Lacrosse set its sights on Upstate New York four years ago and this September the Indoor Lacrosse world landed in Onondaga Nation, and it was received with open arms. As the 13 participating nations arrived in central New York realized that the facilities that they would be playing in had been built specifically for this tournament, they felt greatly motivated and set forth a sense of passion and commitment that would drive them to their ultimate goal, the gold medal.
Their quest started on Friday September 18th during some games that occurred in the Onondaga Nation Arena (where most of the games took place during the tournament). The opening ceremony took place at the War Memorial Arena and it honored the thirteen participating countries: Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Iroquois Nationals, Israel, Serbia, Turkey and the U.S. During the ceremony, members of all of the tribes that make up the Haudenausanne Nation performed a ritual to bless the field and to protect the participating members of each nation from bodily harm as well as to make sure that the sport is being played for the right reasons; that the game is played to its fullest potential while respecting everyone on the field.
During the opening ceremony there was a light show placed upon the center of the field where the story of the game of Lacrosse was depicted, meanwhile members of the Haudenosaunee Nations (Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations) danced around the projection. Some members danced while others performed a mock battle, in order to represent how the game of Lacrosse was created. According to the Native American tradition, the Creator gave them the game during a moment of tribulation, to avoid the fights and to help them solve conflicts within the tribe. Several local dignitaries were in attendance, as well as former Vice President Al Gore and NFL and Syracuse University legend Jim Brown.
After the ceremony, the opening game got under way between USA and the Iroquois Nationals. The Iroquois showed off their talent by beating the USA 13-9. All of the talent from the Iroquois team comes from Upstate New York and from our bordering neighbors in Canada. It should be noted that the Iroquois Nation is comprised of approximately 125,000 individuals while the other competing nations are made up by millions of people. However, the sport of Lacrosse is a unifying force that brings members of the Iroquois Nation together and allows them to share stories, strengthen bonds and to relate between the young and the elders of their nations.
The rest of the tournament went off without a hitch due to the excellent planning and dedication that went into every detail of the championship. From the new facilities, the native vendor’s tents, the giant screens, entertainment and activities and the food provided throughout the event, there was something for everyone young and old to do throughout the day while enjoying some world class Lacrosse. After the tournament play was completed, the knockout round started and as most had predicted it Canada and the favored Iroquois end up meeting for the gold medal game. United States and a talented Israel team faced off, with the USA capturing the bronze.
At the gold medal game the tension in the stadium was palpable, as every goal scored by Canada was matched by the Iroquois. At the end of the second quarter Canada had the lead by 6-5. Great excitement was felt all around the stadium as the crowd, made up mostly of Iroquois supporters, cheered their team on as they returned onto the field to begin the second half. With the closing minutes in the fourth quarter the Iroquois team was down 10-8. The crowd begun to quiet down as the Iroquois took out their goalie in a strategy to have more offensive players on the field. With that risky move in play Canada score a late goal to give them the decisive win of 12-8.
At the end, the medals stood as follows: Canada taking the Gold, the Iroquois taking the Silver and the USA taking the Bronze.
The closing ceremony was one to remember. The attendance set a new record for the WILC title game, with a crowd of 10, 421. Most of the crowd stayed until the end to show their support to the three finalists, but it was clear the admiration for the Iroquois squad, who lefts their hearts on the field for a game that is an engrained part of their culture and their tradition and that now they share with the world. The Iroquois received the most endearing standing ovations of the tournament.
Chief Oren Lyons gave a speech, stating that Lacrosse is meant to bring people together and to encourage peace throughout the world. He also stated how proud he was of all of the nations that attended and let them know that they are always welcome back in Onondaga Nation. Chief Oren Lyons also handed Stan Cockerton, FIL president, one of the oldest and most meaningful belts that the Onondaga Nation has. The belt depicts a bowl and a spoon, a representation of the world and each of us as a spoon, we only have one world and we should do our best to share what we have amongst ourselves in order to make sure that everyone is fed.
With the closing ceremony the Lacrosse World sets its eyes on the next Indoor World Lacrosse Championship that will be taking place in British Columbia in the summer of 2019.
Photography by Conquest Sports Photography http://conquestphotography.com