SIX NATIONS – Vince Hill, general manager of the Ohsweken Demons, watched closely as coaches Roger Chrysler and Ron “Mouse” Henry put around two dozen 2015 CLax Demons hopefuls through the paces Saturday afternoon at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena.
“It’s picked up every practice,” said Hill. “There’s a few more guys coming out every practice. We also still have a number of guys at NLL camps.”
The NLL prospects were released Friday and some have found their way – or are on their way – to Canadian Lacrosse League teams, including the Demons. A similar training camp was held Saturday at the Syl Apps Arena in Paris hosted by the Southwest Cyclops, who will be playing this season in Paris.
“We have a roster to put in by the 23rd, with 34 runners, so we have some immediate decisions to make,” said Hill as he sat with his coaches going over notes on players.
Among the new faces at camp was Founders Cup Six Nations Rebels graduate goaltender Chase Martin.
Another new player in camp is runner Lee Nanticoke of the Onondaga Red Hawks in the Can-Am League. Nanticoke put together a 37-point campaign in 10 games last season, helping the Red Hawks capture the 2014 Presidents’ Cup.
Henry returns to CLax, where he spent the 2013 season coaching the Iroquois Ironmen to the Creator’s Cup.
“Ron has a wealth of experience, along with assistant coach Roger Chrysler. Mouser has experience with both the National Team as well as the box game, and he’s very good at disseminating that knowledge, and applying it to the style that we play here.” Hill added, “We’re very pleased with both of them, they’re both winners.”
The professional league, now entering its fourth season, has already proven its worth as a developmental league of very high quality. This year alone, 28 CLax players from last year have been named to NLL rosters for the 2015 campaign.
The Demons have lost the services of Alex Kedoh Hill, who was picked up by the Buffalo Bandits, Joe Maracle, who got the call from the Minnesota Swarm, Quinn Powless, who will trade his Demons sweater for the New England Black Wolves along with Josh Johnson, who is named to the practice squad. Chris Attwood will play for the Rochester Knighthawks this season, as well.
CLax Commissioner and former Toronto Rock star Jim Veltman is proud of the contribution CLax is making to professional lacrosse.
“We would like to congratulate all of these players in achieving their goal of playing in the National Lacrosse League,” he says. “This is a great testament of the skill level that exists in our league and the great opportunity that CLax provides in allowing players to continue to develop their game.”
Mouse Henry does not run an easy practice and knows how to evaluate talent and desire. He was pleased with the level of skill his new crop of hopefuls brings to the organization.
“I’m looking for hungry and hard workers,” he said. “I know what it takes to win in this league.”
Unlike the NLL and the OLA Jr. system, CLax plays a two way game, both offense and defense, rather than specialized “O” and “D” lines rotating. This makes player conditioning paramount.
Following some intense drills that left many experienced players sucking wind, there was some scrimmage time as well.
“I see a lot of talent here,” says Henry. “We have some defensive players we have to teach some ‘O’ to and some offensive guys that need to learn some ‘D.’ That means double shifting.”
On any given occasion, each team can only dress 16 runners and two goalies. Henry likes to rotate in players from the secondary lineup as well.
“Sure, there is a final roster that comes up on a game, but if there are some guys who have really worked hard and come to practice, I have to look at the pecking order and make some game by game decisions,” says Henry.
Another chore for the GM and coaches is to balance the available talent.
“Right now we have a lot of left-hand shooters and we’re a little shy on righties,” he says.
Two of the new players Henry is very high on for this year are Dallas John and Mike Miller.
“We also have Rodd Squire out from the Chiefs,” he says. “Roger Vyse is healthy and is coming out as well.”
Needless to say, Henry is very pleased and excited with his roster and is determined to get the Creator’s Cup back on Six Nations Territory.
Among the talent in front of him are two Presidents Cup winners, two Mann Cup winners, NLL Champions, and a Creators Cup winner, plus several returning Demons.
Goaltenders Jake Henhawk, Chase Martin and Brandon Styres are at camp as well, with a couple of other unnamed possibilities.
“Goaltending is the backbone of your team, so I’m pretty confident with these guys,” says Henry.
Off-floor, the Demons will be working hard to make a night out with the Demons affordable fun for the whole family.