Members of the Iroquois Nationals have been assured they will be allowed to travel to the Czech Republic on their Haudenosaunee passports later this month to compete in the world indoor (box) lacrosse championships.
Yet team members, who are from both the United States and Canada, are still somewhat skeptical and have adopted a wait-and-see attitude on whether this will indeed happen.
The world tournament, which is being held in Prague, begins May 21 and continues until May 28.
A year ago the Iroquois Nationals made international headlines when they were not allowed to travel to England for the world field lacrosse championships. United Kingdom officials refused to recognize the Haudenosaunee passports, so team members were not allowed to enter England for the tournament last summer.
Officials from both the Czech Republic and Switzerland—where the Iroquois Nationals have to catch a connecting flight—have agreed to let the members of the club travel to their countries with their Haudenosaunee passports.
“I think it is (finalized),” said Duane Jacobs, the Iroquois Nationals’ head coach. “But something tells us we’re not going to believe it until it happens.”
Brett Buckbooth, a team player who is from New York’s Oneida First Nation, echoed this sentiment.
“Until we’re on the plane and going, you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Members of the Iroquois Nationals were scheduled to fly out of Montreal on May 18 (Windspeaker press day).
Jacobs, who lives in LaSalle, located near Windsor, Ont., said team members are acutely aware of the travel woes encountered by last year’s Iroquois Nationals side.
“It’s in the back of everybody’s minds,” said Jacobs, who is an assistant coach with the National Lacrosse League’s Buffalo Bandits. “Who knows what’s going to happen. I don’t know. It’s all bureaucratic B.S. You never know but something might come up.”
Jacobs is uncertain what would transpire if any sort of travel snag is encountered once team members are in Montreal.
He himself has a Canadian passport. But he said some of the team’s players only have a Haudenosaunee passport.
“Some have American (passports),” he said. “Some have Canadian. Some have nothing (other than the Haudenosaunee one).”
As of early May, the Iroquois Nationals had yet to announce their final 23-player roster for the world tournament. A total of 31 players were still on a list of those being considered for the final lineup.
Jacobs said he was not sure what would occur if for some reason team members were told they would not be allowed to travel overseas with their Haudenosaunee passports.
He doesn’t know whether the team would take a united stand as it did last year when it opted not to go to England. Or perhaps, if a problem arose, team officials could conceivably head overseas with players that have Canadian or American passports.
“It depends,” Jacobs said. “If we can’t field a team of 18 to 20 guys, we probably wouldn’t go.”
This marks the third time a world men’s indoor tournament has been staged.
Also scheduled to participate at this year’s tournament are teams representing the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, Slovakia and host Czech Republic.
After back-to-back silver-medal finishes at the two previous world tournaments, Bucktooth believes the Iroquois Nationals can do even better this time around.
“I think we have the coaching and the players to win the gold medal,” he said.
The Iroquois Nationals almost captured the gold at the 2007 tournament in Halifax. But they were edged 15-14 in double overtime by the host Canadians.
Canada also defeated the Iroquois Nationals in the gold-medal match at the inaugural world tournament in 2003 in Hamilton.
Jacobs believes there will only be three medal contenders at the tournament in the Czech Republic, his team, as well as Canada and the U.S.
“Those are the three teams that will battle it out,” he said.
Jacobs was also involved with the Iroquois Nationals teams that competed at the two previous world tournaments.
He was the head coach of the 2007 entry. And he was a player for the team at the ’03 tourney.
For this year’s event, the Iroquois Nationals have been placed into a division which includes the U.S., Ireland and Czech Republic.
It is anticipated the Iroquois Nationals will register a pair of convincing victories in their first two round-robin matches, set for May 21 versus Ireland and May 22 against Czech Republic.
The Iroquois Nationals will then conclude their round-robin schedule on May 23 against the U.S.