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Cowichan Thunder rejoin Junior B lacrosse league

Champions in 2018, and then COVID hit
Cowichan Valley Thunder former head coach Lorne Winship surrounded by 10 of the 11 graduating players on the junior B team following their 2018 win over the Port Moody Thunder. (Citizen file)

After a couple of years away, the Cowichan Thunder junior B lacrosse club will rejoin the Pacific Northwest Junior Lacrosse League for the upcoming 2023 season.

It was officially announced on Dec. 7 that Cowichan was accepted as the league’s sixth franchise, joining the Campbell River Ravens, Nanaimo Timbermen, Oceanside Sharks, Saanich Express, and Westshore Bears.

Cowichan Thunder Lacrosse president Chris Claxton said he found the official email welcoming the Thunder in his junk folder but quickly figured out what it was.

“It was the league agreement, they approved joining the league again so that’s great,” he said with a chuckle.

Bill Sanderson will pick up where he left off as the team’s coach, but this time he’ll be the head coach.

“I was an assistant last time we played,” he explained. “I love doing it. I get just as much out of it as the players do.”

The Thunder won the 2018 league championship but then COVID hit, forcing sports to a halt for a while.

“We took a few years off with the pandemic and then we didn’t have enough players to fill a team last year,” Sanderson noted.

He said it’s important to provide a place to play for athletes who have recently aged out of minor lacrosse. Junior level includes players aged 17-21.

“It’s giving the kids an outlet,” Sanderson said. “That age group, there’s not too much in the way of sports available for them anymore, so if we can put together something for these athletes to continue on a little bit longer that’s what it’s about — to have fun and get exercise.”

Sanderson said he’s looking forward to having a culture of working hard, playing hard, and having fun.

Junior B Thunder camps will take place in the New Year. Sanderson said they’ll hold some drop-in dates to drum up some interest and then begin to build their team and practice before the season begins in the spring.

“We are going to be looking for some community support as well,” the coach noted. “Junior is a level where we can hopefully throw some perks the players’ way and make it a real experience in the Cowichan Valley for lacrosse.”

Claxton added that the Thunder would likely be in a building year this season, noting that the team will be on the younger side of the age range and the jump from minor lacrosse to junior B is a big one.

“It’s a huge jump because you play differently as far as offence and defence and you don’t have to follow the same rules and the speed of the game is faster,” he said. Claxton noted that many of the youth expected to play haven’t played recently and the last time they played, they only played five games because of COVID.

“It’ll be interesting to see,” he said. “I’m not sure how excited Oceanside will be because probably six of our players that are coming back played with Oceanside last year. But we’re all in it for the same reason, to grow the game.”

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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