Hockey may be more popular in Canada, but it shares the spotlight as our national sport with lacrosse, hockey being the national winter sport and the latter being the national summer sport. For Portage athlete Garon Blanchard, he grew up playing both. Blanchard has now taken those talents to Michigan where he plays defensive midfield for the Adrian College Bulldogs lacrosse team.
"I played hockey for many years and one day my dad asked me if I wanted to try another sport. He told me about lacrosse in Winnipeg and the Red River League. I signed up, started playing and just really enjoyed myself"
When Blanchard graduated high school, he wanted to further his education at university but also continue to play the sport he loved. That led him to Adrian, Michigan, a city slightly larger Portage la Prairie and more than 1800 kilometers away. The college is just over an hour southwest of Detroit. The second year player says last year was pretty crazy with the pandemic but adds this year, things have been a little closer to "normal". He also relishes taking on a bigger role with the team.
"We had a big group of incoming freshmen this year, about 20 guys. They've been a great help to our team and we've been grinding and figuring each other's positions out. It's been going good so far. I've definitely tried to take on a bigger role, not wearing a letter by any means, but I think a lot of the freshmen guys at least look to me or can actually come talk to me if they need to. It's all about having a good team dynamic and with the restrictions lifted, it's been way better than last year. Just getting to know all the guys and being able to hang out without having to wear a mask"
On the field, things are looking very good. After three straight lopsided wins in the last week, the club now sits at 7-2 for the year. If things keep going at this pace they are hoping to make an appearance at Nationals at the end of the season. Lacrosse is known to be a very physical and rough sport and that's a part of the game Blanchard enjoys.
"Oh yeah. big time. Lots of bruises and scrapes and scratches from every game. A couple of sticks here and there to the arms and hands, and then the hits, they can certainly hurt sometimes"
Blanchard is enjoying his time in the U.S. Midwest and says it has been quite the experience.
"It's definitely a big change moving down here. I don't really have any family in the States and one of the few people I knew is in Milwaukee. That's about five hours away. But I wouldn't change anything. I love being down here and I love my school"
The Bulldogs are back on the field tomorrow night and their regular season schedule wraps up on April 26th.