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Ruggers return

Can-Am Rugby adds more fields for this year’s tourney

July 27, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - The 44th annual Can-Am Rugby Tournament begins three days of action in the Adirondacks Friday, July 28, and after a run that began in 1974, this year's event will feature its biggest field yet with 125 teams registered, according to tourney director Jay Annis.

Over the years, the Can-Am has grown into the largest rugby tournament in North America. This year, teams will battle for titles in 10 divisions in matches played in both Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, adding three more fields than last year for a total of 16. Competition starts Friday in Saranac Lake with the Old Boys divisions, and then heats up Saturday, as the games spread out to both Saranac Lake and Lake Placid at the North Elba Athletic Fields off Recycle Lane.

Annis said the fact that the tournament has become so well known and is played in a natural setting help draw teams to the area from across the United States, Canada, and in past years, from as far away as Europe, Africa and South America. He said its been awhile since any rugby club has crossed the Atlantic to compete, but added that he often is contacted by rugby clubs from far away asking about the tournament.

Article Photos

Women’s teams play during the 2016 Can-Am Rugby tourney.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

"We get inquires all the time from (international) clubs," Annis said. "We've had them here, but it's pretty tough organizing a tour like that. The biggest problem there is the money on their part and timing. Unless you put something together well in advance, you're going to have a difficult time finding rooms here, in Boston, in Ottawa, in Montreal - places teams often travel to."

Annis said traditionally, most American teams traveling to the tournament are based east of the Mississippi, although a handful of players who moved out West years ago make the annual trip back East to reunite and play with former teammates on various old boys squads, including some from Colorado and Arizona who have joined one of Saranac Lake's three host teams, the Mountaineers Old Boys, who are again competing in the over-55 division this summer.

"I've seen teams as far out as Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio - pretty much east of that Mississippi line, and then you go down and there's a lot of groups out of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina," Annis said. "Basically, I call it the eastern half of the United States."

The old boys, who play on Friday and then again on Sunday if they are fortunate enough to reach the playoff rounds, will compete in over-35, 45, 50, 55 and 60 divisions. There are also club and social divisions for men and women, with those games starting on Saturday, as well as the wheelchair quad-rugby division, which will include about 30 players. Quad-rugby is heading into its fifth year at the Can-Am tournament and is played indoors at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid.

Although the tournament enjoys such popularity, Annis said the Can-Am board is always looking for new features to add. Years ago, both Canadian and U.S. national teams have battled it out in exhibition matches at the event, and Annis said hopefully in a year or two, up-and-coming players from the two countries can go at it sevens rugby, a sport that was brought into the summer Olympics a year ago in Brazil.

"We've been working on getting this here, and I think we're a year or two away from future Olympians playing sevens at the Can-Am," Annis said. "Obviously, there are some details to work out including sponsoring travel, but I think we can make this happen."

Since the tournament has turned into a family event with two and even three generations participating during its history, even youth clinics have become a mainstay.

The biggest news accompanying this year's tournament is most of Sunday's playoff action will be aired live on the internet by the Rugby Channel, which was launched in April 2016 and is affiliated with USA Rugby.

Games featured will be championship matches contested on the NCCC's pitch, which is affectionately dubbed "The Bowl" by those familiar with the Can-Am tournament.

In addition to their Old Boys squad, the host Mountaineers will be represented by one men's and one women's team that will both be playing in social divisions.

Annis has compiled some interesting statistics about the tournament on the Can-Am Rugby website. A few of those listed are: 74 percent of players and fans weren't even born when the tournament began, 37 percent of the players are women, and the approximately 3,300 teams that have registered in 44 years translates to 66,000 players visits.



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