‘Best team in the country,’ Thunderhawk alumni reminisce about early days

·3 min read

Meridian Credit Union arena was filled with fond memories on Saturday as Thunderhawk alumni gathered to reminisce about their early lacrosse-playing days in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“It is the best team in the country,” alumnus Aidan Buis, 22, said at the arena.

Buis played transition for the Thunderhawks from 2016 until 2019.

“It feels really good to be back on the home court that we grew up playing on,” he said.

“We learned to play lacrosse here. Probably spent three or four nights a week during the summer here.”

The gathering coincided with two exhibition games featuring the U22 Thunderhawks, an undefeated squad that is shaping up as one of the best teams in Ontario.

Buis’ lacrosse training in NOTL was a formative experience that continues to shape his life. He now plays for the Brock University Badgers.

He said the intensity of lacrosse has always been an attraction.

“I love the adrenalin. I love the hitting. Who doesn’t love scoring a goal? Although, I don’t do that very often,” he said with a laugh.

But Buis plays defence, or transition in lacrosse parlance, and we trust that for every goal he may have scored over the years there was one that was prevented.

Buis has been spending his recent Friday nights teaching a clinic for kids ages three to 15 at the arena. A magnanimous act, said Tracy Hope, the wife of another alum and mother of two budding lacrosse players.

“These boys need some cheer. What 20-year-old gives up their Friday night six weeks in a row for free?” the St. Davids resident said.

She was at the arena with her husband Jared and their two children Bennett, 6, and Catherine, 4.

Jared played for the Thunderhawks from 1989 to 2003.

“We had a lot of fun,” he said.

And while he doesn’t play any more he is still active in the lacrosse scene, helping with his son’s team in the paperweight division.

Keeping the love of lacrosse strong across generations speaks to what Jared said he cherishes about the sport.

“It’s a lot about the community. I feel like lacrosse is a small community so you get to know everyone well,” he said.

But his kids’ love of the sport is what has him involved these days.

“Just the kids having fun. We didn’t have to come out here and play after but they just want to pick up balls, they want to shoot and they want to have fun.”

The community is essential for lacrosse’s health as a sport dwarfed by the popularity of hockey and basketball, he said.

“Lacrosse, it’s all volunteers. It’s people spending their personal time. So, it’s great to see so many people out supporting the community.”

The U22 Thunderhawks are undefeated in league and exhibition play.

“The Thunderhawks are doing great,” said Jared. “Hopefully they can continue the streak.”

Both kids had a simple, one-word response about why they enjoy playing lacrosse.

“Checking,” said Bennett.

“Daddy,” said Catherine, prompting a chorus of awes from her parents.

Tracy said lacrosse has been a great sport for her young children.

“With hockey you have to learn how to skate but with lacrosse you can just get out there,” she said.

“So, I’m a proud lacrosse mom.”

Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report

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