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Can-Am ruggers return this weekend

July 27, 2018
By LOU REUTER - Senior Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - You have to love those rugby mascots.

This weekend, teams like the Crop Dusters, the Doggies, the Hyenas, the Misfits, the Scallywags and the Mother Ruckers - just to name a few - will converge on the villages of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid as the 45th Can-Am Rugby Tournament kicks off on Friday, July 27.

When it comes to hosting big-time events during the summer in the Olympic Region, the fun just keeps coming around. The horse shows start it off in late June and early July, the Ironman follows, and now it's time for the one of the biggest rugby tournaments in the Western Hemisphere that annually features more than 100 teams from across the United States and Canada.

Article Photos

Pictured is action from the Mountaineers Old Boys match during the 2017 Can-Am Rugby Tournament in Saranac Lake.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

The old boys begin the event with games all day Friday in Saranac Lake, action proceeds to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid on Saturday, and the tournament wraps up with championship matches in the bowl at North Country Community College.

Some of the nation's best young 7s players, including possible future Olympians, will also be in town this weekend for three days of games. There will be more than 60 boys and girls competing for spots on the roster for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games being held in October in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and at the conclusion of the tournament, USA Rugby will announce what players will be added to squad headed for South America. They are being hosted at Paul Smith's College, which came on board as a Can-Am sponsor last summer.

"Once the party has started, it's hard to stop," said Jay Annis, who has been the tournament's director for more than a dozen years. "The USA Rugby national team selection is happening right here in Saranac Lake this weekend. Over the years, we've always thrown it out there to USA Rugby that we want to host big events. We've had the collegiate all-Americans here, we've had the U.S. and Canadian women's national teams here, and now, the kids that you're seeing this weekend, I have no doubt that some of them will be in the Olympics down the road."

Annis said the staying power of the Can-Am Rugby Tournament stems in part from this area's ability to host big events, as well as a dedicated group that gathers through out the year to pull it all together.

"We're lucky enough over the years that we've had pretty much good local people who understand what it takes to have an event. We have a good committee in place. This tournament started out as a list of a few teams on a bunch of napkins. Putting this together used to be done by three or four guys. Now there is 10 of us trying to make it all happen."

Titles in nine divisions, ranging from old boys, women's and men's social and club, will be up for grabs at this year's tournament.

The local Mountaineers Rugby Football Club will field three teams in the Can-Am. The Mountaineers Old Boys, known as the MOB, will compete in the over-50 division, and will be joined by the men's and women's squads as the tournament's host. The men's and women's teams especially have high hopes for success this weekend after playing a regular schedule of games and tournaments throughout the spring and summer.

The men head into this year's event in an unusual position as social division's defending champion. A year ago, they claimed their first men's social championship ever in the history of the Can-Am and are hoping for a repeat. If they pull it off, however, the Mountaineers will have to get it done without Forrest Morgan, who scored the title-clinching points in a 36-32 win in the final over the East Side Hyenas in 2017. Morgan has served as player coach this season, but will be out of the Can-Am after sustaining broken ribs and a punctured luge two weeks ago at a tournament in Acton, Massachusetts.

"I'll just coach, focus on that and still have fun. Obviously very upsetting not playing, but it should be good. We have a good little squad coming in," Morgan said. "It's very different this year. We have a target on our back. Last year, we snuck up on a lot of teams. Nobody really respected us the last couple of years when it came to us actually playing rugby, but we've been slowly building this. Winning more and more games every year and now it's all about keeping it going."

Games in Saranac Lake will be played on school district fields on all three days, as well as at NCCC on Sunday. Contests in Lake Placid will be held on Saturday at the North Elba athletic fields. A schedule of games can be found at



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