Greater Victoria has been a lacrosse community, represented by the green and white of the Victoria Shamrocks since 1950.
The team has 71 seasons under its belt and has played almost uninterrupted since its founding. It’s an impressive feat for any sports organization to endure for so long, but it is far from surprising for general manager Chris Welch.
“Our fans and our sponsors are just the absolute best,” said Welch. “There is a real passion for the sport in Victoria, and we are pretty unique in that the Shamrocks are truly part of the fabric of the communities around Victoria.”
Welch said that despite the organization’s financial difficulties and competitive disappointments over the years, the community has maintained its loyalty. Whenever the team encountered challenges, the fans and sponsors would rise to the occasion and lend a hand to ensure the team had another season to turn things around.
Of course, that’s not to say the team hasn’t tasted success. They’ve had plenty of it in their original Victoria home at Memorial Arena, their single season in Esquimalt, and their current West Shore home at The Q Centre since 2004.
They have been a consistent presence in the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs – earning a spot in 60 seasons, including the last 13 seasons in a row – and have won a total of 21 provincial championships and nine national Mann Cup victories recently in 2015.
The team is always evolving, but Welch said it has stayed true to the organization’s founding principles of honesty and integrity enshrined by the group of players who came together to form it back in 1950.
Welch said the organization’s history could be split into three main phases: The early days, where the players themselves kept the organization alive; the middle phase, where the community and volunteers became the core support; and the current phase, where corporate sponsorships have joined the community in ensuring the team’s continued success.
Indeed, Welch said the team’s long history and popularity in the community mean it is hard today to find a Greater Victoria resident who doesn’t have some connection to the team. Given the community’s support and continues to give them, Welch said the Shamrocks always have been and will always be very active in supporting the community.
This past season saw plenty of that in the aftermath of the Bank of Montreal shooting incident in Saanich over the summer, which left two suspects dead and six police officers injured.
”We jumped on board right away, and within 12 days, we put together a Stronger Together night in which any active police officer could get into the game for free, and we put on a private tailgate just for police officers and their families so they could get together and have some time to be together and socialize. People needed to heal, and it was a real coming together that night,” Welch said.
Welch said the team is always looking to the future, always striving to be better, and he has high hopes for next season thanks to a squad of young, promising players.