Okanagan Wild lacrosse fills need in area

Martin Gardner said the Okanagan getting a B.C.ILL team was needed.

Getting an Okanagan-based team in the B.C. Intermediate Lacrosse League (B.C.ILL) needed.

That’s how Martin Gardner, general manager and governor of the Okanagan Wild, feels.

“I guess ultimately it was for the greater good of lacrosse,” said Gardner of the team getting the vote in. “It feels fantastic personally.”

The Wild received a unanimous 9-1 vote from the league’s governors to join the A League. Helping them get that was the perfect application showing the organization can be sustainable and succeed. The Wild will also play 16 of their 20 games on the road.

The Wild will play one home game in Penticton, Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna. The other six will be played out of Chilliwack.

Wild joined the A League, which features the Coquitlam Adanacs, Langley Thunder, Maple Ridge Burrards, Victoria Shamrocks, Delta Islanders, New Westminster Salmonbellies, Port Coquitlam Saints, Nanaimo Timbermen, Burnaby Lakers and Richmond Roadrunners.

“The commitment for Inter A teams in the Lower Mainland to travel and play 10 homes games in the Interior is just not going to happen,” said Gardner. “It’s kind of a meet in the middle scenario. For the Lower Mainland to commit to come to this area, we would not have received the overwhelming vote in favour of expansion.”

It took Gardner two months to get his application ready to submit. In that time he did research and talked to several people within the league and others outside on the proper steps to take. Forming this team and getting into the B.C. ILL allows high school-aged players to continue playing and perhaps develop well enough to move onto junior A. Any player that is 18 when the season starts in April is not eligible. The Wild are holding evaluations at Armstrong’s Hassen Arena on Feb. 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

READ MORE: Okanagan Wild joins Intermediate lacrosse league

Gardner, who resides in Kamloops, said the response of this team in the lacrosse community across the Okanagan is that people are ecstatic.

“It’s long overdue,” he said.

Selecting Penticton’s Dan Chetner as coach was a no-brainer for Gardner, who has gotten to know him over the years. The pair coached the Zone 2 lacrosse team to its first ever medal in last year’s B.C. Summer Games, which Gardner said “took the lacrosse community in the Lower Mainland by surprise.

“Dan is respected by his players and other players in the zone,” continued Gardner. “He has knowledge of the players, their skillset. How they gel. Our core is those same players. He loves the game. He’s passionate towards the game. He’s a great leader. It was just a natural choice for us to consider Dan as the head coach.”

Chetner’s coaching staff includes Liam Hagerty (Kamloops) as an assistant coach, Randy Craig (Penticton) as assistant coach and trainer, while positions for offensive and defensive co-ordinators as well as special teams co-ordinator are vacant.

People interested in those positions are asked to contact Gardner at marting73@rocketmail.com or call him at 250-819-7688.

Gardner says they plan on being an elite organization that wants to win.

“We want to win with integrity and passion and I think we are well on our way of doing that,” he said.