Story Dan Olson
Photos by Garrett James

Synergy is not just a corporate buzzword, it’s also a way to respond to the challenges of the day with an eye on tomorrow.

The Burnaby Lakers are taking the next step in moving past the pandemic by forming a five-year operating agreement with the Coquitlam Express junior A hockey management.

The agreement sees long-time president Ed Safarik pass the torch to the Express’ Fayaz Manji and Tali Campbell, with the end goal of creating a stronger, modern competitive organization.

“(The Express) came to us with a dynamic presentation about how synergies would benefit the lacrosse team, in bringing new people, new ideas and more sponsorships,” said Safarik. “We thought it was a very positive development and one way to strengthen our organization.”

The Western Lacrosse Association has been shut down since the end of the 2019 season, and everyone is anticipating a relaunch in 2022 for the seven-team league. But it’s evident that same-old, same-old won’t suffice, Safarik said.

“I think the whole league and sport is in need of revitalizing, and maybe if any good comes out of (the pandemic) it’s that we have to move forward and change the way we do things,” he said.

By utilizing the BC Hockey League team’s resources, which include sales and game-day staff, the Lakers can keep step with the changes in a competitive battle for the entertainment dollar.

“From our (hockey) end, we have experience in operating a $1-million enterprise and feel that while the (Lakers) budget isn’t the same, its demands and needs are very similar,” said Campbell, who succeeds Safarik as the president of operations.

Both Manji, who takes on the title of Lakers managing director, and Campbell reside in Burnaby. 

Although there are definite differences between hockey and lacrosse, the elements that make them a good fit begin with the seasons, Campbell noted.

“We have hockey season from September to the spring and it rolls right into lacrosse season, so for us the resources and people can continue right from one to another,” he said. 

Campbell said the incoming management group will work in collaboration with the Lakers general manager Kevin Hill and help provide him and the coaches the resources required to challenge for a WLA title.

Safarik and Bill McFetridge, who served as the club’s financial chair for many years, will remain with the team to help advise when required.

“We will continue to bring money to the team, we’re not going away,” said Safarik. “I think this deal puts Burnaby in a very good position going forward in preparation for the 2022 WLA season. We have a decent player core and forward-thinking management, so we will be ready to challenge for a Mann Cup when the games restart.”