Quesnel Cariboo Observer
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
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Jonas Gagnon Sports Reporter
Finding a place down south Cariboo Lacrosse player finds team down south JONAS GAGNON Observer Reporter
Top: Alek Gibbs holds up his gold medal from his provincials win with the Maple Ridge Burrards; above: Alek (number 25) winds up for a shot during his tenure on the Quesnel Crossfire.
Contributed photo and Observer File photo
Alek Gibbs was an an unknown quantity in Maple Ridge Burrards, in the B.C. intermediate lacrosse league. The lone kid from the frozen north, playing lacrosse with his southern team mates, most of whom had played in the same league for years – the same leagues the coach had spent time scouting and watching, so each southerner had been carefully weighed for placement before drafted to the team. That option wasn’t available to Gibbs, as the association here doesn’t have the players to sustain the higher level of teams. “Because they a lot of the guys have been part of the association for so long, by the time they get to that level they’re pencilled in at the spot. So you gotta find a spot where he can break through that barrier,” the coach of the Quesnel Crossfire and Midget Wildfire and Alek Gibbs father, Pat Gibbs said. So Alek Gibbs had to hustle to get his placement, with the help of his dad. It was them who contacted the teams, making calls and asking questions before settling on the Burrards because it gave Alek a chance at a title. Having never seen him in action, however, meant the coach stuck him on defence. “They’d never seen me and didn’t know what to think. They probably put me there cause I’m big,” Alek Gibbs said. The problem was, Alek wasn't a defensemen, never really has been, and that meant he wasn't showing off his full potential. He struggled through the regular season on defence, keeping his head down, but didn’t make the impact that he should have. That all changed days before playoffs when he got switched. “The coach needed someone to open up the middle,” said Alek. That was the perfect opportunity for Alek Gibbs, who describes himself as a power forward. In that first game, Alek netted a goal and a couple assists, impressing his coach. “I think he was pretty surprised out how well I did,” he said. After that display, Alek was kept up front, through playoffs
and into provincials, where he contributed to gold medals in both. In provincials the team only saw one defeat, their first game, before going on a win streak to win the tournament. The season down in the south helped Alek to hone his game in ways he couldn’t up here in the north. “Just being around those players, and being in the lacrosse atmosphere, it makes you way better,” he said. The play in the south pushed Alek to further his game with faster, more competitive play. Besides the faster play, Alek said it was nice to be out from under the shadow of hockey, which looms so large in Quesnel. “The training was a little more lacrosse specific,” Alek said. “It was pretty cool – here everything is hockey first, but there everything was lacrosse first. People were more committed to lacrosse.” The step to the south was a big move, but it would have been even bigger if Quesnel didn’t have a senior lacrosse team, Because of the small population in the North, Quesnel didn’t have a team above midgets, so when Alek aged out of midgets he took a big step up to the Crossfire. “It’s backwards kind of,” he said. “As soon as I came out of midgets I thought I wanted to continue playing lacrosse and I wasn’t ready to go down there. I got to play that year of senior and play against bigger guys. That really helped a lot.” Now that both Gibbs have some contacts in the south, they are looking to leverage those to help Alek find another team in the junior A league. The experience will also help up and coming stars in the Wildfire. “From the experience we had I’m able to give some pointers to the kids that I had on my midget team this year,” Pat Gibbs said. “Instead of being like me at the beginning of the year, not knowing what was what or who was who, we’ve got a base to build from.” As for Alek his advice is to work as hard as you can and enjoy the experience if you make it down to the southern leagues.