Iroquois Nationals preparing for WILC

Playing the Creator’s game for the sept16 longhouse groupworld championship on Haudenosaunee soil has certainly been a long time coming.

That’s exactly what is going to take place beginning Friday, when the Federation of International Lacrosse World Indoor Lacrosse Championships kicks off in Onondaga and Syracuse.

The tournament, with the Iroquois Nationals as hosts, features 12 other countries, begins Friday, and continues to Sunday September 27.

Iroquois Nationals goalie Angus Goodleaf can’t wait for things to begin.

“It feels good to be playing here,” Goodleaf said. “It feels like home. I just can’t wait to get going.”

Since Monday, when Iroquois Nationals players and staff began to arrive, the team has slowly taken shape.

“Today (Wednesday) was our first full practice,” Goodleaf said. “I think we’re ready. I really like this group. We’ve got lots of talent. There’s a real togetherness among us. Everyone is just ready to get things started.”

But before the tournament begins, the Iroquois Nationals have also had the opportunity to visit Onondaga Nation. Among the stops, was a powerful event at the Onondaga Longhouse, where the team was treated to a warm welcome, and received their ribbon shirts in front of the original Hiawatha Belt.

“With the longhouse, it brings you back to what the game means to all of us, what we’re playing for and the people we’re representing,” Goodleaf said. “There’s definitely a lot of pride here and the last couple of days you can really feel that.”

That’s exactly the type of impact on the players Iroquois Nationals executive director Ansley Jemison was hoping for.

“I think it was a long time coming. I don’t think we’ve ever been able to do that. Hopefully the guys got something out of it. I’m more than sure that they did,” Jemison said. “It’s a pretty serious thing to bring out the belt. People always see the flags and the bumper stickers. But to be able to see the original, is something very special. Because we’re usually playing in another country and with the amount of lacrosse our guys are playing today, it has been difficult to schedule an event like this. It was truly meaningful for me to have this opportunity and to share it with our guys on our home territory.”

To Jemison’s recollection, no other Iroquois Nationals team has ever had that experience.

“To have their ribbon shirts presented here makes that even more special for them,” Jemison said. “I was hoping to see that sort of reaction. This was a great way to bring things into reality for them. This is real. This is what you’re playing for. It’s something that will hopefully inspire them.”

The Iroquois Nationals open its portion of the tournament Friday, when they take on the United States at 8:30 p.m., at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, with opening ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m.

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Darryl Smart

Media Relations, Iroquois Nationals