Last year, a story in The Lax Mag drew plenty of eyes as it revealed that PLL player contracts contained a clause barring them from playing in other summer lacrosse leagues. The implication is that players who had competed both in the MLL and for the Mann Cup could no longer do so; they would have to pick a league to play in for the summer. Reasoning for the clause stems from concerns related to injuries and worker's compensation claims, according to The Lax Mag.
On June 18th, Jake Withers made his debut for the Peterborough Lakers, signaling that he will play closer to home in MSL this summer as well. Withers made his debut in a 13-2 win over Brampton and won 14 of 18 faceoffs.
Withers is on the Holdout List in the PLL, and a member of Waterdogs LC. While on the Holdout List, PLL players aren’t considered to have an active contract, so technically he is not violating his PLL deal by playing for Peterborough. That said, Withers is nearing completion of his training to be a firefighter, and is currently a probationary fireman in Oshawa. He is also a new father. Peterborough plays games very close to home for him. Between fatherhood and firefighter training, the PLL travel schedule is extremely difficult to manage.
“Even if I was able to do both leagues, I think I’m at a point in my life where I have a lot more commitments and I had to reshuffle my priorities and my first one is my family, and then my new career … it’s not the easiest thing; I love those guys on the Waterdogs and I hope they can go two-for-two and win again this year,” Withers told Anna Taylor for the Peterborough Examiner following his first game for Peterborough.
Withers graduates from firefighter training on June 22nd in Oshawa, after which he will travel to San Diego to play for Team Canada in the World Championships. This also means he’ll miss the tournament’s opening game, in which Team Canada takes on the United States in a gold medal game rematch.
A number of players opted for Mann Cup play instead of PLL play, as for many in the Canadian and Indigenous communities, the Mann Cup is a level of achievement and prestige that is unmatched. The Mann Cup is over 100 years old, and a unique opportunity for lacrosse players to represent their home communities at the highest level of competition. This summer, Lyle Thompson notably made the choice to play for Six Nations in MSL. Other pros in the past have opted to play for the Mann Cup, including PLL level players like Austin and Randy Staats, Tyson Bell, Brendan Bomberry, Curtis Dickson, Jesse King, Bryan Cole, and many others.
Withers reportedly has not ruled out playing in the PLL in future seasons. Should he decide to play this summer, he'd have to be activated from the Holdout List, and at that point, not play for Peterborough anymore. Waterdogs have used faceoff specialists Zac Tucci and James Reilly in Withers' place for the first three weeks of the PLL season.