Squeaky sneakers are the typical soundtrack of any lacrosse training camp.
The Owen Sound North Stars junior B club seemed happy to squish and splash through their first run in nearly two years at Kelso Beach Friday night.
With most local indoor arenas out of commission or spoken for, a few dozen N’Stars took to the rain-soaked field for the beginning of an impromptu training camp.
There’s no regular season or playoff schedule to play for, and no Founders’ Cup to dream about winning, but the N’Stars will play in some exhibition contests and tournaments in August. They hope to host a few games as well, and planning for that is well underway.
On Friday, the players and coaches marched through several skill drills and shook off the rust.
“The conditions are a little tough, but they’re all happy with big smiles on their faces,” said North Stars head coach Jamie Grimoldby. “We just wanted to get them back out and interested. And have some fun.”
The Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League cancelled its 2020 and 2021 regular seasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grimoldby said he figured the summer would be a write-off in terms of lacrosse, but with Ontario entering Step 3 of its reopening plan, and vaccinations increasing throughout the province, the opportunity for some training sessions and exhibition games presented itself. Grimoldby and team president Mark Rouse then moved quickly to start securing field times and plan for some game action.
“We’re just shaking the rust off a little bit. We’re not really looking at making a team right now, we’re just getting back and playing,” Grimoldby said.
There were new and familiar faces at Kelso Beach Friday. Most players wore N’Stars branded shirts. It was a padless practice for the most part, other than gloves and helmets. Grimoldby said he’d like to mix in some light contact at future practices, which are slated to go Friday nights at Kelso Beach for the near future.
“We’ll go slow, but next week I think we want to do a little more contact,” Grimoldby said. “I was actually pretty impressed tonight. We did a lot of passing and running drills and all the passes looked pretty good. A few dropped balls, but I mean there are dropped balls any time of year.”
The goaltenders faced a lot of compacted rubber spheres as the players worked on their shooting form, which couldn’t have felt good after a long layoff. Grimoldby said the team had a rule that if a player hit the goalie in the head, they’d go fun a run as punishment.
“I know they wear gear, but they don’t want a ball to the head. That’s part of the reason I don’t play goalie. But they were good, good sports, we took a lot of shots at them,” Grimoldby said.
Rouse said the North Stars are confirmed now to be part of a four-team exhibition tournament in Guelph scheduled in early August. Other exhibition games are being planned for August as well and early September as well.