The Mann Cup is finally back after a three-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Langley Thunder, representing the British Columbia-based Western Lacrosse Association, will play the Peterborough Lakers of Ontario's Major Series Lacrosse in a best-of-seven series starting Friday. Thunder forward Curtis Dickson said that he's relieved that the storied trophy will once again be contested.
"Kids are always at our games, whether it's Langley games, whether it's Lakers games, wherever else," said Dickson on Thursday. "It was tough to see when lacrosse took a two year break. I think registration took a bit of a hit and I think that went for all sports.
"That's going to happen when you have three years off of anything so it's definitely important to to have it back."
Dickson, from Port Coquitlam, B.C., knows of what he speaks, having grown up in a lacrosse household.
His father Derek Dickson won a Mann Cup with the New Westminster Salmonbellies and used to tease his son about not winning the senior title, until Curtis won it in 2017 with Peterborough. Although the younger Dickson allows that now that he's 34 he'll never match his father's two Minto Cup rings, Canada's men's junior lacrosse championship.
"I grew up pretty close to lacrosse my whole life," said Dickson. "He always had a chance to rub that in my face before I was able to win my first one.
"It's super exciting that summer ball is back and we're able to contest a Mann Cup again."
The only other time the Mann Cup was not held since it was founded in 1910 was for three years during the First World War.
WLA commissioner Paul Dal Monte said that it seems like "ages ago" since Victoria hosted the Mann Cup in 2019 when Peterborough beat the hometown Shamrocks four games to one.
"It's been a painful couple of years," said Dal Monte. "But we weren't the only thing affected. People and other things that are part of normal life suffered significantly more than lacrosse.
"But from a purely lacrosse perspective, it's excellent, and there's no better place to be going than really one of the hot beds of lacrosse in Ontario in Peterborough."
Langley won the WLA championship by dispatching the Nanaimo Timbermen in five games and the Lakers won the MSL crown by beating the Six Nations Chiefs in six games.
The COVID-induced hiatus broke up a Lakers dynasty as the MSL champions won in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Ontario has dominated the Mann Cup over the past two decades, with 17 of the winners since 2000 coming out of the east.
"We've known all along that Peterborough was going to try to come back for a four-peat," said MSL interim commissioner Lynn Withers. "They're very fortunate that, almost all of their players have returned with the exception of a few to try and recapture that historic trophy."
Perhaps even more disconcerting for the Thunder, no B.C.-based team has won the title in Ontario since 1986, when New Westminster beat Brooklin 4-2 in Whitby, Ont.
"It would be incredible, obviously," said Dickson, who was on the Maple Ridge Burrards when they lost in Peterborough in 2018 in four games. "It's a bit of a drought for the West.
"That would be obviously pretty cool to be able to be a part of the team that is able to break that streak. We're excited for the opportunity."
The best-of-seven series will be streamed for free over YouTube, with the entire series held at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.
"We asked if people wanted to make a donation and actually people have," said Withers, who anticipated at least 4,000 fans in the arena. "I think people see how important it is for them to be able to watch the series and us not charging for it is a real bonus."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press