LACROSSE – After five years of trying to make it work, the Canadian Lacrosse League or CLAX has folded citing financial reasons. The semi-pro league was designed as a possible farm system for the National Lacrosse League (NLL) similar to what the American Hockey league is to the NHL.
The league, which operated under a joint ownership group consisting of Nancy and Rodney Hill of Six Nations, and the venture capital firm Charlesway Corporation located in St. Catharines where the CLAX office was located, purchased the league at the end of the 2012 season from founder Paul St. John.
The sudden announcement came after Charlesway president, Jeff Cairns, age 60, had been arrested by Niagara police following an investigation into allegations of 24 child sex-related offences, include sexual assault, sexual interference and the invitation to sexual touching.
Cairns has since been released on $10,000 bail, but CLAX officials say Cairns arrest has nothing to do with the league folding.
“I can say the decision [to fold] was made far before this happened,” says Rob Diehl, marketing and public relation representative with CLAX. “And I am not at liberty to say anything more on that.”
Despite feeding 40 players to the NLL, the CLAX business model didn’t work and never could make the connection with the NLL.
The caliber of play the winter league CLAX offered was very high and offered a chance for graduating Jr.’s to find a path to the NLL if not selected in the drafts for one reason or another. It also gave older players an opportunity to remain playing the game at a competitive level after their pro careers were over. Hardcore CLAX fans liked the two-way style of play used in the CLAX, a throwback to the days before specialized offensive and defensive units who make wholesale changes depending on which way the ball is moving.
The sudden announcement has shocked the lacrosse community leaving a number of players looking for a place to play this winter. CLAX had five teams last season, based in Oshawa, Barrie, Niagara, Paris and Ohsweken.
“I think in the last couple of years you could see this move coming,” says Durham Turfdogs coach Matt Giles. “Unfortunately, the league and all the teams involved didn’t have the fan support they needed to operate as a professional league.”
To be correct, the league has officially suspended operation for 2017, but may still resurrect in some form in 2018, possibly under another name.