A three-month old secret is now out. Though they have known since June, officials with the Haudenosaunee Nation only announced this past week that they will be hosting the 2015 men's world indoor (box) lacrosse championships.
All of the round-robin and quarter-final matches will be staged at the Onondaga Nation Arena near Syracuse. Then, both of the semi-final contests as well as the gold-medal and bronze-medal games will be held at the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo. This is believed to be the first time a world championship will be held on Aboriginal land.
"It's moving us a step forward - for the program and more so for our people," said Gewas Schindler, the general manager of the Iroquois Nationals' squad that will host the tournament. "This is huge for Indigenous people throughout the world. It's recognizing our people as a sovereign nation and as a country."
Besides serving as the GM for the Iroquois Nationals, Schindler is also one of the directors of the tournament's organizing committee. The Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) officially awarded the Haudenosaunee Nation the 2015 world tournament this past June at a meeting in Amsterdam. But Schindler said there was a delay in making the announcement public for a couple of reasons.
For starters, officials with the Iroquois Nationals were busy preparing their male under-19 squad for its world tournament, held in Finland this past July. Plus, Schindler said that before making their news public organizers also wanted to secure an accommodations deal with a Syracuse hotel, where all of the participating players would stay.
"We had a bunch of hotels that wanted to get involved," Schindler said.
An agreement was reached with the Crowne Plaza Syracuse, which is about a 10-minute drive from the Onondaga Nation Arena. Schindler expects between 8-12 teams will participate at the 2015 tournament.
The Iroquois Nationals won the silver medal at the 2011 championships, held in the Czech Republic capital Prague.
Canada won the eight-team tournament, which is held every four years. The United States, Czech Republic, England, Australia, Ireland and Slovakia also took part.
Besides Slovakia, all of the other 2011 entrants have confirmed their intentions of competing at the 2015 tournament. Also, Israel and Turkey have announced they would like to send teams. And Japan and Thailand are also thinking of taking part.
"We think we'll have 8-12 teams," Schindler said. "Obviously the more the better. Twelve would be awesome."
Though it is three years away, tournament dates - Sept. 18-26 in 2015 - have already been announced. As for those looking to purchase tickets, officials have already started putting interested people on a waiting list. A signup is available at the tournament website, www.wilc2015.com.
Those who register will be given a priority number and contacted in that order once tickets go on sale. The Onondaga Nation Arena has a capacity of about 3,000. Schindler anticipates numerous sellouts at that venue.
"I don't think 3,000 is that many," he said. "I think many of the games there will be packed."
Schindler also anticipates large crowds for the semi-finals contests as well as the medal games at the Buffalo rink, which can seat close to 19,000.
"It's a perfect location," Schindler said of the tournament adding Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo are lacrosse hotbeds. Two of these cities have professional franchises in the National Lacrosse League, the defending league champion Rochester Knighthawks and the Buffalo Bandits.
"And we're going to get a lot of box lacrosse fans from Canada," Schindler said.
To drum up some support for the 2015 tournament, an exhibition contest will be staged next month, Oct. 13 at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena. This match will feature the Iroquois Nationals against the United States.