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Owen Sound's MSL team to hit the floor Thursday for the first time

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Owen Sound’s Major Series Lacrosse team will get its first taste of on-the-floor action Thursday as one of five teams taking part in a month-long exhibition season.

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All games in the MSL Classic are taking place at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre (TRAC) in Oakville. The MSL Classic will feature Owen Sound, the Brooklin Lacrosse Club, Coburg Kodiaks, Six Nations Chiefs and the Oakville Rock. The defending Mann Cup champion Peterborough Lakers are taking a pass on the Classic, citing a lack of player availability and short turnaround time. The Lakers said in a statement they’re focused on the 2022 regular season.

The Classic runs from July 27 to Aug. 26 with Owen Sound’s first-ever MSL game happening Thursday against the Oakville Rock. Each team involved in the Classic will play an eight-game exhibition schedule.

All games are being streamed on YouTube and a limited number of tickets are available. For a full schedule and streaming details visit the MSL website. All games begin at 8 p.m.

MSL Commissioner Doug Luey said the 2021 MSL Classic isn’t about a Mann Cup, but about preserving the game.

“We have been away officially for two seasons now and wanted to do what we could to get our present and future players back on the floor. Our players and devoted fans deserve that,” Luey said.

A field of players from the previous two MSL Entry Drafts have not taken the floor with their teams because of the pandemic. The MSL Classic is a way to introduce the young players to major lacrosse, Luey said.

Owen Sound General Manager Steve McCarthy said most of the players who suit up for the still-to-be-named club will be young prospects.

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With another draft set for early 2022, some teams would have been in a situation where they had to release dozens of players without even seeing them on the floor.

McCarthy said the exhibition season is a good chance to evaluate players, something MSL teams rarely get to do even during a regular season as the league typically jumps right into the action.

“It’s going to be a good way to see how prospects stack up against other team’s prospects,” McCarthy said. “Most teams won’t dress a lot of veterans.”

Some of the team’s veterans will hit the floor with Owen Sound. Connor Sellars, Adam Wiedemann, John St. John and goalie Nolan Clayton are expected to take part.

A strong Owen Sound contingent will suit up for the team as well. Jake McNabb was selected by the club in the 2020 entry draft, Jordan Caskenette and Mike Fiegehen have signed on as free agents for the summer, and North Stars senior B player Matt MacLeod is trying out for the team.

The Owen Sound players should feel at home as the team will wear the North Stars senior B jerseys in their first games until the sponsor-created Classic jerseys arrive, McCarthy said.

Coaches Darryl Gibson, Chris Driscoll and Jamie Dubrick will lead Owen Sound from behind the bench for the short summer season.

“The primary focus is to give guys the opportunity who ordinarily may have never had the chance,” McCarthy said. “This is a whole new opportunity for a lot of these young guys.”

Four players not suiting up for Owen Sound this summer are Jeff Teat, Connor McClelland, Travis Burton and Clarke Patterson.

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In April, the Ontario Lacrosse Association ruled the four players were to become free agents because of a failure to pay their junior affiliated team after acquiring their rights as junior-affiliated protected players in 2019. According to the OLA’s constitution, drafted and non-drafted juniors who are on a major protected list on July 1 in their year of graduation will see their junior club reimbursed $300.

McCarthy said Owen Sound and the MSL are appealing that decision and “as far as the MSL is concerned, those four players are still the property of Owen Sound”.

“We’re already aware of those players’ capabilities. I’m just going to leave that until a decision is made and then we’ll deal with it, but I didn’t want to muddy the waters or stir up any more controversy at this point,” McCarthy said.

The MSL Classic will feature a number of trial rules with the “vision of unifying lacrosse across all leagues” according to a league media release.

The trial rules include four 15 minute periods, a four-foot-nine net, sudden victory overtime, a count of eight seconds for a team to advance the ball past the centre line once gaining possession in the defensive end, and back-court violations.

Owen Sound’s participation in the MSL Classic is the second official function for the team – following the MSL Draft in March – despite the team’s move being appealed through the Ontario Lacrosse Association.

The OLA confirmed in a statement in April an appeals committee has rescinded the OLA board of governor’s approval of the Brampton Excelsiors move to Owen Sound “on the basis that the OLA’s board of directors has the sole authority to rule on franchise transfers”.

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The appeal was brought forth on behalf of four lifetime OLA members of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club.

The move of the Brampton Excelsiors to Owen Sound was first approved unanimously, 6-0, by the MSL board in November 2020 and subsequently approved by the OLA board of governors.

The OLA’s board of governors includes the OLA’s elected board of directors as well as the commissioners, directors and leaders of major, senior, junior and minor lacrosse leagues and associations across the province.

The OLA’s board of directors has yet to vote on the approval of the franchise’s relocation from Brampton to Owen Sound.

Both the 2020 and 2021 MSL seasons were cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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