Evan Ritchie is following in his brother Taylor’s foosteps this year by becoming the second player from Thompson to suit up for the Manitoba Blizzard lacrosse club, which competes in the Tier I junior B circuit of the Rocky Mountain Junior Lacrosse League against teams from Saskatchewan and Alberta.
He does so alongside his older brother, who is in his second season as a Blizzard player.
Evan wasn’t sure when he went down for tryouts if he would end up being selected for the team.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Last year, they had a really good team. They went to the finals in their league. I just watched them and I was pretty amazed last year. It was pretty impressive. I watched as many games as I could and just to be on the team it was quite honouring. I feel like I had a good tryout but at the same time it was big news for me. I didn’t see that coming before I went into tryouts.”
The brothers didn’t get a chance to play much together on the first weekend of the season, as Taylor was penalized in the third period of the season opener and received a three-game suspension as a result.
“I’ve actually never played on a competitive team with my brother before,” Taylor said. “We played house league in Thompson together but this is our first year playing together on a tryout team. It’s been a lot of fun so far. I’m excited about it. It’s definitely a cool experience to play with your brother at this high of a level.”
Evan said his first game was about what he expected in terms of the speed and physical play.
“My first game I didn’t get a whole lot of shifts,” he said. “There were tons of penalties and there was lots of penalty-killing we had to do so I didn’t get on the floor a whole lot. The second game was a lot of fun; it was a real confidence-booster, more floor time.”
The Blizzard improved their season record to 5-4 with a pair of victories at home against the Saskatchewan Swat last weekend and Evan says he knows from their time together on R.D. Parker Collegiate’s field lacrosse team what it’s like playing with Taylor.
“Back then I probably wasn’t as open to advice but this year I’m more open to advice because I know it’s a tough league and he knows what he’s talking about so he’s pretty good for it,” Evan says. “He helps me out a lot and tells me what I’m doing good, what I’m doing not so good.”
Evan is looking forward to heading on the road with the team and says his experience as a hockey player in Thompson means he’s used to long bus trips, though the ones he embarks on with the Blizzard will be even longer, sometimes spanning two provinces.
“I heard you’re pretty busy most of the time, you don’t have a whole lot of time to relax but I feel like I can handle that,” he says. “It’s good to go out of the province, do some different things. I’m looking forward to it. I’m not dreading it whatsoever.”
While the brothers are aware of their status as the representative of Thompson lacrosse, it’s not something they think about a lot.
“I guess we do represent Thompson,” Taylor says. “I don’t really think about it too much. I’m more just worried about trying to play my own game. I don’t try to put a ton of pressure on myself in that sense.”
“They don’t see a whole lot of people coming out of Thompson playing lacrosse and I guess it’s good to show that we should be taken seriously and that lacrosse is also a sport in Thompson, not just hockey,” Evan says. “I like to represent Thompson as well. I think we’re doing an all right job of that.”
Evan says he couldn’t have imagined himself playing lacrosse for a team in Winnipeg when he was playing the game growing up in Thompson.
“I wasn’t always one of the best players my age, that’s for sure, so I just spent a lot of time outside in my yard, just shooting around on the rebounder and stuff,” he recalls. “It helped me come a long way. It’s pretty impressive. When we just joined the sport we kind of said, ‘Oh we’ll just try this out for a bit.’ We didn’t know much about it. Now, look where it’s taken us. It’s taken us all over the country and into the states and everything like that so it’s definitely a big part of our lives that we didn’t see coming.”
The Ritchie brothers hope other Thompson lacrosse players take what they’ve learned to heart and realize that the game can taken them places they never imagined it would.
“There’s a lot of lacrosse players that are very good from Thompson but no one ever seems to get them to come out [for tryouts],” Evan says. “It’s a lot of opportunity, if you want to go do somethign with your life. It’s awesome.”