Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Quinte Bayhawks Lacrosse had a successful inaugural season in 2019 and were building on that momentum a year ago.
The minor lacrosse association had already surpassed its first-year numbers with plenty of time remaining to add even more players into the mix for 2020.
“We were just over 100 (players) in 2019 and we were up to about 120 last year with about a month to go (in registration) still,” said Bayhawks president Joe Fee.
That was before the indoor box lacrosse season was ultimately wiped out due to COVID-19 and “that unfortunately killed some momentum we had,” Fee said.
A year later, the challenges continue. Registration was set to open this past Friday, April 2 for the Bayhawks, but is now delayed until further notice following the Ontario government’s Thursday announcement of a province-wide “emergency brake.”
For this year, the Bayhawks were already planning to operate a scaled-down program for six weeks involving a combination of player development and games while floor time is available at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre in Belleville.
The amount of registrations in each age division will be limited in order to follow safety protocols. The Bayhawks currently offer lacrosse to children aged three to 14, with free registration availability to the youngest age group – Soft Lacrosse – for players turning three and four this year.
“We’ll be signing them up for free and we have a limited amount of free sticks left over from last year and the kids will get t-shirts,” Fee said. “We’re looking to grow in those divisions, the younger ones, get the kids involved and into it and hopefully next year we can expand a bit.”
Development is key as the Bayhawks hope to have players continue playing throughout the age levels to boost the house league program and eventually create a larger rep program.
Fee said lacrosse is a great physical activity for all ages and also has cross-over appeal to improve skills for other sports.
“A lot of kids just find it exciting to play,” he said. “You’re running around, it’s real active, real intense. You can’t really stand around.”
If the season can begin in early May, Fee believes there will still be an opportunity to move ahead with the six-week schedule with the potential to extend the season at other local arenas.
Beyond that option, the Bayhawks will consider running an indoor program in July and August as well as field lacrosse in early fall.
“Since we haven’t done field lacrosse yet, we are not set up for it and would have more upfront expenses whereas for box lacrosse we have nets, lined floors, jerseys, certified referees, coaches and goalie equipment,” Fee said. “Field lacrosse was in our plans, but was delayed due to not being able to run a program in 2020, although we did do an outdoor skills program.
“Our goal remains to run an indoor program in 2021 that would include gameplay,” he added.