—by Matt DaSilva
Mention the 2010 world lacrosse championship to Gewas Schindler, and you’re likely to get a garbled mix of emotions in his response.
“I don’t even like saying, ‘Manchester,’ because it brings up so many bad memories for me,” Schindler said.
Memories like being stranded in New York while the rest of the lacrosse-playing world descended on England, dodging TV cameras rather than defensemen and flashing passports as a symbol of sovereignty.
Schindler, the former Iroquois Nationals attackman and team captain, has since channeled those emotions into a vision as their general manager.
“Instead of getting angry, my fuel is in development,” Schindler said. “My playing days are over. My job now as general manager is to get our players to that level where we can play with the United States and Canada.”
That wasn’t possible in 2010. It almost wasn’t possible in 2014.
Due to Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) bylaws, the Iroquois’ absence from the games in 2010 relegated them to a 30th-place finish and bumped them from the coveted Blue Division. When that decision came down in January and was upheld by the FIL Board of Directors, the Iroquois successfully appealed the FIL General Assembly to pave the way for reinstatement into the 2014 tournament’s top flight.
Along the way, they gained support not only of the FIL’s 28 full-member nations who voted in their favor, but also of lacrosse fans worldwide who want to see what some are calling the best Iroquois team ever take on their North American brethren.
“This was the first real test of the FIL Board of Directors on fair play. This game that transcends sports, is a lesson to one and all that first, we are a family,” Oren Lyons, honorary chairman of the Iroquois Nationals and faith keeper of the Onondaga Nation, wrote in a letter thanking the general assembly. “Dehontsigwaeh (Lacrosse) is the Creator’s Game.”
So with the world watching, what will the 2014 Iroquois Nationals look like on the field?
You’ll likely see some combination of Lyle, Miles and Ty Thompson—the Albany attackmen who set the NCAA ranks ablaze in 2013. Lyle Thompson, playing alongside his brother Miles and cousin Ty, finished one point shy of the NCAA single-season scoring record. He also was captain of the 2012 Iroquois Nationals U19 team that upset the eventual champion U.S. in preliminaries—the first-ever victory over a U.S. team at any level in field lacrosse competition.
Jeremy Thompson, Lyle and Miles’ older brother, was an All-American midfielder at Syracuse and played on the Iroquois Nationals senior team in 2006, when they finished fourth. He was just 19 at the time—the same age as attackman Cody Jamieson, a fellow stud at Syracuse and two-time Champion’s Cup MVP for the National Lacrosse League’s Rochester Knighthawks.
The big names don’t stop there. Two more players with Syracuse connections—defenseman Sid Smith, the No. 1 NLL draft pick in 2009, and Randy Staats, the 2013 junior college player of the year at Onondaga who will join the Orange in 2014 — also are good bets to make the Iroquois team.
“To not go to England [in 2010], I thought that was our best team we ever assembled,” Jamieson said. “This next one in Denver we will have just as strong of a team. Since I’ve been around, we’ve been talking about taking the next step. First it was England and Australia, start beating them. Then we turned our focus to winning a game against Canada or USA. To be on the same level with those two teams, you’re on top of the world.”
US Lacrosse will host the 2014 FIL Men’s World Championship (July 10-19) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver. Tickets are on sale now at WorldLacrosse2014.com. Bring your team to the World Festivals for boys’ youth teams beginning at age U11 and running up through men’s master’s teams at 60 and over.