The Ohsweken Demons are gearing up for what they hope will be another successful season.
The Demons, who compete in the Canadian Lacrosse League (CLax), are the only North American professional sports team comprised entirely of Native Americans.
The Six Nations-based squad plays its home contests at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena, near its community in Ohsweken. The Demons opens their training camp on Dec. 3, in preparation for the fourth CLax season.
The 2015 regular season campaign, which features five entrants, begins on Jan. 10. Ohsweken, a league finalist last season, will play its first contest on Jan. 18 against the defending champs, the Niagara Lake Monsters. The Demons have been rather successful thus far in the circuit. Besides advancing to last year's final, the Ohsweken franchise also won the championship crown during the inaugural CLax season in 2012.
The upcoming campaign will also include the Barrie Blizzard, the Oshawa-based Durham Turfdogs and the SouthWest Cyclops, who will play their home contests in the small community of Paris, Ontario. Demons' Director of Operations and General Manager Vince Hill anticipates his squad will once again have a successful season.
"We're hoping to have a solid core of players back from last year's finalists," he told ICTMN. "But it's hard to say at this point how many new faces we'll have." Hill added all returning players will not necessarily be guaranteed a roster spot. "It's always an open competition," he said. "If one of the new guys can beat out a veteran, so be it."
But Hill also said the CLax talent - and not simply just with the Demons - continues to be more competitive. "The caliber has increased each year," he said. "A lot of good quality players are coming out and enhancing the caliber of the league." Hill said that as many as 30 players will attend the Demons' training camp. The club is expected to have about a half dozen tryout sessions before it has to announce its finalized roster on Dec. 23.
Besides numerous returnees from last year's squad, the Demons' camp is also expected to feature several players that had rather successful summer box lacrosse seasons in 2014 with Six Nations' Junior A, Junior B and Senior B teams. Both the Six Nations Jr. A Arrows and the Jr. B Rebels captured national titles this year, while the Senior B Rivermen were national finalists at their level.
Complicating matters is the handful of players who could suit up for the Ohsweken club who are in training camps for various teams National Lacrosse League. The nine-team NLL, which has squads in the United States and Canada, is considered the premiere box lacrosse league in the world. "To be honest, we hope they stay up there," Hill said of prospective Demons' players at NLL camps. "That's what it is all about, developing guys and moving them up to the next level."