Category Archives: Lacrosse

Help the Iroquois get back in the blue


I don’t write about lacrosse here very often anymore, since I have a separate lacrosse blog. But this is an important issue and, dear readers, your help is needed. I’ve posted this article there as well.

In 2010, the World Lacrosse Championships (field lacrosse) were held in England. A controversy erupted when the UK refused to allow the Iroquois Nationals team into the country. The Iroquois team is entirely separate from the Canadian and US teams and is one of the top teams in the world. The team uses passports issued by the sovereign Haudenosaunee nation*. Citizens of the Haudenosaunee consider themselves neither American nor Canadian, and have their own passports which, I believe, are accepted in Canada and the US and recognized by the UN.

* – Haudenosaunee is the native word for the Iroquois people, which consists of six Native American tribes (known as the “six nations”) banded together in New York and southern Ontario.

Iroquois players

Originally, the UK refused to grant visas to the players because there was no guarantee that the US would allow the players back into the country. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got personally involved and offered to grant US passports to everyone on the team but they were determined to travel using their own passports. Clinton then granted the team a waiver that effectively constituted the guarantee the UK was looking for, but they refused to change their minds. As a result, the team missed the entire tournament.

The tournament is held every four years, and the next one will be held in Denver in July of 2014. While travelling to the tournament will not be a problem this time around, the FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) has decided that since the Iroquois did not compete in the last tournament, they will be seeded 30th. This puts them well out of the Blue division, which traditionally represents the top six teams from the previous tournament. Many lacrosse people, Iroquois and otherwise, are protesting this decision. There is only one reason why the Iroquois team was not in the top six, and that reason had nothing to do with lacrosse – it was entirely political. Punishing the team for decisions that were not only unfair but beyond their control only serves to legitimize the UK’s decision.

It’s not just the Iroquois team that would be affected by this decision. Lacrosse is hundreds of years old in North America, but it’s quite new in a number of countries that are participating for the first time. Consider the countries that are just good enough to make it to this competition (think the German or Latvian Olympic hockey teams in 2010) and then find out that they are in the same group as the Iroquois team. If your position in the next tournament depends on how you do in this one, do you want to be disadvantaged by having one of the strongest teams in the entire tournament in your division when they really should be a few levels up?

The game of lacrosse was invented by Native American people many hundreds of years ago in eastern North America. The Iroquois people are directly descended from those people – in a nutshell, this is their game. Should the Iroquois team automatically be put into the top division just because of that? Honestly, no. But it does earn them some respect from the lacrosse community. That in addition to their play in other competitions should earn them some flexibility on the part of the FIL.

The Iroquois have earned their place among the best lacrosse teams in the world. They should not be punished because of a purely political incident.

The Iroquois flag

An online petition has been created to attempt to convince the FIL to reverse this decision and allow the Iroquois team to play in the top division, where they belong. I am asking my readers to please sign this petition and help restore the Nationals’ rightful standing as one of the top lacrosse teams in the world.

Update: The FIL has voted and decided that the Iroquois will be in the Blue division in 2014. I don’t know whether or not the petition had anything to do with the decision, but it’s not unlikely that the outcry from the lacrosse community was a factor. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition!

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Movie review: Crooked Arrows


There are lots of sports movies out there, and some are iconic for a particular sport: hockey has Slap Shot; baseball has Major League,The Natural or Field of Dreams; football has Any Given Sunday, Friday Night Lights, and Rudy; boxing has a ton including Raging Bull and the Rocky series; basketball has Hoosiers; and the list goes on. But lacrosse didn’t really have anything; there hasn’t really been a movie that included lacrosse as an integral part of the film. Any mention of lacrosse in movies such as American Pie was generally tangential, and usually involved US prep schools. And there has certainly been no film that looks at lacrosse from a Native American point of view. Until now.Crooked Arrows

The plot of Crooked Arrows isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It follows a relatively tried-and-true formula that has worked in a number of other sports movies, that of the underperforming team that gets a new coach / owner / manager who turns things around and makes them champions. Think Major League with middies. The difference here is that at the beginning, the coach doesn’t particularly want to be there either – so rather than Major League, perhaps A League of their Own might be a more apt comparison. Gradually the players start to adapt to their new playing style and gain confidence in their coach and themselves, and the coach realizes that he needs the team as much as the team needs him.

The coach in this case is Joe Logan (played by Brandon Routh, who has distant Native background), a half-Native whose father is on the tribal council. Logan is a former lacrosse star who is coerced by his father into finding his spirit by returning to his roots and coaching the reservation’s hapless lacrosse team. As you would expect, he encounters resistance and is pessimistic about his chances of success but gradually wins the team over. After that, it’s fairly predictable: most of what you might foresee happening does happen, and nothing really happens that you don’t see coming.

That said, I didn’t care how predictable it was. Even if you know the destination, how you get there can be entertaining and fun. There were a number of funny lines, particularly the stuffy rich mom of one of the prep school players who asked “when did the Indians start playing lacrosse anyway?” or the double-entendre “wisdom” of the coach – “if you don’t go into the forest, you don’t have any balls”. The characters you’re supposed to dislike (opposing team’s coach and players, greedy developer) are sufficiently slimy, and you do like the characters you’re supposed to like (coach’s sister and father, love interest, team benchwarmer). The scenes of lacrosse practices and games are exciting, and though they don’t go over the game in much detail (this is a film about the team and the community, not so much about the game itself), you do get a pretty good idea of how fast and exciting lacrosse can be. You find yourself cheering for the Crooked Arrows and are genuinely happy when they are successful.

When I saw the film, I was curious how accurately the Native issues in the film were portrayed. I have no Native blood in me, and I’m not even sure if I’ve ever set foot on a Native reserve, so I can’t personally speak to that. But I did talk to someone who can, and was assured that the movie was accurate and realistic. The reservation in the film looks like any small town in rural America, so anyone looking for fields of tepees and wigwams may be disappointed, as they would be on a real reservation. But the fact that Natives are featured so prominently in a so-called “Hollywood” film is somewhat unusual in itself. Another recent movie that includes Native Americans in a prominent role is the popular Twilight series, and indeed the actor that plays Joe Logan’s father in Crooked Arrows also plays Jacob Black’s father in Twilight. I did notice that the Native characters in this film seemed a lot more upbeat and generally happy than the grumpy werewolves in Twilight, though I suppose if there were vampires living nearby I might be grumpy too.

One thing I really liked was the juxtaposition of the scenes of Native warriors from 800 years ago playing lacrosse with scenes of the Crooked Arrows team playing now. This was a very effective way to remind the viewer about the history involved with the game and the fact that to the Native community, lacrosse is not just a fun game or a sport that they invented, but an integral and important part of their way of life, and has been for hundreds of years.

Those in the lacrosse community have known this movie was coming for a while now, and the @crookedarrows twitter account was quite active in keeping followers informed on the progress of writing, casting, filming, post-production, and when and where the movie was playing. The filmmakers even managed to squeeze in a few cameos including some of the biggest names in lacrosse: Zack Greer, Brodie Merrill, Paul Rabil, and Gary Gait (though Gait wasn’t mentioned by name as the others were).

In a nutshell, I really enjoyed Crooked Arrows, as did my sons (12 and 10). Lacrosse fans will enjoy the action, but you don’t have to be a lacrosse fan to enjoy the movie.

The Leafs and Raptors need a Terry


A little over three years ago, I wrote an article about the General Managers of the Leafs, Raptors, and Rock. The Leafs had just hired Brian Burke as their new GM, and it seemed that the Toronto media had already decided that he was going to save the team; in fact, I facetiously referred to him as Our Saviour for a while after that. Bryan Colangelo had been the Raptors’ GM for a year or two, and had done a pretty good job of turning around the mess that Rob Babcock had left behind. The Rock still had Mike Kloepfer as GM, and the team sucked.

My article suggested that the Rock needed to get rid of Kloepfer and hire themselves a “Brian” who would overhaul the team and make them not suck, which Burke and Colangelo were obviously about to do with the Leafs and Raptors. One of the suggestions I gave for who could take over was Terry Sanderson, and another was Jamie Batley. Ironically, less then four hours after I posted that article, the Rock did fire coach Glenn Clark, who was at least part of the problem, and Batley was hired as coach. The rest of the problem was solved at the end of the season when Mike Kloepfer resigned. A month later Sanderson was re-hired as GM. The next season (2010), the Rock went to the Championship game and in 2011, they won it all. We’re now midway through the 2012 season, and the Rock are tied for first place in the Eastern division. I’d call that mission accomplished.

I could pat myself on the back for predicting the Rock’s next course of action (kind of – I suggested Sanderson though I said it was unlikely), but the original point of my article was lost. It wasn’t so much that the Rock needed a new GM,  it was that the Rock needed to do what the Leafs and Raptors did and replace their rookie GM who screwed the team up with a proven veteran who could turn it around. The Rock did that, but the Leafs and Raptors haven’t had nearly the success that we all envisioned when Our Saviours came to power.

In the 3 seasons prior to Burke’s being hired, the Leafs had 91, 83, and 81 points and missed the playoffs every year. In the two full seasons since, they had 74 and 85 points and missed the playoffs every year. This year they’re on pace for 83 points and missing the playoffs. They don’t have any first-round draft picks for a couple of years because of the Kessel trade, so the rebuilding process will be continuing for a long while.

Update: My timing was off. The picks involved in the Kessel deal were for the last two drafts, so that’s done now. Thanks Faisal for the clarification!

Bryan Colangelo was hired by the Raptors in February 2006, six years and a week ago. In the first couple of years, Colangelo looked brilliant. The Raptors finished first in the Atlantic division the very next year, and Sam Mitchell was named Coach of the Year and Colangelo Executive of the Year. The Raptors lost in the first round of the playoffs, but made the playoffs again the next year. They lost again in the first round, and then things went south quickly. They haven’t made the playoffs since and haven’t really been much of a threat at all. Last season they were a hopeless 22-60 and this year they’re not much better at 11-25.

Barring miracles, the Leafs and Raptors are not likely to win championships during the Burke / Colangelo eras. I’m not suggesting firing them now, though I think the Colangelo era has run its course and unless the Raptors start turning things around on the floor very soon, Colangelo should be done at the end of the year. I don’t think Burke has done a terrible job; he’s acquired some players who have been great like Phaneuf and Lupul. The fact that the goaltenders play like Turk Broda one week and a turkey sandwich the next isn’t entirely Burke’s fault. I’d give him another year or two to right the ship but unless obvious improvement is made, he’s gone too.

Three years ago, I said that the Rock needed to find their Brian, and they did. Now the Leafs and Raptors need to find their Terry Sanderson.

In Lax We Trust archive


I was part of the inlaxwetrust.com writing staff for almost five months, and wrote 23 articles in that time. Here are links to all of them. I’m not posting this because I expect you, dear reader, to read any of them. This article is mainly an archive for my own use so that if I want to link to one of them, I can easily find the link here.

However if you do want to read one or two, the Salaries of Lacrosse Players one was very popular (especially among lacrosse players!), and the entry draft one too. My personal favourites tended to be the funny ones – I had fun writing the “looking forward” one (more satire than comedy; let me know in the comments (here – comments on that article are closed) if you’re one of the few that got the “price is right” joke) and the one about lacrosse movies. For more analysis and less comedy, I also liked the NLL Awards article.

 

Update: In June 2012, In Lax We Trust changed hosting companies and became inlacrossewetrust.com. When that happened all of the archives were lost, and so none of the links below will work. I wish I had saved copies of the articles before this happened but I didn’t. As far as I know, all of these articles are gone forever.

Title Description
NLL Season Preview: Philadelphia Wings I investigate the personnel changes and preview the offense, defense, and goaltending of the Wings in the (then-upcoming) 2012 season.
Other Stories from the NLL Hold Out List There was a lot of talk about the NLL Hold-out list because of the drama surrounding Anthony Cosmo, so I made up some other stories. Teddy Jenner didn’t like this one.
Salaries of Lacrosse Players Probably my most popular ILWT article – several NLL players retweeted the link to this one. I compare the salaries that NLL players make with those of other pro athletes.
Teachers and Firefighters in the NLL Almost all NLL players have jobs outside of playing lacrosse, but it seems that a lot of them are either firefighters or teachers.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Colorado Mammoth Review of the changes made by the Mammoth after the 2011 season.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Buffalo Bandits Review of the changes made by the Bandit after the 2011 season.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Calgary Roughnecks Review of the changes made by the Roughnecks after the 2011 season.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Washington Stealth Review of the changes made by the Stealth after the 2011 season.
Upcoming Lacrosse Movies Some ideas for movies that could be made involving lacrosse. Another fun one.
NLL expansion: Just say no Another writer suggested that the time might be right for the NLL to expand. I disagreed.
A look back: Looking forward to 2002 Satirical article on how the future of the NLL might have looked in 2002.
Trivia contest answers Former NLL player and current radio host Teddy Jenner won the contest.
In Lax We Trust Trivia Contest A year or two ago I won a lacrosse shaft in a contest, so I came up with some trivia questions to give it away.
Renaming the NLL Awards If the league were to rename its MVP, Rookie, Goalie, etc. awards after people like the NHL and others have done, who would they be?
Behind the scenes at the NLL entry draft I enjoyed writing this mock conversation among the GMs at the entry draft.
Parity in the NLL: Who do we make fun of now? Which team do we make fun of as the laughing stock of the league? There really isn’t one.
The biggest surprises from the dispersal draft Some surprising picks from the Blazers dispersal draft.
Farewell to the Blazers Kind of a post-mortem on the Boston Blazers.
More New Rules Being Considered by the MLL The MLL announced that they were considering using lacrosse sticks with heads that lit up to indicate who has the ball. This was such a silly idea that I came up with some other potential silly rules the MLL might think about.
Last year’s NLL blockbusters: John Grant and Matt Vinc Analysis of the trade that sent John Grant to Colorado and Matt Vinc to Rochester.
Last year’s NLL blockbusters: Tracey Kelusky Analysis of the trade that sent Tracey Kelusky to Buffalo.
Last year’s NLL Blockbusters: Josh Sanderson Analysis of the trade that sent Josh Sanderson from Calgary to Boston.
Lax Links 8/5/11 My first article for ILWT. Marisa used to do a daily list of links to stories from around the lacrosse world, and she asked me to put the list together on that day.

The best lacrosse writers in the world… and me


I announced back in August that I was joining In Lax We Trust as a writer, and ended up as co-manager and editor as well. I enjoyed my time at ILWT and wrote lots of articles. A few of them got lots of attention: one on lacrosse players’ salaries from November is still getting talked about. Some I really liked and had fun writing: a satirical one about what the “future” of the NLL might have looked like in 2002, an imagined conversation among GMs at the entry draft, and some fictional movies about lacrosse.

In December I made the decision to strike out on my own, and created my own lacrosse blog, nllchatter.com. Around that time, I jokingly asked Teddy Jenner if they were hiring at ILIndoor.com, which is part of Inside Lacrosse magazine, and is pretty much the premiere indoor lacrosse blog anywhere. Rather than the expected “yeah, right”, Teddy told me to email Bob Chavez. I don’t know if Teddy was saying “That’s a great idea! Email Bob!” or if it was Teddy’s way of getting Bob to say “no” rather than doing it himself. I thought “what the hell, the worst they can do is say no”, and emailed him. He got back to me with a proposal, and now I can announce that I will be joining the staff at ILIndoor.com and will be writing a weekly column called The Moneyballers this season. My column will run every Monday starting on January 16.

ILIndoor.com has some of best-known names in indoor lacrosse, including the aforementioned Teddy Jenner, a former player and current blogger, radio show host, and in-game announcer for the Washington Stealth; Ty Pilson, sports editor for the Calgary Sun and former Tom Borrelli winner (that’s the NLL’s award for the best writer of the year); Brian Shanahan, another former NLL player who has done colour for many lacrosse TV broadcasts (and yes, he’s Brendan’s brother); Marty O’Neill, the former GM of the Minnesota Swarm; and other great writers like Bob Chavez, Stephen Stamp and Casey Vock.

The Moneyballers will be a weekly look at the clutch players in the league from a statistical point of view. We have a system that assigns points to players for goals and assists that either tie a game or put their team ahead. Goals later in the game count for more than goals earlier, and OT goals count the most. Each week, I will tally up the points for that week’s games, and keep track of the league leaders as the season goes on. Here’s a link to last year’s season-ending article.

I am very excited about this opportunity, but very nervous as well. The Moneyballers is a series that has been on ILIndoor.com for a few years, and up to this year, was written by another legendary lacrosse writer, Paul Tutka. Tutka won three straight Tom Borrelli awards, so that’s a pretty tough act to follow. However, I am up to the challenge. But if you call me on a Sunday evening during NLL season, don’t expect me to answer the phone.

My new gig as a sports writer


No, I’m not leaving the software industry to become an ink-stained wretch, but I will be writing for a bigger audience during the next NLL season. I started writing for the NLL Blog just before last season, and enjoyed being part of that team. Today we are announcing that the NLL Blog staff will be joining In Lax We Trust, one of the most popular lacrosse blogs around. It is run by Marisa Ingemi and features articles on not only the NLL, but the MLL, Canadian summer leagues (MSL, WLA), as well as the new CLax and NALL leagues and some college lacrosse stuff as well. There are now eleven writers for ILWT, myself included.

I will remained focused on the NLL and the Toronto Rock in particular, and I have also decided not to post each lacrosse article here as well. I may post links to the ILWT articles I write, or maybe a weekly digest of my ILWT articles, but for those readers of mine who are not lacrosse fans, fear not. Next winter, you won’t get deluged with lacrosse articles like last year, just my regular drivel compelling reading.

Replacing a Legend


(Originally posted on The NLL Blog)

How do you replace a legend, and one of the best players ever to play the game? We don’t know much at this point about what changes Terry Sanderson and Troy Cordingley might be considering for the Toronto Rock this offseason, but one thing’s for sure – they need a new #1 goaltender to replace the retiring Bob Watson, the only #1 goalie the Rock have ever had. How do you replace someone like Watson?

With all due respect to Pat Campbell, he’ll be 35 next year and has been a solid backup goalie most of his career, so I don’t see the Rock tossing him the keys to the franchise. The Rock have had a definite #1 goalie for their entire history so I don’t see them going the route that the Bandits and Stealth have used – having two main goalies and “platooning” them (to steal a baseball phrase), so going with both Campbell and Gee Nash is unlikely as well.

Not going with Campbell or Nash means they will have to try to acquire someone from another team. I don’t have of a list of goalies who are free agents this summer, so let’s ignore that route for the moment and just assume we’re talking trade. The top goalie on the “would be nice” list would have to be back-to-back Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc. Suuuuuure. The Knighthawks gave up John Grant for this guy so unless we offer Doyle, LeBlanc, and a few prospects, he’s not going anywhere – and definitely not to a division rival. Mike Thompson? Suuuuuure. Thompson is coming off of a fabulous season in which he had the second-lowest GAA and third highest save percentage in the league. If Ken Montour is able to return from his injury, the Bandits may consider trading Thompson, but Stephen Stamp’s article about concussions didn’t give much reason for optimism there. I hope I’m wrong about that. Brandon Miller from Philly? Maybe, although he was one of the few bright spots in Philly this season and was the reason they fought for a playoff spot as long as they did. Anthony Cosmo? Possibly – he had the lowest GAA in the league last year though I wouldn’t call it one of his better seasons. It’d be ironic if Cosmo actually did replace Watson in the Rock net, like we thought he would many years ago. Cosmo himself mentioned that possibility recently in an interview with ILIndoor.com.

Let’s look west. How about Poulin from the Roughnecks? That’d be great for the Rock, but why would Calgary do this? Do they want Palidwor as their #1 next year? Not likely. And it’s not like the team has some glaring weakness that could be addressed by making a big trade, so file that idea under the “Suuuuuure” category as well. (Not to mention the fact that making roster changes to his lacrosse team is not exactly at the top of Brad Banister’s To-Do list these days. Hey Brad, if you’re actively trying to sell the team, surely there’s a better way to convince some sucker astute business person to buy them than publicly whining about how little support the team gets and how much money you’re losing.)

So what about Edmonton? I’m sure they wouldn’t mind some extra firepower given that they traded Gavin Prout back to Colorado. But which Edmonton goalie to choose – Matt Disher or Rob Blasdell? Ummmm… no thanks. Chris Levis from Colorado? Another “Suuuuuure”. After years of mediocre goaltending the Mammoth finally have a strong #1 so I don’t see them trading him, though they could also use some help in the offense department. (Aside: It seems unbelievable that a team that just acquired John Freakin’ Grant still needs help on offense.) How about Washington? I didn’t think Tyler Richards had that great a 2011 season, but he was certainly the second-best goalie in the playoffs. But how likely are the Stealth to trade him to the team that beat them in the finals? Similar to Calgary, they’re a strong team to begin with, so what could we offer the Stealth for them to give up Richards? Would Minnesota give up Patterson? I doubt it, though I know nothing about Kevin Croswell – if they have enough confidence in him, maybe they would if they got enough in return. That’s a team that should have made big changes in the off-season last year and didn’t, so perhaps a big shake-up would be good for the Swarm.

There are lots of possibilities here, some of which I can’t address properly because I don’t know much about the backup goaltenders. Philadelphia backup goalie, Ray Hodgkinson, is only 23 and only played 46 minutes this year. But maybe the Wings think this kid is the next Dallas Eliuk – if they have enough confidence in him, maybe they would give up Miller for the right price. Hell, for all I know the Rock have some young goalie in their system (is there such a thing as a “system” in the NLL? It’s not like there are AAA affiliates like in baseball, or the OHL/AHL like in hockey) that is the heir apparent, though I’ve never heard mention of one.

So we have a few “maybe”s and a few “not bloody likely”s, but there aren’t really any “no chance in hell”s. (In a league where Gary Gait can be traded three years after retiring, nothing’s impossible.) But trades run two ways – the other question would be “Who could the Rock give up to get a #1 goalie”? Doyle, LeBlanc, and Billings are untouchables. Blaine Manning is a possibility, or maybe a rookie with potential like Aaron Pascas or Rob Hellyer. (Or more likely, the combination of a Pascas and a veteran like Manning or Cam Woods.) It’s not unlikely that a team trading away a goaltender may want defense in return rather than a goal scorer, so perhaps 2010 NLL Defender of the Year Sandy Chapman (though I’d prefer if he were untouchable as well), or hard workers that get little fanfare like Drew Petkoff, Jeff Gilbert, or Creighton Reid.

Trade speculation is fun but ultimately pointless, as there are a zillion factors that we as fans don’t know about that affect whether deals can be made. Are there no-trade contracts in the NLL? If not, could there be “gentlemen’s agreements” between players and GMs that effectively mean the same thing? Are there personality conflicts between players or between a player and a GM that mean that some trades are impossible? Are there players who might simply refuse to be traded? Since this is a part-time semi-pro league, it’s certainly possible that a player may decide that travelling across the country for the majority of games is just too difficult with work or family commitments, and would prefer to retire than be traded to a team on the other side of the continent. I remember a rumour that the Rock were not allowed to trade Dan Ladouceur because of his position with the Durham Region Police.

So after all that, here’s the net result of this discussion:

  1. The Rock need a new #1 goalie.
  2. I don’t know who they should get.
  3. I don’t know who they should give up to get him.

My work here is done. This is why the NLL Blog pays me what they pay me.