The St. Catharines Jr. A Athletics. The organization will merge with the city’s Jr. B lacrosse club, the St. Catharines Spartans. Photo credit: St. Catharines Athletics
Quick, name the oldest sporting franchise in Niagara?
It dates back to 1877, believe it or not – it’s the St. Catharines Jr. A Athletics Lacrosse Club.
On Thursday, the organization announced the next step in its already storied history: the immediate acquisition of the St. Catharines Spartans Junior B Lacrosse Club.
St. Catharines will continue to be represented in the Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League by the same franchise, however under the name and operation of the St. Catharines Athletics Lacrosse Club.
The Spartans lacrosse name, and trademark red and white barber pole jerseys, have been synonymous with commitment and dedication in the lacrosse community for decades, and have stood as a testament to the work and efforts of the Engemann family in growing the game locally.
“Our family has been dedicated to the players and families who have worn Spartans colours for decades,” said Joe ‘Jojie’ Engemann, on behalf of the Spartans club.
“We view this step as a transformational change in aligning the junior franchises in the City of St. Catharines.”
The St. Catharines Spartans Junior ‘B’ team, originally founded as the Niagara-on-the-Lake Warriors in 1979, has brought home two national championships (the ‘Founders Cup’), in 1981 and 1996, while the Athletics are six-time national champions of the Minto Cup.
The merger, which would see two junior franchises operated by the same organization, is a significant step forward in ensuring that lacrosse players in St. Catharines represent the double blue of the Athletics starting from their first days in minor lacrosse, right through to their final days of junior.
“We’re humbled by the opportunity to pull together both clubs under the Athletics banner,” said Paul Coates, President of the St. Catharines Athletics Lacrosse Club.
“We believe it’s foundational to the continued success and growth of lacrosse in our community. Honouring the history of both of these organizations going forward is a challenge that we look forward to.”
Lacrosse is Canada’s national summer sport, and with its growth across the province, and given the prominent role that St. Catharines athletes have played in lacrosse at a national, international and collegiate level, the continued evolution of the local lacrosse landscape is a beneficial step forward.
St. Catharines is also home to the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“It’s important that the local lacrosse community focuses on ways in which we can improve the development models that we have in place,” added Sallah Hamdani, President of the St. Catharines Minor Lacrosse Association.
“Lots of work remains to be done, but we’re proud to work with our junior lacrosse partners in doing so.”
Thanks are due to Chris Spiers and his family for the operations of the St. Catharines Spartans for over two decades, allowing hundreds of local players and families to further their lacrosse goals and dreams at the junior level, and often beyond.
Coates adds that he’s currently accepting resumes as it pertains to the St. Catharines Athletics Junior B Club, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.