Get ready for the not-so-friendly

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON smil­ton@thes­pec.com 905-526-3268 | @mil­to­natthes­pec

Dan Daw­son says in­ter­na­tional matches in box lacrosse are not like those in other sports.

“They call their games against other coun­tries ‘friendlies,’” the Burling­ton res­i­dent and cap­tain of Team Canada said as plans for the Her­itage Cup be­tween Canada and the U.S. on Oct. 21, at FirstOn­tario Cen­tre, were un­veiled Wed­nes­day.

“There are no friendlies in lacrosse. They’re ‘not-friendlies.’ ”

OK, there’s your over­all tone: the heated, nat­u­ral ri­valry is al­ready in place. Now, how are they go­ing to sell it in a town that has his­tor­i­cally re­sisted pay­ing to see live lacrosse, as if it were a mem­ber of the hepati­tis fam­ily?

And that’s not been just for the ju­nior A and B teams, which have gen­er­ally strug­gled at the gate, but for the best in the world: hardly any­body went to see the Hamilton Na­tion­als pro field lacrosse team in Ma­jor League Lacrosse when they played at McMaster from 2011-13; and the Ontario Raiders of the pro­fes­sional Na­tional Lacrosse League lasted only a sin­gle year in Copps Col­i­seum be­fore leav­ing for Toronto af­ter the 1998 sea­son, look­ing for some­body, any­body, to love them. As the Rock, they’ve found thou­sands who do.

“For us, for this game, we need to make sure we have that so­cial media pres­ence,” says Daw­son, who played for the Na­tion­als. “As a player, your job is not only to play the sport but to be a great am­bas­sador for the sport. Every time you do an ap­pear­ance at a clinic or a tour­na­ment, we men­tion this game.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Cana­dian Lacrosse As­so­ci­a­tion, which in June cel­e­brates its 150th an­niver­sary, have a mar­ket­ing plan that starts with an over­ar­ch­ing theme: af­ford­abil­ity.

All tick­ets for the game, on sale Thurs­day to the gen­eral pub­lic, will cost $20, but cer­tain groups will be el­i­gi­ble for $17 tick­ets. The open­ing thrust will be to­ward all mi­nor lacrosse as­so­ci­a­tions.

There’ll be a Her­itage Cup pres­ence at tour­na­ments and other lacrosse events this spring and sum­mer.

The sec­ond step will in­volve the three pro­fes­sional (Na­tional Lacrosse League) box lacrosse teams within driv­ing dis­tance. Sea­son-ticket hold­ers of the Rock, the Buf­falo Ban­dits and Rochester Knighthawks, num­ber­ing around 25,000, are also el­i­gi­ble for the $17 tick­ets, as is any­one who buys them in groups through the CLA, the Ontario Lacrosse As­so­ci­a­tion and U.S. Lacrosse.

“Per­haps most im­por­tant, is we want to bring the non-lacrosse fans into Hamilton,” said Dean French, Team Canada chair. “The plan for that one is sort of evolv­ing: what can we do to in­tro­duce peo­ple to Canada’s na­tional sum­mer game?

“We’ve got a strat­egy be­hind that and it’ll be a lit­tle more out­side of the box. But we haven’t un­veiled that one yet.”

The NLL will also help mar­ket the game, be­cause the growth of box lacrosse ben­e­fits its over­all busi­ness.

All the tick­et­ing de­tails are avail­able at www.lacrosse.ca.

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Lacrosse of­fi­cials an­nounce the Her­itage Cup game be­tween Canada and the U.S., to be played at FirstOn­tario Cen­tre in Oc­to­ber.

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