DENVER – The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team began arriving in the Mile High City on July 3 to get acclimated and prepare for the 2014 Federal of International Lacrosse World Championship scheduled from July 10 to July 19 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Opening ceremonies begin at 5 p.m.
As the oldest and fastest-growing sport in America, this year’s lacrosse world championship is expected to attract more than 100,000 fans to watch 38 nations compete in 142 games scheduled over 10 days in nine divisions.
The Iroquois Nationals are ranked in the top Blue Division with five other nations, and will compete against England, Canada, Australia, Japan and the United States. They are the only all-Native team sanctioned to compete at the international level and participated in five previous world men’s field lacrosse tournaments.
The Blue Division has six days of pool play between July 10-15, and the top four teams in the Blue Division advance to the quarterfinal round, according to the FIL. The top two seeds receive a bye into the semifinals.
The other eight divisions have three pool play games and will begin bracket play on July 14. The top team in each of the eight divisions after pool play will have the opportunity to advance to the quarterfinal round of the championship bracket.
On arrival, the Nationals were warmly welcomed at the airport by local fans and youth from the Denver Indian Family Resource Center who were waving signs, shaking hands, and sharing hugs with the 27-member elite team and its management.
“We’ve waited a long time for this so we’re pretty excited,” said Clark Tallbull, a Northern Cheyenne father and shuttle volunteer whose son is a standout player at a local high school. “We go way back with the Iroquois Nationals, back to 1996 when they first worked with our youth to help promote lacrosse. They’ve mentored our kids and made us proud to be a part of lacrosse. We’re excited to welcome the team and host them in our community. We’re behind them all the way.”
The Iroquois Nationals 2014 roster is comprised of 27 standout athletes from eight Indian nations with professional and collegiate experience, and includes several who were named professional All-Stars and collegiate All-Americans.
It’s a bittersweet return to the world championship for the Iroquois Nationals, who were denied a chance to compete in the 2010 world games after the United Kingdom refused to honor the team’s Haudenosaunee passports. Although Haudenosaunee passports had been accepted for international travel for nearly three decades, England’s changing political posture kept the Nationals from competing.
Despite diplomatic efforts and a widely supported publicity campaign to overturn the decision, in the end, the Iroquois were prevented from traveling to the championships, sparking international outrage that the originators of the sport were treated unfairly.
The Haudenosaunee are the originators of the sport of lacrosse, also known as the Creator’s Game, which was widely played among the confederacy before the arrival of Europeans.
“It’s the first time we ever got beat by paperwork,” said Iroquois Nationals General Manager Gewas Schindler, an Oneida three-time All American who played on professional teams for nine years, including a stint with the Colorado Mammoth.
To add salt to the wounds, last year the FIL tried to bar the Iroquois Nationals from competing in the 2014 Blue Division based on “non-appearance” at the 2010 FIL World Championships in Manchester, England.
The controversial decision by the FIL Board of Directors was appealed by the Nationals, and later overturned with majority support from 30 countries. The FIL is the governing body for men and women’s lacrosse worldwide.
“We’re honored to be here and we want to thank our Native brothers and sisters from the Denver community for welcoming us so warmly,” said Iroquois Nationals Executive Director Denise Waterman. “We waited a long time to bring our team back and we’re excited to be competing again in the world championship Blue Division. Our team has been training hard and we’re prepared.”
The majority of the Iroquois Nationals are from the Six Nations Confederacy or Haudenosaunee, comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga, and Tuscarora nations. Two players on the roster are from the Cherokee and Ojibwa nations. The team’s management includes General Manager Gewas Schindler (Oneida Nation) and Assistant General Manager Ansley Jemison (Seneca Nation) who oversee the planning, scheduling and general operations of the team. The 2014 Iroquois Nationals coaching staff is a veteran group led by Head Coach Steve Beville, Associate Head Coach Cam Bomberry, Assistant Coach Marc Van Arsdale, Assistant Coach Mark Burnam, Assistant Coach Jerome Thompson, and Assistant Coach Chris Doctor.
The 27-man roster for the 2014 Iroquois Nationals can be found here.
The Iroquois Nationals will play five competition games before the semi-finals that will be carried on ESPN channels; times posted are MST:
Fri, July 11 • 8 p.m. • England vs. Iroquois • ESPN3
Sat, July 12 • 2 p.m. • Japan vs. Iroquois • ESPN3
Sun, July 13 • 8 p.m. • Iroquois vs. Canada • ESPNU
Mon, July 14 • 8 p.m. • Iroquois vs. Australia • ESPN3
Tue, July 15 • 5 p.m. • Iroquois vs. USA • ESPNU
The team also will host a media day and field blessing ahead of a team practice and meet-and-greet with members of the Denver-area Native American community on Monday, July 7 at 4 p.m. at Denver East High School Lacrosse Field, 1600 City Park Esplanade.
Fans will have a chance to visit with coaches and players from the 2014 Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team, including brothers Lyle and Miles Thompson, co-winners of 2014 Tewaaraton Award for most outstanding college lacrosse player.
On July 8, the Iroquois Nationals will scrimmage with Team Israel, and on July 9, the New Zealand Lacrosse team will honor the Iroquois Nationals with a special Maori Haka, a traditional warrior dance.
Waterman said fans can support the Iroquois Nationals through the purchase of team merchandise at the Iroquois Nationals booth during the games. For more information, please call or text 613-930-3731, and for information on Native artists, please call 303-378-7368.
The FIL World Championship begins on July 10 with opening ceremonies at 5 p.m., followed by an exhibition rematch of the last world championship when the United States beat Canada, 12-10, in the 2010 championship in Manchester, England.
The World Lacrosse Championships are held once every four years and have not been hosted by the United States since 1998 in Baltimore.
The eight other divisions for the FIL World Championship can be found here.