For seven years, ever since his sons were old enough to play lacrosse, Jeff Moleski has been building up a team good enough to have a legitimate shot at winning the B.C. bantam provincial championship.
This potentially was the going to be the year all that hard work for those kids chasing rubber balls around arena floors was going to result in one of the strongest minor lacrosse teams the Prince George Minor Lacrosse Association has ever produced, one capable of knocking off top teams in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan.
Not only were they shaping up as a provincial powerhouse but the Prince George bantam Posse were about to host the B.C. Lacrosse Association bantam championships, which would have brought 24 teams to the city in the second week of July.
Nobody saw it coming, an invisible virus that has enveloped the world and destroyed lives, stressing hospitals, wiping out businesses, closing schools and causing untold calamity to sports leagues and their athletes who no longer have a place to play.
Last week the BCLA decided to cancel all its minor lacrosse leagues and the provincial championships for 2020. For the Posse, a group of 12- and 13-year-olds, knowing how small that window of opportunity is to reign in a provincial banner, the rug has been pulled out from under their feet.
“It’s really unfortunate, but everybody’s in the same boat,” said Moleski, who played 11 seasons of pro lacrosse in the National Lacrosse League before he retired in 2016.
This year the bantams would have challenged for either the A1 or A2 provincial championship. They were a blend of eight or 10 players from last year’s bantam squad coached by Darcy Nicholson and Scott Anderson that finished fourth in the A2 provincials in Saanich, combined with five or six of the peewee Posse team that won A2 bronze a year ago with Moleski at the provincial tournament in Ladner.
Nicholson and Moleski were committed to coaching the team this year and there would have been enough bantam players in the city to form a second traveling team that would have also been part of provincials in July at the Kin Centre.
“We’ve been talking about this for six or seven years now, with Darcy and I coaching we’ve had those kids since they were five or six years old,” said Moleski. “You start provincials in peewee. The big year for us to win it all was the second-year bantam and things were shaping up nicely until the world got turned upside-down.
“The group of kids this year seemed right ready to go. We played once a week at least (through the winter) at the Roll-A-Dome and we had a lot of kids playing rep hockey still showing up for lacrosse practice. Everyone knew this was a big year. We were champing at the bit and all this happens.”
Moleski figures second-year bantams Cashe Kaban, Everett Muratori and Brady MacKay of Prince George and Vanderhoof players Cooper Ziler and Cole Mallow would have received serious scrutiny for B.C. provincial team consideration. Last year marked the first time two Prince George players in the same age division made the provincial team cut when Garrett Sakamoto and Jackson Moleski cracked the peewee team roster. Second-year peewee Hunter Moleski was a strong candidate for the peewee provincial team this year.
With no local league operating and all organized lacrosse activity cancelled for summer, coach Moleski is worried some of his players might decide to quit playing the game. He’s hoping by late summer they will be able to get together for practice sessions and the odd scrimmage to feed their passion to play Canada’s national summer sport.
“It’s tough right now because you miss a year and you don’t want those kids to lose that interest, it’s going to be hard for all minor sports,” he said.
Moleski and his wife Cara and their sons are competitive in archery and usually enter local 3-D target shoots in Prince George and neighbouring cities, but the pandemic has cancelled all those events.