Sudbury might yet become the destination of choice for the Canadian Canoe Polo Championships on a more regular basis.
That is the word from 2017 event organizer Gergely Lanci, as the tournament converged on Ramsey Lake for the second time in a seven year span this past weekend.
The genesis for this possible breakthrough is none other than the Northern Water Sports Centre.
"With the new facility, the caliber has climbed to the point of now looking at the next step, becoming a regular host in the rotation, with shorter periods in between," said Lanci on Sunday, as play wrapped up later that afternoon.
"We are well situated, within the country, to actually continue to host national events in the future. We are ready to move on to a North American event, and then on to the Worlds."
While the feedback in 2011 was good, when the event took place at the old Sudbury Canoe Club facility on the foot of Elizabeth Street, the spanking new digs have generated an excitement at a whole new level.
"The location is definitely a lot better," said Lanci. "We are in a sheltered bay, we have high quality surfaces for the officials to walk around. And our relationship with other clubs has come back in full force to make this event successful."
And lest one think that it is simply a case of the locals tooting their own horn, consider the input of championship veteran Scott Forbes from Penticton, BC.
"This is probably the best location for where a national championship has been hosted, just from a scenery standpoint," said the 33-year-old, attending his seventh or eighth set of nationals.
"It's beautiful here, with the lake and the islands and the rock outlets. Mostly, we play on smaller ponds or canals or things like that, which are not quite as open."
A sprint kayaker in his youth who would claim gold in the 6000m race at the 2001 Canada Summer Games in London, Forbes got hooked on the water sport cross-over during his time at the University of Saskatchewan.
"The skills from either whitewater or slalom kayak transfer better than sprint kayak," he said. "The fitness is helpful, and understanding how to move your boat. But I was never very good at turning or throwing. It took some time to develop those skills."
A member of the six time defending championship team from Edmonton on several occasions, Forbes has switched his allegiance, following a move in recent years.
"I played with Edmonton for a long time, that's where I was living," he said.
"I'm now living in Penticton and there's no club there. I'm a little bit more of a free agent, so I talked to some of the clubs to see if there was a spot available."
In the end, he would be picked up by the Toronto Racoons, the very team that would oppose the Great White Buffalo from Edmonton, as the westerners extended their streak of dominance.
There was good news from a local perspective, as the Peach Bois (Sudbury) claimed the Division "B" title, downing Toronto Beta in the final.
"There is no comparison between this team and our team in 2011," said Lanci.
"The first time we played, I would classify our team as top of beer league. That was our baseline. Now, the team is running at a very high level. Our athletes are capable of moving on to national teams and other training camps.
"In 2011, you would have seen five guys doing something that might be comparable to a "chicken dance", versus what is now a military procedure," Lanci said with a smile.
"You can clearly see how we are attacking, drawing back, passing. We are calm, we are confident, even without coaching while the game in on."
The Sudbury crew consisted of siblings Billy and Pete Boylan, as well as Adrian Banete, Tas Lanci and Andy Parry. This final addition would come courtesy of the Muskokas, and more specifically, the relationships that Lanci alluded to earlier with other clubs.
The locals would lend out some equipment, this past winter, the Parry and the folks in Huntsville, as they looked to establish a base in the sport in central Ontario.
"I played kayak polo in the armed forces in the 1990s," said Parry. "The I got into slalom and river racing, and didn't get into it (kayak/canoe polo) for a while. A couple of years ago, I started a kayaking school in Port Sydney and realized that kayak polo was a great way to get people into the sport of kayaking. I got involved with the town (of Huntsville) and got employed to run kayak polo sessions in the pool. We had people who had never played before jump into boats, playing three on three. They would just throw the ball around, using their hands, using their paddle. They would fall in, and it was great fun."
Following is a breakdown of the final placings, along with a few individual accolades that were doled out:
Club - Division "A"
- 1st - Great White Buffalo - Edmonton
- 2nd - Toronto Racoons
- 3rd - PC Sharks - Pointe Claire
Club - Division "B"
- 1st - Peach Bois - Sudbury
- 2nd - Toronto eta
- 3rd - Brochet - Pointe Claire
- 4th - Muskoka River Rats
- 1st - Black Mambas (mixed Canadian team members, past and present)
- 2nd - Gold Cobras - Toronto, Edmonton, Pointe Claire, Sudbury
- 3rd - Canadian National U21 men - Edmonton, Sudbury
- Most Valuable Player - Julie Brisson (Pointe Claire Canoe Club)
- Fair Play Award - Tas Lanci (Northern Water Sports Centre)