The start of the 2022 Major Series Lacrosse series is postponed, the league announced late Thursday afternoon.
In a written statement, Major Series Lacrosse Commissioner Doug Luey said it was with “enormous disappointment” that he advised the public of the postponement.
Earlier this month, The Examiner reported that an Ontario Lacrosse Association appeals tribunal upheld a decision by the OLA board of directors ordering Major Series Lacrosse to return a team to the Brampton Excelsiors.
The court also ruled that the MSL could assign a seventh team to Owen Sound and that the OLA would work to expedite that for the 2022 season.
MSL appealed an April 18 directive from the OLA board to return the Excelsiors, sold to Michigan businessman Joe Norton in 2018, to Brampton for 2022. Norton announced his intention to move the team to Owen Sound in 2020, a move originally approved by the MSL Board and OLA.
A group of Excelsiors alumni, who successfully took control of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club and threw out all but one former board member, have appealed the team’s move to Owen Sound and has succeeded. On October 15, 2021, the OLA denied the transfer to Owen Sound, according to court findings.
MSL continued to operate as the franchise moved to Owen Sound, including conducting a draft in March that excluded Brampton. Brampton’s exclusion is what led to the April 18 OLA directive which threatened to remove the MSL board and Commissioner Luey if he was not met by April 30. The MSL appealed this directive and a hearing was held in early May.
In Thursday’s statement, Luey said the season had to be postponed because the risk of litigation existed – and that would have proven too costly for private or community teams to bear.
“We will continue to work towards a resolution to bring our teams, players, officials and especially our fans back to the field as soon as the risk (of potential litigation) is minimized,” the statement read.
The league did not provide details of the potential litigation.
Meanwhile, 2022 MSL games – up to the Mann Cup – were to be broadcast and streamed live across Canada this season, according to the statement, and a national sponsorship deal had been agreed.
No further details of the broadcast and sponsorship deals may be released until the dispute is resolved, the statement continued, and there will be no comment from MSL until then.
“We would like to thank those who have reached out and offered their support during these difficult times,” the statement read. “We can’t wait to hit the ground.”
MSL originally planned to start its season on Saturday with the Six Nations Chiefs playing in Owen Sound.
The league also includes the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers as well as teams based in Oakville, Cobourg and Brooklyn.
Owen Sound owner Joe Norton, who bought the team from Brampton in 2018 and later moved the franchise to Owen Sound, claims to own the trademark of the Excelsiors name.
A Tuesday pre-season game between the Six Nations and Brooklyn was delayed, MSL said, because the OLA did not assign officials to the game due to the dispute between the league and the association.
The MSL and the other top senior league in Canada, the British Columbia-based Western Lacrosse Association, have canceled their respective 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league winners compete each year for the Mann Cup. The Canadian Senior A National Indoor Lacrosse Championship dates back to 1910.
The Peterborough Lakers won the Mann Cup in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and were looking to win their fourth straight Mann Cup this season.
The Lakers were scheduled to open their season on June 2 against the Cobourg Kodiaks at the Memorial Center, with a banner-raising ceremony to celebrate the 2019 Mann Cup victory.
The Lakers haven’t played at Memorial Center since Game 1 of the 2019 season due to ground repairs at Memorial Center that summer that forced the team to play out of Evinrude Center (now called Healthy Planet Arena) .
— with files from The Examiner