It almost seemed like an April Fool’s joke.
The new management behind the junior B Saanich lacrosse team announced last week that it will replace the iconic Tigers name and logo with Express Saanich’s entry in the Pacific Northwest Junior Lacrosse League.
Yes, changing the name is a bold move, but there is good reason for it, said the Express’ new coach, Tyson Leies.
As of this winter the Express (formerly Tigers) have becomeunaffiliated with the well known Saanich Tigers Minor Lacrosse Association with which it shared the logo and orange-colour scheme for decades.
“Among other things there was times where the Tigers minor association was getting bills for the junior B Tigers’ floor time, just because it said ‘Tigers’ on the billing, so this helps clear up a number of housekeeping issues and makes lives easier for the volunteers who put their time in to do this,” Leies said.
Volunteers were usually focused on either the junior B team, or the minor association, and not usually both. Same went for costs.
There was some surprise from former players on social media, which shows the legacy of the junior B Tigers. For years, the junior B PNWJLL has offered an alternative route to the WLA. Some played for the Tigers before moving to the junior A Shamrocks, and there have been multiple WLA Shamrocks and National Lacrosse League players who played for the junior B Tigers.
Most recently, the junior B Tigers have been the best in B.C., winning multiple Island and provincial championships in the past decade. And there’s no reason that won’t continue, said Leies, a former Mann Cup winner with the Shamrocks, NLL champion with the Calgary Roughnecks and a member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
The designs for the Saanich Express are based on the defunct Montreal Express team that entered the NLL in 2001, the same year as the Roughnecks, though Montreal didn’t last beyond that season.
“We took the old Montreal Express logo, revamped it, changed the colours a little, and added the train to it,” Leies said.
In the past decade Leies has moved between coaching and managing with the junior A Nanaimo Timbermen, intermediate Timbermen, junior Shamrocks, intermediate Shamrocks and minor lacrosse too. His own son, Connor Leies, was drafted this year by the WLA Maple Ridge Burrards.
Leies credits Chris Jackson for revamping the Tigers team and leading them to multiple provincial junior B titles. Jackson has since started the Victoria Wolves senior B men’s team and is now busy running that.
As for the 2018 season, it’s been a late start for the Express, who are behind due to late applications for gaming grants and other paper work, said Leies.
The team’s had just two information sessions but Leies says there is more than enough interest to field a team. The first practice, or tryouts, is this Saturday outside at the Braefoot lacrosse box, 5:30 p.m. The Express will move inside to the Pearkes field house in April.
“With the late start, I’ll take on the coaching myself with the caveat that ‘interim’ is attached to my name,” Leies said. “We’re starting from scratch, other teams are already practising and holding training camps but in our two sessions we had a dozen kids, and another eight or nine who’ve contacted me. There’s kids out there, a lot are local draftees who are trying out for their junior A teams that we hope will come to us.”
Leies will be assisted by several former players such as Cory Conway (Shamrocks), Colin Bell, a current senior B Victoria Wolves player, Sean Walmsley, Kyle Morwick, and former NLL and Shamrocks goalie Nick Patterson (who’s now playing senior B in Nanaimo).
“They’ll all help out when they can and I’ll find someone to take on the main coaching role for next year,” Leies said.