out and have fun. Last summer, it kind of progressed, with more players on the teams and more teams. We had three teams in each of the divisions.

“This year, we are hoping to get more players so we can have more teams and maybe more divisions.”

Word of mouth is one of the things that has helped the league grow as much as it has.

“I have had a lot of young hockey players come out and then you kind of see their team form, with them telling their hockey teammates, ‘You should come out, I had a lot of fun,’” Seguin said.

“The majority of our players are hockey players and we have had great feedback from them.”

Speaking of hockey, can fans expect to see any of Seguin’s Rock teammates out on the floor playing lacrosse this summer?

“As far as I know, none of them are playing this year,” he said.

“I know A.J. Campbell is a lacrosse player. He and I have had a lot of good talks throughout the year. C.J. Bradburn was another lacrosse player. Grant McClellan plays, as well.

“As far as I know, they are the only ones who have played before.”

You don’t have to be a hockey player, of course, to play in the league, as it is open to anyone with an interest in the sport.

“Every year, we get new people joining in all of the divisions who don’t know anything about the sport,” Seguin said.

“A lot of the guys in the Men’s Division, especially the ones who played in college or who played junior lacrosse, are really good about helping out and teaching.

“They are also good about coming out and working with the kids, to help teach them the skills they need. By the end of the year, they are usually pretty good.

“Whether you play sports or not, this could become your sport.”

There are some obvious differences between the game of box lacrosse and hockey, starting with the fact there is no ice surface and the players are not wearing skates.

“The game is played on foot, which is a lot harder,” Seguin said.

“You have a lot less room. With skates on you are able to escape your defender pretty quickly, but on foot it is a lot harder.

“You have to be much better at ball protection, using body position. We teach them how to do that from a young age.

“Other than that, there are five guys on the floor plus a goalie. There are no off-sides.

“Contact is allowed, but it is limited, nothing too aggressive. Anything on the body is usually called, but you are allowed to box out with your stick — not a full cross-check with extension — but you can use your stick to protect yourself.”

Equipment wise, much of the equipment hockey players wear during the winter months works well for lacrosse, as well.

“For a hockey player, the cost isn’t too bad,” Seguin said.

“They can just wear their shoulder pads, their elbow pads, knee pads, jock, helmet, gloves. The only thing you need to buy is a stick.”

Even the equipment worn by goaltenders — for the most part — is similar to that worn by their hockey counterparts.

“The only difference is they wear an expanded version of a player’s shin pads instead of goalie pads,” Seguin said.

“That lets them move around a little better.”

Lacrosse balls and hockey pucks are made from similar compounds, but which hurts more if you happen to get hit by one?

“I’ll be honest, I hate getting hit by a lacrosse ball,” Seguin said.

“It is a lot more painful. There is not as much equipment and the ball comes at you at a pretty high speed. If you get hit in the right spot, it is leaving a mark, for sure.”

Seguin would some day like to see his league expand to the point where teams from Timmins could travel to play games against squads from places like North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

“I have actually been approached by a couple of leagues, the Soo lacrosse league and one from Sudbury,” he said.

“They are just house leagues, as well, they are not part of the Ontario Lacrosse Association. They were looking for teams to go down and take part in a mini-three-on-three tournament.

“We haven’t got enough interest in that yet, I am hoping we will be able to eventually get registered with the OLA, maybe get a couple of rep programs up here.”

Seguin has received a great deal of support in terms of referees and coaches since he launched the league.

“I was surprised,” he said.

“There are a lot of people here who played lacrosse in college or played junior lacrosse down south, then ended up moving up here for whatever reason.

“So, we have had a lot of guys help out with reffing, coaching and stuff like that. They really want to see the sport grow in the community.”

Registration for the Timmins Lacrosse League will take place on April 24 and April 26 at O’Reilly Sports and then there will be practice sessions at the Mountjoy Arena on May 1 and May 3.

“They will kind of be introductory sessions to teach the players the rules of the game, as well as some of the basic skills,” Seguin said.

“The week after, we will start playing games.”

Each of the teams in the Timmins Lacrosse League will play a 14-game schedule, with all of the games at the Mountjoy Arena, with playoffs to follow — if there are enough teams.