Members of the Ohsweken Demons are hoping this is the season in which they can duplicate the club’s first-year successes.
The Demons are members of the Canadian Lacrosse League, more commonly called C-Lax. The league’s moniker is somewhat misleading, as all five franchises in the circuit are based in Ontario province.
The Ohsweken side, which is entering is fifth year of operations, is unique in having fielded an all-Native roster since its inception. Ohsweken, a Six Nations-based team that plays out of the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Hagersville, managed to win the C-Lax championship in its inaugural year, 2012. Though they have advanced to the final on two other occasions, including this past year, the Demons have not captured another crown.
The squad kicks off its 2016 campaign with a road contest on Friday January 15 against the defending league champion Barrie Blizzard. The Ohsweken side will then stage its home opener on Saturday versus the Southwest Cyclops. The Cyclops play their home contests in the small community of Paris, Ontario.
The other participating clubs in C-Lax are the Niagara Lock Monsters and the Durham Turfdogs. Demons’ general manager Ron Henry said the squad’s main goal this year is to win the league trophy, the Creator’s Cup.
“That’s what we’re shooting for, even though we’re rebuilding because we lost a lot of veterans who retired,” he said.
Among those who have decided not to play with the Demons this year are Travis Hill, the club’s captain last season, and Wayne VanEvery and Roger Vyse, who were two of the team’s offensive stars.
Though these individuals will not start the season with the Demons, Henry, who will also serve as an assistant coach with the club this year, is not ruling out their possible return.
“There’s always an open door for them,” said Henry, who relinquished his head coaching post with the Demons in order to concentrate on his GM duties. “They would have to compete, though, in order to get their jobs back.”
The Ohsweken side still has plenty of veterans in its lineup. Of the 23 players on the season-opening roster, 13 are returnees. Henry hopes that having a more youthful roster will prove beneficial.
“They’ve all got the drive to win,” he said.
Though he believes the Demons might have had the league’s most talented team in recent years, others that have won the league title were better conditioned. That’s why the Ohsweken side is focusing on conditioning this season.
“That’s a big part of the game,” Henry said. “The guys are really buying into the system, and their conditioning now is great.”
Most of the newcomers on the Demons’ roster are locals. A total of 15 are from Six Nations. Six Nations clubs have won numerous titles in recent years. In 2015 the Six Nations Arrows won the Minto Cup, the national Junior A title, and the Six Nations Rivermen captured the Presidents Cup, the Canadian Senior B championship. The Arrows also won a Canadian title in 2014. That year the Six Nations Rebels also won the national Junior B championship, and the Six Nations Chiefs won the Mann Cup, the national Senior A crown.
“Being from Six Nations you get a lot of championship players,” Henry said. “They know what it’s like to win.”