Intro to field lacrosse

I attended my first-ever field lacrosse game tonight at BMO Field in Toronto, as the new Toronto Nationals took on the Chicago Machine. I have been to many box lacrosse* games over the last eight years, including every Toronto Rock home game but one, as well as a number of games in Buffalo and a couple in Rochester, and one or two OLA games too. But until tonight, I was a field virgin. In a nutshell, it was fun, but I wouldn’t trade my Rock tickets for Nats tickets. The amount of scoring was about the same, but the pace of the game is slower and I found it less exciting than box lacrosse. It’s really the same pace for the most part, but the field is much bigger so regardless of how fast you run, you can’t make it from one end to the other in a few seconds and since three defensive players are required to stay on the defensive side, breakaways are just about impossible.

* – Technically, the game played in the NLL is actually indoor lacrosse, not box lacrosse. Box is the form played in the OLA, which has minor differences from the NLL game. But for the most part, box and indoor lacrosse are interchangeable.

Biggest complaint: I found it harder to follow the ball. The fact that it was orange helped, but the field is so much bigger than the box floor that if you look away for a second, you lose track of the ball. Maybe what they need is a blue line to appear when the ball is passed and then when someone takes a shot… ah, never mind.

The midfielders have very long sticks, which I assumed were used primarily for long passes, but there were only a handful of those in this game. It didn’t really seem to me that the long sticks were much of an advantage.

Cool stuff:

  • The Nationals won! They are now 2-0.
  • A bunch of fans behind us kept calling out to Colin Doyle. In the fourth quarter, Colin acknowledged them with big smiles and waves. It’s unlikely San Jose would do it, but there isn’t a player on the Rock roster that I wouldn’t trade to get Doyle back in a Rock uniform.
  • The Nationals team is a total powerhouse of NLL players. Gait, Iannucci, Dawson, Doyle, Zywicki, Williams, Grant, Thomson, Snider, Prout, Brodie Merrill, Point, Powless, Vyse… that’s ten MVP awards, four rookie of the year awards, countless scoring titles, and along with Patrick Merrill and Jordan Hall, four first-overall draft picks. Not to mention that they have Ken Montour, the reigning NLL goalie of the year, as well as Matt Vinc, another standout NLL goalie, and neither of them is a goaltender for the Nats.
  • Goalies don’t look any different from any other player on the field apart from the big pool-skimmer stick, and they don’t do the stick-head-between-the-legs stance that box goalies do. It always looks to me like a field goalie is just another player standing in the net, looking out-of-place. But those goalies really know what they’re doing, and made some pretty impressive stops, including several “how the hell did he stop that?” saves. And in at least a couple of cases, they’d not only leave their crease to play the ball, they’d take it more than halfway upfield. Seems like a dumb idea to me, but hey, I’m the field virgin here, what do I know?

Not so cool stuff:

  • Note to Nationals management: keep the “hosts” away from the booze. The “long pole dancing” thing was silly, and the bit with one of the hosts singing “Summer of ’69” with whichever fans wanted to join him was just embarrassing. He may not have been, but it really did look like he was hammered.
  • The one-page “program” that they gave out listed the roster of both teams on one side, and has a big picture of Nationals player Shawn Williams on the other side. But Williams didn’t play in the game. He was told that of the twelve games in the season, he’d play six of them, because they have such a large roster. But he wasn’t told this until after the first game last weekend, in which he did play. He said that if he’d known he’d be a scratch in this game, he wouldn’t have played in the first one. Shawn has lots of family in and around Toronto, so I’m sure he would have liked to play in this game.
  • I need to learn the game better. There were a number of times that the play was stopped, the ref went to talk to someone, and then play resumed, with the player who had the ball before retaining possession. I couldn’t figure out why the play was stopped in the first place. And when the ball was thrown out of bounds, it seemed that the person nearest the ball when it went out was awarded the ball, regardless of who threw it. This doesn’t make sense to me, but it explains why some players would go sprinting towards the line (not always towards the ball) when they had no chance of stopping the ball from going out.
  • Looking at the scoreboard and seeing that it was the 4th half of the game just screamed “FAIL”. Surely that word on the scoreboard can be changed from “Half” to “Quarter”.

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