SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The National Lacrosse League has announced that the first-ever Junior NLL Tournament, comprised of youth teams from six NLL cities, will take place from Aug. 23-25 at Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) in Oakville, Ontario.
The Minnesota Swarm, Buffalo Bandits, Colorado Mammoth, Rochester Knighthawks, Toronto Rock and Vancouver Stealth will be represented across Bantam and Peewee teams in the weekend-long competition at TRAC.
“The Junior NLL Tournament has been a vision of many of our NLL Governors for a long time," said Colorado Mammoth head coach and Junior NLL Committee chair Bob Hamley. "To see it come to life is exciting for everyone involved. A big thanks to Jamie Dawick, the Toronto Rock staff and the Committee for all their hard work in making this a reality. And good luck to all of our NLL kids!”
Minnesota established its Jr. Swarm program this summer, and currently features a Bantam team comprised of 18 boys from around the Twin Cities area. The team has competed in two marquee tournaments already this August: USBOXLA Nationals in Irvine, Calif. and the Jr. Mammoth Invitational in Denver. The Jr. Swarm team also hosted an exhibition weekend against a Canadian team from Thunder Bay, Ontario in July at the team’s home practice facility in Inver Grove Heights, the Veterans Memorial Community Center.
“We’re extremely proud of our Jr. Swarm team and what they’ve accomplished in their first season this summer,” Swarm co-owner and vice president Andy Arlotta said. “As an organization, we’re committed to growing the game of box lacrosse locally, and the Jr. Swarm team offers kids the opportunity to become overall better lacrosse players through professional coaching and mentoring. Team members also get the unique chance to compete in national and international tournaments in front of Division I and NLL coaches. We pooled from over 1,200 kids in our Youth Box League to establish the Jr. Swarm team this summer, and we’re looking forward to adding more elite teams next year as the program grows.”
Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines and the Swarm’s all-time leading goal scorer, Ryan Benesch, make up the team’s coaching staff. Team members are sporting custom-made Swarm jerseys with their names on the back this summer.
“We’re excited that our kids will get the chance to compete in the inaugural Junior NLL Tournament in Toronto,” said Arlotta, who is also a member of the Junior NLL Committee. “This kind of event shows that the league and its member clubs are committed to growing box lacrosse at the youth level. It will be a great experience for everyone involved.”
To view videos and photos from the inaugural Jr. Swarm season, visit http://www.mnswarm.com/juniorswarm
While several other Junior NLL teams have had experience playing in recent tournaments, the Junior NLL Tournament is the first of its kind in that it will be exclusive to teams affiliated with the league.
"It's the first time we've done it with just NLL teams," said Stealth president and general manager Doug Locker. "It's something we want to do over the course of the year moving forward where we do it at different sites. I think it will be great for the kids."
Another unique aspect to the tournament will be the use of professional officiating for the games.
"We're going to use actual NLL referees," Locker said. "It should be a world-class event that will essentially close out the summer season."
The TRAC is also set to host the 2013 NLL Entry Draft on Monday, Sept. 16 along with the Combine from Sept. 14-15. The TRAC, which serves as the Rock's offices and training facilities, hosted several NLL preseason games last year and continues to be an epicenter of indoor lacrosse for players of all ages and skill levels.
“We're very excited that the inaugural Junior NLL Tournament is being held at the TRAC," said Toronto Rock owner and president Jamie Dawick. "It's an honor to be hosting the six NLL cities being represented. These type of events are exactly what I envisioned when building the TRAC. We can't wait."