Tom Whitty has been thinking about winning a championship with the St. Catharines Athletics since 2017 when he asked to change his sweater number.
“I was in my second season and I requested to switch my number to three because 2003 was the last time St. Catharines won a Minto Cup. Every time I put on the jersey it reminds me of that goal, to bring back a championship to St. Catharines,” he said.
Whitty, a 22-year-old St. Catharines native, missed out on a chance to play for a Minto Cup last year when the junior A lacrosse championship of Canada was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, but this year has a chance at an Ontario title as captain of the A’s.
“I see myself as a leader on this team and to represent St. Catharines as the leader on the team is big,” Whitty said. “I admired a lot of those leaders growing up.
Whitty will be joined in the leadership department by fellow veterans Carter Zavitz, Kealan Pilon and Alex Simmons.
A’s coach Steve Toll said it was an obvious call to name Whitty captain.
“He’s had an (assistant’s) A and he’s been around a long time and he’s a natural leader,” Toll said. “He’s one of those guys who leads by example all the time. The effort is always there and he’s willing to do the little things.
“It was a pretty easy pick.”
Whitty, who was selected in the third round (35th overall) by the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League in 2019, wasn’t sure he would ever get to suit up for the double blue again after last season was cancelled and his junior eligibility ran out.
“This whole past year we’ve been hoping for another chance to get after it,” he said. “We’ve been given another opportunity. Getting junior back was a huge surprise. I didn’t think it was going to happen but you have to stay hopeful.
“This is our team and we have big hopes for this team so hopefully I can help lead us to a championship.”
The Ontario Junior Lacrosse League is slated to play an eight-game regular season beginning July 24 at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville. The games had originally been scheduled at the Hill Academy in Caledonia and were to be played outdoors.
A’s general manager Jeff Chcoski confirmed each team will play doubleheaders over consecutive weekends followed by semifinal playoffs and a final championship game Saturday, Aug. 7 for the Iroquois Trophy. All eight OLA junior A teams are committed, although, a final schedule has yet to be set.
Whitty said the A’s are committed to winning, regardless of the situation.
“You roll with the punches. It is what it is and lacrosse is lacrosse. The boys are all here battling each other. It’s competition and we can’t wait to get after it,” he said.
Toll is thankful just to see a season being played, regardless of the format.
“Everything is changing so it’s frustrating but we’re just trying to work with it and hopefully in two weeks be ready,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. We have a veteran group here so we should get off to a good start.
“I think they’re just happy to play lacrosse and get back on the floor and throw the ball around.”
The A’s have been holding workouts outdoors and expect to select a final 23-man roster soon. As well, the club will also roster 20 players for a Young Guns team that will also participate at some point in the tournament, with the exact details still being worked out.
“This works out better for us,” Chcoski said. “We’re happy about it. We’re rounding our roster into shape now. It’s very important that we do practice with our main team and then also practising with the Young Guns.
“As this thing goes on, we’re going to pare it off to make sure our senior team is getting enough reps on power plays and penalty kills and then our Young Guns will be fitting in here and there and we’ll make decisions as we go along.”
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