The Brampton Excelsiors lacrosse club is leaving town…and this time it’s for real

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Published March 9, 2021 at 4:40 pm

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This time it is officially official: The historic Brampton Excelsiors lacrosse club is leaving town.

The Ontario Lacrosse Association (OLA), the governing body for the sport in Ontario, has approved the transfer of the club to Owen Sound after months of haggling over the future of the 150-year-old franchise.

“The move of Brampton to Owen Sound finally has been resolved,” Major Series Lacrosse (MLS) Commissioner Doug Luey said. “I couldn’t be happier to have this situation put behind us. It has been an issue for quite some time without any action from the OLA. This, despite our league trying to have some sort of resolution so we can move forward as a league.”

Last fall the relocation of the team was announced by the MLS, but a groundswell of local resistance supported by former players of the team rallied to try to keep the franchise in Brampton, which prompted the OLA to delay the move.

But the love for the team in Brampton has proved to be nostalgia driven and one that is no longer practical as the traditional fan base has disappeared.

Still, the Excelsiors club is one of the oldest continuously operating sport franchises in Canada and was hosted by a city that was once a hotbed for lacrosse.

In the end, the late support in Brampton proved not to be enough as team owner Joe Norton was able to convince the OLA that dwindling crowds and lack of interest made it impossible to keep the team in the country’s ninth largest city.

In November, Norton, a Michigan-based businessman, said the relocation was necessary because Brampton no longer supported the team.

“Our decision to move the team was not an easy one,” said Norton in the statement released by the league at that time. “We have spent a considerable amount of money and endless hours working on ways to try to keep the team in Brampton. From my perspective, the survival of the franchise depends on sponsorship, ticket sales and strong support of local government. We spent a lot of time, money and effort to excel in each of these three areas. Unfortunately, we could not get it done.”

The OLA decision clears the way for the team to play in Owen Sound for the upcoming 2021 season, one that is still up in the air due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Even though the OLA has an appeal process which could still lead to a last-ditch attempt by Brampton interests to keep the team here, Luey said the franchise will operate out of Owen Sound in the meantime even if that process plays out.

“I’m excited for our players,” Luey said. “Owen Sound is a sports hotbed. The Ontario Series Lacrosse (Senior B Owen Sound North Stars) draw very well. It will be great for our players to have an engaged crowd to play in front of.”

The Excelsiors were born in 1871, and though the team has gone through several incarnations over the years, that continuous link to those first games in Brampton has never been broken until now. 

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